Athletes, fans stream into Columbus for Arnold Classic

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The 27th Arnold Sports Festival and Fitness Expo hits Columbus this weekend.

Events started Thursday with the ladies’ amateur competitions. The men’s amateur and the pro competition starts Friday.

Kate Linehan is representing Columbus at the event in the women’s bikini competition.

“I just consider it a hobby. But it’s a little bit of an intense one,” she said.  “You don’t just do it at the gym for two hours a day, it’s 24 hours… ‘Cause your diet’s really important.”

Linehan said she has been training since Thanksgiving and eating six meals a day, but only taking in 1,350 calories.

“There’s days when you’re miserable, the days when you want to cry, there’s days when you’re exhausted, there’s days when you’re in a bad mood,” she said. “But at the end of it, it’s such a rewarding experience. Nobody else did this. You did 100 percent of the work and coming off that stage, there’s no feeling like it.”

Thursday was a whirlwind of muscles and showmanship and a lot of prep that you typically don’t see. That means gyms in Columbus are packed.

“We’re home of the Arnold so it’s like everybody and anybody is here,” says Powerhouse Gym owner Matt Catalogna.

Powerhouse Gym expects as many as 3,000 visits during the Arnold Sports Festival and Expo. Catalogna says competitors and fitness athletes started rolling in on Tuesday and probably won’t leave until next Tuesday.

Five-time Mr. Universe Dion Friedland is in town for the event.

“It’s great. You want to see the other competitiors, the other people and you become friends. It’s a huge fraternity,” he said.

Friedland isn’t even here to compete. He just wants to watch and enjoy.

“You see all the best bodybuilders in the world. It’s great,” he says.

More than 185,000 people are expected to pack the Columbus Convention Center to watch more than 70 different sports & body building competitions. There’s even stuff for the kids.

“It just keeps getting bigger every year as we keep adding more sports,” says Arnold Sports Festival liaison Matt Lorz.

As many as 18,000 athletes from around the world will compete to make their mark.

Camilo Diaz is from Columbia.

“It’s the most important event in the world,” he says.

Matt Catalogna just hopes it keeps growing.

“We’ll keep them packed until the Fire Marshal shuts us down,” he says.

The Expo runs Friday through Sunday. Tickets are just $20 per day.

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