MONGOLIA – Amga Odongavaa. Yes, he’s a beefy bodybuilder type. One of the weaker links in an otherwise strong Asian contingent.
NEPAL – Hari Bahadur Thapa. Everything about him is raw and unpolished. A cellar-dweller in my reckoning.
PAKISTAN – Amir Ali Shah. Here is another weak link in the Asian group–he’s obviously raw and unpolished too.
PHILIPPINES – Ron Marvin Miranda. Actually, he has the potential to go far, as he is actually buffed and good looking. He has a passing resemblance to actor/model Rafael Rosell, who is known for a series of hot beefcake photo layouts. Unfortunately, from the pictures in Korea he seemed retiring and reticent, as if he doesn’t know how to capitalize on his assets. It will be such a shame if he misses the cut as he actually has the goods to shine.
POLAND – Blazej Stankiewicz. He has one of the handsomest faces in this batch. The issue is that his lean physique is not as rippled as his contemporaries. Can he parlay his face to the finals?
PORTUGAL – Carlos Carvalho. He’s boyish and unpolished. Next!
SINGAPORE – Juan Wen Jie. One thing that is almost guaranteed when you see a Singaporean Manhunt contestant–his physique will be buffed to perfection. Too bad, he is a hipon like Hong Kong and Macau.
SLOVAK REPUBLIC – Martin Šmahel. He’s like Samson in reverse–he looked way better if he kept his hair closely-cropped. He lengthened his hair for this pageant, and it’s frankly a major misfire–especially that disastrous formal wear photo (hideous!). He redeemed himself slightly in his swimsuit photo, but I doubt he’ll be able to duplicate Peter Meňky’s victory.
SLOVENIA – Vedran Stepančič. Now, he’s a boyishly cute contestant. Hard to believe he used to be 50 kg (110 lbs) heavier. It’s kinda inspirational if you think about it.
SOUTH AFRICA – Ryno Swanepoel. His slick modeling photos prior to his arrival in Korea may make him look like a front-runner. He seemed heftier, but he still has that boyish cuteness. If there’s an interview portion, I think he can make more serious inroads as typically South African representatives shine in this department.
SRI LANKA – Amila Karunanayake. Yes, he already competed in Mr. International back in 2007, but he still looks like a raw, first-time amateur participant.
TAIWAN – Chao Chen-Hsiang. For some odd reason, he reminds me of the fat member of Korean boyband Super Junior, Shindong (why do they have a fat guy while other Korean boybands are uniformly sleek and slim? I don’t know, diversity perhaps?). I think I need to revise my take on the Asian contingent–they are a group of extremes, from strong contenders to obviously weak links.
THAILAND – Kasikorn Charoenrat. There is something that I’m rather irritated when I look at him–is he hiding something under his combover hairstyle? The hairstyle distracts from his otherwise good looks and buffed physique.
TURKEY – Abdullah Ibrahim Gayberi. He is not that buzzed about but he has experience in modeling searches, placing 1st runner-up in the most recent Best Model in the World contest held in Bulgaria (this contest used to be held in Turkey). He does the scruffy look well, though I preferred Brazil, Lebanon, and Malta.
VENEZUELA – Jose Ampueda. To be blunt, it seems this country has seen better days. Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, this country was a major powerhouse with an abundance of hunkerrific contenders, almost imitating its legendary standing in the female pageant front. But in recent years, it seemed to have declined. Okay, yes, he’s buffed and attractive, and with the quality of this group he’ll have more serious inroads into the finals, but still he couldn’t hold a candle to the likes of, say, Sandro Finoglio (Manhunt 1997 1st runner-up and Mr. World 1998 winner) and Ernesto Calzadilla (Manhunt 1998 winner).
VIETNAM – Truong Nam Thanh. He has the Asian metrosexual looks down pat that he’s likely to make the cut on his own merits and would not need the popular poll to advance, though he’s running a close second behind China. Yes, K-Pop fangirls will find his looks swoonworthy.
With all 48 contestants accounted for, let me now trot out my leaderboard and relay how I believe they all stand:
TOP CONTENDERS: BELGIUM, BRAZIL, LEBANON
LIKELIEST: ANGOLA, BOLIVIA, CHINA, COSTA RICA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, GREECE, INDIA, INDONESIA, KOREA, MALTA, PHILIPPINES, POLAND, SOUTH AFRICA, TURKEY, VENEZUELA, VIETNAM
EXCELLENT: BULGARIA, ENGLAND, FRANCE, LATVIA, MEXICO, SLOVAK REPUBLIC
VERY STRONG: AUSTRALIA, CZECH REPUBLIC, KAZAKHSTAN, SLOVENIA, THAILAND
STRONG: ALGERIA, HONG KONG, IRAN, IRELAND, MACAU, MALAYSIA, SINGAPORE
VERY GOOD: HAWAII-USA, MACEDONIA, MONGOLIA
GOOD: JAPAN, PORTUGAL
FAIR: CAMEROON, GERMANY, NEPAL, PAKISTAN, SRI LANKA, TAIWAN
Now, here is my “fearful” forecast:
TOP FIVE: BELGIUM, BRAZIL, GREECE, INDONESIA, LEBANON
SEMIFINALISTS: ANGOLA, BOLIVIA, CHINA, COSTA RICA, INDIA, KOREA, MALTA, SOUTH AFRICA, TURKEY, VENEZUELA, VIETNAM
BUBBLING UNDER: BULGARIA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, ENGLAND, FRANCE, LATVIA, MEXICO, PHILIPPINES, POLAND, SLOVAK REPUBLIC
All photos courtesy of Alex Liu and Manhunt International unless otherwise indicated.
I’m not totally confident of my track record in predicting the outcome in male pageants. I just only hope that the panel of judges would select the best winner out of this bunch.