THE RED TEAM: This team may not have made as much inroads in the athletic challenges, with only two advancing in the Sports challenge, and though Macau China set a record in the qualifying round of the Extreme Sports challenge, at the end not one member of this team figured in the Top Four. They might have better fortunes in the Multimedia and Talent challenges as the possible winners might come from this group.
ARGENTINA – Franco Belotti. He is not that buzzed about but I found him actually very handsome and seems to exude an outgoing charm. He actually even resembles Mr. World 2003 Gustavo Gianetti. If he unlocked the same charisma as Gustavo during the pre-judging, he could be a sleeper semifinalist.
BELGIUM – Gianni Sennesael. He was 2nd runner-up in last year’s Manhunt International. He actually is making a great impression and had some mileage in the BBC One Show appearance, and he made the Top Five for his team in the Extreme Sports challenge. But securing that slot is not easy as this batch is extremely competitive and the rules are different. Still, he is definitely in the running for the semifinals (though maybe not make the Top Five).
CANADA – Frankie Cena. At 5’5″, he’s the shortest in this year’s batch. Not only that he is short by male pageant standards, he’s also going to be considered short if he were female competing in a major international pageant. But he has a couple of killer edges that could put him in contention–superb communication skills, and singing talent. For the talent round, it’s going to be a fierce rivalry between him, England, and Mongolia (since Mr. World tend to reward singers) for the Talent title.
Speaking of England, they posted a video collaborating on a One Direction cover. They actually did a great job at it. Somehow it gave me visions that they can become a viable recording duo–there is a gap in the pop landscape for a musical duo since Australia’s Savage Garden broke up and these two could perfectly fill that need. Obviously Frankie will assume the Darren Hayes role…
CHINA PR – Tan Zeyong. He’s the last person to arrive in Kent, but he made a splash as he qualified in the Top 10 in the Talent challenge for his dancing, and was part of the Top Five in his team in the Extreme Sports challenge. I don’t find him facially handsome, but we cannot deny his beefily buffed frame and the fact that the Miss World organization tends to love this country regardless of the type of representative it fielded (I know an exception has to be made in 2010, but at least that representative was shortlisted in Top Model that time even if he failed to make the overall Top 15).
COSTA RICA – Jorge Mario Castillo. Amongst the formidable Latino contingent, I actually found him to be the weakest link as I find his facial features the plainest. But, to his credit, he seems likeable and he made the Top Five of his team in the Extreme Sports challenge.
GREECE – Dimitris Valvis. There are pageant fans and pundits who would rate him as one of their favorites to make the final cut. He is undeniably hunky and handsome, but he also registers as monotonous, almost akin to either a robot or a himbo. Those are qualities that are usually a turnoff for insiders of this pageant. Still, his swarthy good looks and buffed physique deserve better respect and appreciation by the powers-that-be.
HONDURAS – Kilber Gutierrez Ponce. I don’t have a high regard for him at first, and I find his facial features a bit too chubby (even if the rest of his body is totally in shape). But he grows on me as the days wear on, and I began to appreciate his cuteness better. He’s also one of two survivors from this team in the Sports challenge, so he should be a force to reckon with.
ITALY – Fabio Rondinelli. Prior to his arrival, I’m sure there are pageant fans and pundits who would rate him as one of the likeliest to land in the semifinals. He’s a letdown since then, the only notable thing about him is that he’s the only one who dares to wear a speedo in the gym, as shown in the picture below. He couldn’t quite commit to a definite persona, as he grows his stubble one day, then shaves it off, and then it grows again… it’s sometimes hard to identify him in the lineup.
LUXEMBOURG – Kevin Stamerra. People wondered about the presence of a handsome fellow in this contest who they could barely identify. The buzz is almost like the pageant-fans-and-pundits equivalent of that recent internet meme, the “Ridiculously Photogenic Guy” (RPG). It turns out to be this fellow, and he has a passing resemblance to RPG. He could be a welcome sleeper surprise into the finals, as he does exude a lot of charisma. He’s such a major upgrade from his fey and homely predecessor.
MACAU CHINA – Kim Wu. If you ask me, I would rather see this cutie making the final cut instead of the guy representing Mainland China. I like his cute, boyish features and his outgoing personality. He is also one of the clowns in the group judging from his silly facial expressions in photos throughout this article. He earned some distinction breaking a course record in the first stage of the Extreme Sports challenge.
MALTA – Robert Galea. There are pageant fans and pundits who have a high regard for this guy. He does seem solid and his handsome features undeniable, but I fear he doesn’t quite stand out, that like Mr. Guadeloupe, that he could just be considered “just another pretty face.”
MONGOLIA – Enkhbold Erdenetuya. He made a major splash with his unique opera singing talent. I have a feeling the powers-that-be may tend to favor more traditional fare so this guy may edge over the pop leanings of Canada and England and be granted the Talent fast-track. This is also the second time that a male Mongolian reminds me of an Americanized Korean–this time, I think this guy resembles Lost and Hawaii Five-0 actor Daniel Dae Kim.
SINGAPORE – Edison Ho. One thing is guaranteed about Singaporean representatives to male pageants is that they are going to be buffed. This guy continues in that tradition. He made an impression being initially shortlisted for the Talent challenge with his magic act, but he eventually fell short of making the Top 10.
SOUTH AFRICA – Andrew Govender. This fellow of Indian descent did not quite impress me at first, but like Honduras, he started to grow on me. He seems to be the likeliest candidate to win the Multimedia challenge with the regular updates he made during the day of the Canterbury tour. He also is one of the best communicators out there.
TURKEY – Barış Aslan. He seems to share similar traits with a typical Lebanese contestant fielded in this pageant–swarthy features and an extremely outgoing personality. He is particularly notable for recording a comprehensive video interviewing practically every contestant in the bus after the fitness test of the Sports challenge, and he’s the one responsible for uploading the amusing “Gangnam Style” dance video that they performed. He could be catnip to the judging panel and make the final cut. He could also be a leading candidate for the Multimedia award.
WALES – Rhodri Ihenacho. He is notable for making the Top 12 in the Sports challenge and making the Top 10 in talent with his singing. Even this guy notes that he physically resembles the reigning Mr. World, Kamal Ibrahim. Could he take it and keep the title within the British Isles? It is in the realm of possibility indeed.
This is probably the toughest pageant to make a call, as there are actually no clear definitive standouts. There is no guarantee that leading the challenges would be a good indication of overall status. Also, the contestants who most pageant fans and pundits would consider to be the weakest links actually have compelling qualities to make the final cut. Still, I’ll put myself out on the limb and trot out my leaderboard:
TOP CONTENDERS: COLOMBIA, CROATIA, IRELAND, MEXICO, PHILIPPINES, WALES
SHOO-INs: CHINA, ENGLAND, LEBANON
LIKELIEST: ARGENTINA, BELGIUM, BOLIVIA, BRAZIL, GERMANY, INDIA, LUXEMBOURG, MACAU CHINA, MARTINIQUE, NETHERLANDS, PERU, PORTUGAL, PUERTO RICO, RUSSIA, SPAIN, TURKEY, VENEZUELA
TALENT FACTOR: CANADA, MONGOLIA
MULTIMEDIA FACTOR: SOUTH AFRICA
EXCELLENT: BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA, CZECH REPUBLIC, GREECE, HONDURAS, MALTA, NEW ZEALAND, NORTHERN IRELAND, POLAND, SINGAPORE, VIETNAM
VERY STRONG: BULGARIA, COSTA RICA, FRANCE, GUADELOUPE, ITALY, PARAGUAY, UKRAINE
STRONG: JAPAN, LATVIA
I know I could be way off this year, but here is my “fearful” forecast nevertheless:
TOP FIVE: COLOMBIA, CROATIA, IRELAND, MEXICO, PHILIPPINES
SEMIFINALISTS: BRAZIL, CHINA, ENGLAND, LEBANON, MONGOLIA, PUERTO RICO, SOUTH AFRICA, TURKEY, VENEZUELA, WALES
BUBBLING UNDER: ARGENTINA, BELGIUM, BOLIVIA, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVIA, CANADA, CZECH REPUBLIC, GERMANY, GREECE, HONDURAS, INDIA, LUXEMBOURG, MACAU CHINA, MALTA, MARTINIQUE, NETHERLANDS, NEW ZEALAND, NORTHERN IRELAND, PERU, POLAND, PORTUGAL, RUSSIA, SINGAPORE, SPAIN, VIETNAM
Based from their Facebook inputs, this year’s batch seem to be a lively and fun-loving group, often with cheeky senses of humor that I find delightful. Though this year’s Manhunt International featured contestants who provide fever-inducing sexiness, this group compensates for the toned-down sex appeal with other compelling qualities. This group still proves that Mister World remains the premier male pageant to be reckoned with. I hope they can host another edition as soon as 2014 instead of waiting for a longer period…
To end this Homestretch review, below is the video of their appearance at the BBC One Show. I wish I could embed their other silly dances (they also danced to “Call Me Maybe”) but WordPress doesn’t seem to have the capability to link up Facebook videos at this point.
All images courtesy of Mr. World and its respective contestants unless otherwise indicated.