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Packing a Punch: Denver's Women Gladiators
by Susan Klann

For the woman who grew up a major tomboy, tagging along after the athletically minded dad who raised her, it had to be the ultimate score--landing a spot on American Gladiator. Even better, Vicki Ferrari won a coveted spot on the television show as just one of 40 contestants out of 20,000 applicants along with her best friend and fellow officer on the Denver Police force, Abbe Dorn. (The women Gladiators will appear at the Women & Family Festival this Saturday at Dickapostrophes Sporting Goods Park, see accompanying story on the home page.)

Like many of the twists and turns in Ferrari’s life, the American Gladiators try-out was “random,apostrophe she says. She and Dorn became best buddies on the force when they noticed that they both liked to appear feminine despite the male-dominated atmosphere of police work. They both wear make-up and are devoted to pedicures and manicures. They work out, eat healthy and maintain good physical fitness, although Dorn, who is also a body builder, is even more serious about her workouts. And they both have upbeat attitudes. Ferrari, a 13-year veteran who got her start with the Los Angeles Police Department, is in the street crimes unit, while Dorn is a rookie patrol officer.

One night in early January 2008 Ferrari was watching the show, which she had enjoyed in its original form during her childhood. She tuned in later on the Internet to catch up on some episodes and noticed the show was auditioning for its second season, with a date scheduled for Denver.

Ferrari decided it was a perfect opportunity for her husband, who also works out every day and is devoted to fitness and nutrition, and for her friend Dorn. She filled out apps for her husband and told Dorn about the opportunity. Several days before the audition, she heard an officer at the station saying he had met the casting director who was particularly interested in police applying. He had given the officer his cell phone number. Ferrari called and soon found the casting director convincing her to try out as well—despite her “smallapostrophe stature of 5’3. The three went down to the audition, with Dorn and Ferrari receiving callbacks, and the rest is, as they say, history.

Fans of the show might not appreciate what the two went through to win their spots, however. “We filled out applications that were 72 pages long, and went through hours and hours of background screening,apostrophe recalls Ferrari. “They flew us out to four times, and finally they brought 65 of us out to go through a boot camp doing some of the events and more interviews. Then we went home for about one week while we sweated it out, waiting to see if we were chosen to be among the 40 participants.apostrophe

The filming was long and hard as well, coming in a close second to raising a teenage daughter in terms of tough challenges in Ferrari’s life so far, she says, laughing. “It was mentally and physically draining for us,apostrophe she says. “We would have 20-hour days where we would be waiting and then fighting for maybe one minute, then doing retakes. Psychologically it was also tough, competing in front of the live audience and pushing our bodies past their limits. There’s no way you can train for the events so your body goes into shock in a way.apostrophe

The rewards for Ferrari and Dorn were huge, however. “It showed me who I am,apostrophe she says. “I can look back and know that I was chosen, that I gave it everything and never cried, never quit, and had a blast. The rewards were truly in the people I met—the other contenders were amazing. To live and work with them for six weeks was a special experience I’ll never forget.apostrophe

Ferrari’s daughter screamed as loud as anyone in the crowd at her final event, and told her mom she was her hero. “It’s amazing how I could hear her voice among all those other voices,apostrophe says Ferrari. Her dad, who has been her inspiration, displayed his pride in his daughter’s accomplishment in the taped interviews with Ferrari and as he notified friends and family of the show times.

Dorn, who is still in the running on the show, and Ferrari have received plenty of support from their fellow officers. They’ve been praised for representing the department with pride, for their physical fitness, and for, well, just kicking butt.

To catch