Q: I was sorry to hear that you didn’t place at the IFBB World Amateur Championships, but congratulations on a stellar year. I hope you’re not discouraged. You’re quite an inspiration to those of us who are older and training drug-free. Please keep doing what you’re doing.
A: Thank you for your concern. Don’t worry! I’m not at all discouraged. In fact, my experience competing on the IFBB international level has really elevated my enthusiasm and has given me cause to rethink my plans for next year.
As I write this column, I’m on a plane heading home from Bialystok, Poland, where I won an IFBB World Championship in the 50-59 age group. I entered the IFBB Masters World Championships on very short notice. I didn’t even know the IFBB Masters World Championships existed until I browsed the IFBB Web site just a few weeks before the show.
Since it was only nine days after the IFBB Men’s World Championships, I figured, why not do the Masters too—if I can enter? So, I made contact with the NPC-USA, and thanks to the work of Jim Manion and Theresa Proviano in the NPC office, I was able to enter the Masters World Championships—and I’m coming home with a gold medal.
The trip to Doha, Qatar, for the Men’s World Championships was quite an experience. Doha was absolutely magnificent, with architecture that boggles the mind. The Qatari Weightlifting and Bodybuilding Federation were tremendous hosts! They put on a fantastic event in which 86 countries were represented (it’s my understanding that 86 is a record). It was so much fun getting to meet athletes, officials and fans from all over the world who have the same passion we do for the sport of bodybuilding.
In conversing with people from other countries, I found a common theme. All are disappointed that there is little to no coverage of IFBB international events in the American bodybuilding media. I think their concern is well founded, especially given the depth and the quality of the competitors at the World Championships.
Going into the championships, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew the competition was going to be fierce, but I had no idea how much depth there would be. I wasn’t certain that I’d make the cut and was relieved when my number was called. When I saw the guys in the first couple of callouts, however, I was sure I wasn’t going to make the top five.
When the finals were posted, I wasn’t on the list, but we had another full day in Doha, and we were going to make the best of it. I ended up finishing eighth, and I felt pretty good about myself because although there was some drug testing at the contest, it was far from drug-free. In fact, it was difficult for totally drug-free bodybuilders—like me and Samuel Lewis, our bantamweight, who also finished eighth—to survive the elimination round.
We arrived back in Austin late on Thursday night, November 5. At that time I still wasn’t entered in the Masters World Championships, but I was hoping for the best. So we were up at 5 a.m. on Friday (yes, after spending 24 hours traveling on Thursday), and I did my 30 minutes of cardio before heading off to train my first client at 7 a.m. Friday was a relatively normal day of training clients and working out; then around 8 p.m. jet lag hit and lasted all weekend. Diana and I struggled through tough workouts on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday I found out that I was definitely entered in the Masters World Championships, and my training intensity took a big turn for the better.
By Wednesday afternoon I was on another plane bound for Chicago, then Munich, then Warsaw. I had the good fortune of getting to ride from Warsaw to Bialystok with IFBB Executive Committee members Bill and Wanda Tierney from the United Kingdom. We had a wonderful conversation that made the three-hour ride pass quickly, and they introduced me to their team the following morning. I ended up becoming fast friends with British bodybuilder Sean Ferguson, and he and the other U.K. team members helped me out tremendously throughout the weekend.
The prejudging started at 10 a.m. on Saturday, but the Junior World Fitness and Bodybuilding competitions were slated to go in the morning. None of the masters divisions went on until the afternoon, so Sean and I didn’t even go to the venue until about 2 p.m. As it turned out, my class was the third to the last in the show, so Saturday was a very long day. As we started pumping up, I was feeling very good about my chances. There were some excellent guys in my class, but it was nothing like the scale of competitors in Doha had been a week earlier. My only negative experience of the whole show occurred during the pump-up time.
There was an Egyptian bodybuilder in my class who kept coming over when I was hitting poses in the mirrors. He would position himself so that I couldn’t see myself and would either pose or lift right in front of me. The first couple of times I gave him the benefit of the doubt, thinking, “Well, maybe he’s just not paying attention.” After the third, fourth and fifth times he did it, however, I realized that he was trying to intimidate me—and it wasn’t working. I just calmly moved to another mirror.
When we got onstage, he kept stepping forward in the lineup and hitting muscle shots when we were supposed to be in the symmetry pose. The head judge warned him several times to stop posing. I was very pleased when the jerk didn’t make the finals. (My advice to young athletes: Just go compete. There’s no need to be an ass.)
I was feeling good when I got called for the first comparison, moved to the middle and was the only competitor who went through all of the first five comparisons. I must say that I was getting pretty tired by about the fourth one, but I was enjoying it to the fullest. I was feeling good, but I knew there was a long way to go, since in IFBB international competition they throw out the prejudging scores and totally rejudge the top six at the finals.
My class didn’t go on until about 8 p.m. Once we got onstage, the comparisons and posedown went by quickly. I was the first in my class to pose, and my routine went beautifully. By the time I caught my breath, it was time to go back up for awards. It came down to the top two, and my heart was pounding. When they called Valter Minetto for second, I thought I was going to burst. Man, what a rush!
The greatest experience ever was wearing the IFBB gold medal, standing between IFBB President Raphael Santonja and Polish Chairman Pawel Filleborn, and hearing the “Star-Spangled Banner” played. I was so filled with pride that I had to fight back tears. Those few moments were just beyond description, and that feeling is a very big part of why I do what I do.
After posing for several photos with the other guys in my class, then a few more by myself with just my trophy at center stage, it was offstage for more photos. As I stepped further backstage and was catching my breath, I got a truly great compliment. Erich Janner, the president of the IFBB in Germany, came over to shake my hand. He said, “Congratulations. I must tell you that your posing routine was perfect—absolutely perfect.” I was floored.
I’m such a lucky man. I know that few people ever get to win a local show, much less an IFBB World Championship. I know that with my experiences in Doha and especially in Bialystok, I still have a lot of gas in the tank, and retirement is nowhere in sight.
One more thing that I learned from my travels: I think that all over the world most people are good. We’re pretty much all the same. We’re hard workers, we love our friends and our families, we’re intensely proud of where we come from, and we all love our countries. It gives me cause to wonder: If athletes from so many countries, who are fiercely competitive, can come together in such proximity and not only get along but become friends and enjoy the camaraderie, why is there so much war and killing?
As I contemplate that, I realize that there are a few people who are truly evil and others who are overcome with greed (or a combination of both) screwing things up for the other 99 percent of us. Too bad the world isn’t run by athletes.
Editor’s Note: See Dave Goodin’s blog at www.IronManMagazine.com. Click on the blog selection in the top menu bar.
To contact Dave directly, send e-mail to [email protected] IM