Bodybuilding: Passion lives on as bodybuilding gains strength at S'pore Nationals

Abdul Ghani, 54, was the oldest competitor at the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness Singapore Nationals.
Abdul Ghani, 54, was the oldest competitor at the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness Singapore Nationals.ST PHOTO: ALVIN HO

Given a choice between two loves in 1987, Abdul Ghani opted for his new bride over his bodybuilding dreams, as any good husband would.

The 54-year-old went on to raise six daughters in the intervening three decades, but did not forget his other passion.

He got his wife's permission to return to being a gym rat in 2011, and in 2014 decided he could still be a competitive bodybuilder.

Yesterday, he was the oldest among 81 athletes of both genders to participate in the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness Singapore Nationals at the School of the Arts, clinching the title in the men's physique Masters (over 40 years old) category.

"Back then I was real crazy about bodybuilding. Five to six days a week, four to five hours a day in the gym. My wife was lonely and she got angry with me so I stopped," recalled the engineer, whose six daughters are aged between 12 and 26.

"I tried to go back secretly after our third child but she found out again.

"But I always wanted to compete so I just told myself, like Arnold (Schwarzenegger, the Austrian bodybuilder turned actor) said, I'll be back."

The championships, organised by the Singapore Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (SFBF), are his third since making his competitive comeback.

The three main titles of Mr Singapore (overall), Mr Singapore (physique) and Ms Singapore went to Sam Enaya, Abdillah Shah and Nadiah Ahmad Jani respectively.

The competition also represents a comeback attempt for bodybuilding, tarred by a 2012 doping scandal when seven athletes tested positive.

"What we're trying to do is regain the confidence of athletes, fans and the general public and get support back where it used to be," said SFBF chief Alex Betts.

"We're also trying to be more accommodating, and get more people who've never competed before into the sport of bodybuilding."

For example, yesterday's competition featured 21 categories, including those for newcomers and juniors (16 to 23 years old).

The youngest entrant was 22-year-old Tyen Rasif, who placed third and fourth in the women's bikini fitness national and international categories respectively.

Said the Singapore Management University undergraduate and part-time fitness instructor: "I love fitness and bodybuilding is a great way to challenge myself.

"I hope to reach out to more women and show them that fitness is not some intimidating thing but actually very accessible."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2018, with the headline 'Passion lives on as bodybuilding gains strength at S'pore Nationals'. Print Edition | Subscribe