Lack of funding, support remains problem for local bodybuilders
By Patricia Hului
ON OCTOBER 13 LAST YEAR, the bodybuilding community mourned the death of Mr Asean (1980) and Mr Asia (1980 and 1981) Bujang Taha who died at 77 from complications with mouth and lung cancer.
Before he made his mark on the international platform, Bujang won third place in Mr Sarawak in 1973.
And so it was fitting that Sarawak Bodybuilding Association (SBBA) President Datuk Wee Hong Seng would honour his contributions along with other athletes during the 50th edition of the Mr Sarawak Championship at Kuching Civic Centre on May 3.
“We wish for this occasion to commemorate the contributions by those who are no longer with us, the late Bujang Taha, Suhardi Mukmin, Dexter Bong and Mohd Faizal Razali. May they continue to inspire us all.”
Wee mentioned in his address that the first-ever Mr Sarawak was held in 1965, “This also means that the state-level competition has been around longer than Mr Malaysia itself.”
To celebrate the competition’s golden anniversary, the organisers are also paying tribute to Sarawak bodybuilding veterans, among them Kapitan Desmond Thian, Andrew Grinsam, Marican Rais and Ahmed Johan.
Although this bodybuilding competition has been around for half a century, recognition of the successes of local bodybuilders at national and international levels is lacking and funding and support remains a problem.
Wee, who has been SBBA president the past six years, said: “We at SBBA have been struggling for as long as I remember, despite our best on-going efforts to help fund our bodybuilders to go further.”
When Bujang first started in the 70s, lack of funds forced him to use Kiwi shoe polish mixed with baby oil as a bronzer during competitions.
There was a time he had to travel to Kuala Lumpur with 20 cents in his pocket and once he arrived there Bujang received a food allowance of RM20 a day from Malaysian Bodybuilding Federation (MBBF).
Fast-forward 30 years and Bong, who passed away at the young age of 25 back in 2013, had to take distance learning courses on fitness and training from California, USA, footing the bill himself as there was no one to coach him.
Without qualified trainers, the late bodybuilder had to learn through trial and error, risking, and picking up a lot of injuries along the way.
“In this respect, I risk sounding like a broken record as I continue to appeal for stronger support from the government, in terms of allocations and facilities. At the very least, let us run the MSN Gym so that we can produce more champions,” Wee said.
SBBA has been requesting to take over the running of the MSN Gym located at Kuching Civic Centre for the past four years as a means to supplement their funding.
He also said that the association needed more successors – particularly the judges – as Sarawak only had a handful of them.
“We hope that the ministry (Ministry of Social Development) could help our people, perhaps our bodybuilders who want to further their capacity in the sport outside of competing, or the enthusiasts who wish to be more engage in it, by supporting them to undergo judging courses that are usually conducted simultaneously with the organisation of Mr Malaysia championships annually.”
The 50th Mr Sarawak was 29-year-old Awang Mohd Azizul Ghani from Kuching who also won the title last year in Miri.
Other winners from Kuching were Zulazaman Mohd Bujang (master – 45 years and above), Wilfred Harding Jiee (lightweight, 65.1kg – 70kg), Awang Mohd Azizul Ghani (light middleweight), Aisa Rosli (middleweight, 80.1kg – 85kg) and Rajiv Vasutheran (light heavyweight, 85.1kg – 90kg).
Miri team took home titles for Youth (Under 21) through Jacob Jinggut Vincent, Azri Asmat Sefri (fly weight, 55.1kg – 60kg) and Hamizan Zaudin bantam weight (60.1kg – 65kg).
Sibu sent five athletes this year but only newcomer Farrokh Ibtisam Ting brought home a title in the welterweight (70.1kg – 75kg).
Jeremiah Rukong of Kuching flexed his muscles beautifully and won The Best Poser Award.
This year’s competition gathered 39 contenders to compete in nine categories and some 80 per cent of the contestants were new faces.
Azizul will represent the state to compete for the title Mr Malaysia in Labuan this June 5 to 7.