Captain Ahmad Ashkanani won the silver medal at the international bodybuilding competition Mr Olympia held in September in the US, and is bursting with pride. This professional men’s bodybuilding contest at Joe Weider’s Olympia Fitness and Performance Weekend is organized annually by the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB).
The 31-year-old Kuwaiti is satisfied with his accomplishment. “This title is a pride for Kuwait and Arab nations, as I was the only Arab winner in this contest. I ranked second in the 212 pounds category, and this is a great achievement. Participants only qualify for this competition after winning local contests, so it’s not just registering and participating – it’s a competition for professionals,” Ashkanani told Kuwait Times.
Work hard, train hard
Ashkanani is a sports teacher at a public school and also works as a personal trainer at a private gym. He trains six days a week for about two hours daily, divided into two periods – morning and evening. When preparing for a championship, he changes his method of training, but not the duration. “I’m the second Arab national and the first Kuwaiti to participate in this contest. Unfortunately, many people here are jealous of my success, while they should be proud,” he lamented.
Nutrition is also important to remain in top shape. “I eat special food the entire year. This food is free of sugar and fats, while rich in carbohydrates,” Ashkanani said. Grace and symmetry are the main aspects for evaluating competitors. “Some participants have overbuilt muscles and bodies, which are not very appealing, and the judging committee decides. They see participants from four angles in normal positions to see the shape of the body in general. They also judge the level of body dehydration. This is the reason behind seeing lines on the face of most bodybuilders, as they are mostly dehydrated for the last 10 or 12 hours before the contest by not consuming water. Bodybuilders are now using Botox and fillers to beautify their faces,” he explained.
Ashkanani started training and bodybuilding when he was only 16. “My first local participation in a bodybuilding championship was in 2002, when I was 18 years old. In 2010, I participated for the first time in an international contest. I have won various titles and medals, but the latest one at Mr Olympia is my most important medal. In the beginning, my family was against this activity, but after I got married and had a baby, they considered I was old enough to make such decisions!” he exclaimed.
Steroid use in Kuwait
Using steroids is very popular among most bodybuilders. According to Ashkanani, using steroids in a proper way and dose is not harmful, but admits steroids are not allowed to be used at the gym. “I advise young men who aim to build strong muscles to use food supplements under the supervision of specialists. Many youths take steroids in the wrong way, which may harm their health. They should always consult a doctor or at least a trainer before consuming anything. I even addressed a symposium at one of the boys’ schools to make students aware of this wrong usage and the danger it may cause to their bodies,” he noted.
Using steroids in the wrong way may cause many health complications. “It may cause hypotension, kidney failure, liver complications and heart enlargement or inflammation, as this is an alien material and may cause deformation of muscles. I can’t provide more info on this issue as I’m not a certified doctor or specialist in hormones,” stressed Ashkanani.
He also gives training advice and posts videos on social media. “I have various groups on WhatsApp to which I send training instructions and videos in the morning, so when they come in the afternoon, they are prepared, and I only correct some moves. I even have groups outside Kuwait and I send them training videos. I only train men, and don’t advise practicing bodybuilding before the age of 16. In this gym, those who are under 18 cannot even enter,” Ashkanani told Kuwait Times.
Ashkanani called upon the government to support this sport. “The government is not paying attention to bodybuilders. Although Kuwaiti players in this sport have reached top positions internationally, they are not respected or supported by the government. When I was participating in Mr Olympia, they didn’t even give me sports leave from my work to travel to the US, so I had to deduct it from my annual leave. Also, we don’t get any financial support and have to buy all our stuff ourselves. This includes the supplements, gym membership, special food, etc. I really hope the government supports us,” he concluded.
By Nawara Fattahova