(Special Write-up by: Daniel Kenu, GNA Sports Desk)
Accra, Dec. 5, GNA - Perhaps apart from Richard Eshun, also known as "Dallas", who solitarily pushed bodybuilding as a competitive sporting discipline from the periphery to the limelight in the mid 1990s, the only one to have consolidated that move and even made the sport more popular in recent times is Christ Antoh (King Sabato), the reigning champion of the "Mr Ghana" Contest.
Born some three-and-half decades ago, Sabato's ambition in life was to become one of the finest boxers in the World; but that dream fizzled out at the amateur level.
Unknown to Sabato, his failure to make it in the boxing arena after a stint with the Atoh Quarshie boxing club in the late 1980s together with some of the siblings of Azumah Nelson, was part of the Divine plans to prepare him to become the 'King' in a similar discipline -bodybuilding.
Then, an employee of the Coca Cola Bottling Company Limited in Accra, Sabato was discovered by a middle-aged man in the early 90s at a gymnasium in Accra who encouraged him to take up the sport. That moment marked the beginning of the birth of a new King in bodybuilding. After a couple of years of sculpting his body, the young man made his first appearance at the 'Mr Ghana' contest in 1994 but was eliminated together with former champion Martin Luther King at the preliminary stage. But he never gave up. Ironically, that setback rather galvanised him and he has progressed steadily to become the champion in a sport reserved only for "real" men.
Currently an instructor at the Maximum Gym in Dansoman in Accra, Sabato combines perfectly his work and his "aggressive" training regimen, overshadowed by an unstoppable squatting. He is leading a three-man team from the Maximum gym including a neophyte Samuel Eric Odei and Paa "T" (who placed fourth at last year's Mr Ghana Contest) to the maiden "MuscleMania" West Africa competition slated for the Accra International Conference Centre on Saturday, December 17.
In spite of the fact that the competition has been broadened to embrace the rest of the people in the sub-region and another from Kenya, Sabato thinks it's an opportune time to settle "an unfinished business" between him and Mustapha Richardson", runner up at last year's Mr Ghana competition, to determine who-is-who.
After being declared the 2004 Mr Ghana champion, Sabato was bizarrely side-stepped by the organisers while Mustapha was chosen to represent the nation at the World even in the United Kingdom, but he was denied the UK visa.
That incident has created uneasiness between the two competitors and Sabato believes the West African competition presents a fine opportunity to settle the matter.
New criteria have been introduced into the competition to epitomise its naturalness and to enhance its competitive spirit. Contestants would undergo a rigorous medical fitness test including urine test to disqualify athletes who might use performance-enhancing steroids to boost their chances.
Dr. Kofi Abrampah, 2004 World MscleMania Champion and head of the organising team -Koflex Sports- told the GNA Sports in Accra that to give the competition its neutrality, internationally acclaimed judges would be flown into the country in order to declare "an unblemished winner".
He said the champion might not necessarily have the biggest muscles but the one whose body is well sculpted.
The judging criteria would be based on four equal score categories, namely symmetry, muscle mass, condition and posing presentation. More than 100 natural bodybuilders are expected to mount the stage on December 17 to produce a winner who would represent the sub-region at the World event.