SAZALI Samad owes a lot to the sport of bodybuilding. And the Vietnam SEA Games will be the time to repay the debts.
Sazali, now 36, was an office boy before joining the police force some 14 years ago. That's when he discovered the gym. And fell in love with it.
And as he sculpted his body, the honours and accolades came pouring in.
He was four-time Mr Asia, won the Mr Universe title in 2000 and was named 2000 National Sportsman of the Year.
Last week, he clinched a bronze in the World Championships in Mumbai, India and entrenched himself as a firm favourite for gold at the SEA Games in Ho Chi Minh City next month.
“My main focus is to secure the gold medal. I am targeted to deliver the bantamweight gold medal and it is my duty to repay the country,” declared Sazali, who first love had been sepaktakraw before taking up bodybuilding.
However, it has not been all plain sailing for the 36-year-old.
An advertisement for a dietary supplement was the start of his trouble. Sazali had posed for the advertisement and was banned for six months by the Asian Body Building Federation (ABBF).
The suspension, which lasted until November last year, meant the bodybuilder had to miss out on the Busan Asian Games.
Sazali only returned this year and marked a successful comeback by winning the national title in August. He then won the silver in the Asian Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan in September. Then came the bronze in India.
“I am delighted to have won a bronze in India as this was only my third competition. Although I was suspended, I did not stop training. I maintained my physique.”
And that is no easy task.
“You have to be very disciplined to follow the training as the end result is yourself,” said Sazali, a veteran from the Jakarta 1997 SEA Games who is eyeing a gold in Vietnam.
Besides Sazali, four others will be shouldering the chase for honours in Ho Chi Minh City. They are Osman Yahya, Ibrahim Shahdan, Mohayan Rosmani and Terry Gallyot.
Osman was the silver medallist in the Commonwealth Championships in Calcutta and finished fifth in the Busan Games. Gallyot is the 1999 Asian heavyweight champion.
Without injured Asian Games silver medallist Liow Teck Leong, the Malaysia Body Building Federation (MBBF) are targeting two medals.