PETALING JAYA: Sazali Samad was the slightly-built kid from Batu Pahat who made good in bodybuilding.
And he is bracing himself for a double challenge next month – to defend his respective bantamweight titles in the Mr Universe championships in Shanghai from Nov 25-27 and the Manila SEA Games scheduled for Dec 2-4.
For Sazali, no burden is too heavy to overcome.
“This is what I have been doing all these years,” said Sazali, who certainly has no inkling that he was destined to become a world-class bodybuilder.
“It is going to be my biggest challenge – to peak for two competitions in a space of one week.
“This is a first for me but I am prepared to give it a shot. God willing, everything will turn out okay.”
Sazali said that his interest in bodybuilding took flight when he took up his first job in Kuala Lumpur after completing his Form Five studies in 1988.
He was then running errands for the Home Ministry in Kuala Lumpur when a visit to the gymnasium at the police headquarters in Bukit Aman quickly changed his life.
“At that time, the police gym was near the Home Ministry and I used to hang out there,” recalled the 37-year-old Sazali.
“A deputy superintendent (Roslan Ahmad) happened to bump into me checking out the equipment. He told me to give bodybuilding a try since I had a good body structure. I was not exactly thin but I certainly did not have a muscular body then.”
One thing led to another. Sazali then entered his first competition – the Mr Malaysia contest in 1991. He won the flyweight category and he has not looked back since then.
He became the first Malaysian to win the Mr Universe title in 2000 and created history by winning it a second time in Moscow last year. Sazali is also the only Malaysian to win five Mr Asia titles.
His biggest worry is maintaining his weight as he gears up for the upcoming back-to back competitions.
“I must take care that I do not exceed 65kg after the world championships in China,” said Sazali.
“In my case, it is easy to gain weight but hard to lose even 1kg because of the muscle density. If I do not lose weight properly, it will affect the way I pose when I compete in the Manila SEA Games.”
Sazali won the first of his two SEA Games gold medals in Jakarta in 1997 and he will be the main gold medal hope of the Malaysian team in the Manila Games, which will offer six gold medals in bodybuilding.
Two heavyweight categories were contested in Vietnam two years ago but the Filipino organisers have dropped them this time.
Besides Sazali, two other bodybuilders for the SEA Games are debutant Azlisham Zakaria and 2003 Vietnam Games bronze medallist Othman Yahya.