Bodybuilder Ziad Mekdachi received the award for Sports Personality of the Year at the 36th Sports Awards of the Year 2019 crowning ceremony at the end of last month.
Mekdachi, 39, became the first professional bodybuilder from the Indian Ocean region, after getting his International Federation of Bodybuilding (IFBB) elite pro card.
He got his card after winning the 100 kg category and the overall prize at the 4th Arnold Classic Africa 2019 IFBB pro qualifier Johannesburg, South Africa, last May.
Born in Beirut, Lebanon, to a Lebanese father and a mother from Seychelles, Mekdachi came to Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, in 2006. He started bodybuilding in 2009.
SNA caught up with Medkachi to learn more about plans now that he is a professional bodybuilder.
SNA: You were awarded the sports personality for 2019. What does that represent for you?
ZM: It represents a proud and joyful for all my historical achievements I had for bodybuilding in Seychelles – to become a professional bodybuilder. The award means a lot to me and I am very happy to have won the title. I see it as a big reward for my success and it is my motivation to work harder to make people proud.
SNA: What has been your biggest achievement for 2019?
ZM: My biggest achievement was making history in bodybuilding in Seychelles, I was able to win the title competing with bodybuilders coming from all corners of the world – Africa, Europe even Brazil. I was not afraid of them and was able to beat all the giants in the sport.
Mekdachi overall prize at the 4th Arnold Classic Africa 2019 IFBB pro qualifier Johannesburg, South Africa, last May. (Mekdachi/Facebook) Photo License: All Rights Reserved
SNA: What does going professional mean in bodybuilding?
ZM: Let’s put it like this — amateur bodybuilders when competing are not entitled to any money prizes. We get medals, certificates, trophies and that’s it. When you compete on the professional level it means you are competing for a money prize. At the professional level, a boy can win a prize of $10,000 (SCR 137,000) onwards. Like for Mr. Olympia, you can win $250,000 (SCR 3.4 million).
SNA: Tell us a bit about your journey to becoming a professional bodybuilder?
ZM: My journey was not easy. With my determination and my belief, I was able to do it. But I realised that there will be many obstacles on my journey. I told myself that I am not going to let anything hold me back. So I worked hard and committed myself to achieving my dream and with God’s grace, I did it.
SNA: Now that you are a professional bodybuilder who are you working with?
ZM: I have won the title but I have not been in action since then so big sponsors and organisations do not know me well. I am working with a small company on the getting supplements side nothing else. I am counting a lot on my debut appearance in May at the Arnold Classic in Johannesburg (South Africa). If I do well then I can be approached by other international sponsors. That can make me excel in my career.
SNA: As a professional are you going to be based in Seychelles or elsewhere?
ZM: I am based in Seychelles, my training is done here. For all the competition I’ve done, my training was done locally. For the time being, I am still here but in future, if I am adopted by a company I will consider the possibility of going elsewhere.
For the time being, Mekdachi is training in Seychelles. (Mekdachi/Facebook) Photo License: All Rights Reserved
SNA: What kind of support are you getting as a professional?
ZM: To be honest I cannot say I have a regular endorsement for support from a local company. I still need to knock on doors when I need assistance to work on my preparation which includes training and logistics like airfares and accommodations.
SNA: Have you made any appeal for endorsement locally?
ZM: Well if anyone is interested in investing in me I believe I have shown already that I am a sincere athlete and I always bring results.
SNA: How far are you aiming to go now that you are a professional bodybuilder?
ZM: Now that I have achieved my first horizon that is going from amateur to professional, now I want to make a successful debut where I want to finish in the top three. I know it’s not going to be easy but I am ready and focusing on each day.
SNA: Have people been supportive throughout your journey?
ZM: Yes. I have the support of many people be it financial or moral. I am proud and satisfied with the support I have received so far. But more important if I did not have the support of my family especially my spouse I would have got to where I am today. I would like to use this opportunity to thank all those who have helped me be in from the sports ministry, the national sports council.
SNA: What is your advice for an amateur athlete in Seychelles dreaming of going professional?
ZM: I’d like to tell them not to put into their heads that this is impossible. Nothing is impossible. Just believe in themselves and have the determination that they can do it as Ziad has done it.
Source: Seychelles News Agency