The champion quest

ATLAS SHRUGGED There is no place for good food in the life of a champion, says Siddiq Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P  

It is hard to miss Syed Siddiq. As he strolls down the road, passersby stop and stare. It would take a brave man, however, to pass a smart-aleck comment in his direction, or to antagonise him in any way. Siddiq is the closest thing to the superhuman comic figure Hulk you can hope to see. Massive muscles seem to rip through every inch of his 105 kilogram body — a truly intimidating sight when he flexes to strike a pose.

The ripped physique of India’s ace bodybuilder, of course, did not take shape overnight. Siddiq, who recently won the Mr. Asia title at Manila (Philippines), takes out a dusty photo of a scrawny lad. “That was me, eight years ago. I weighed just 48 kilos,” he says with a grin.

That photo is a reminder of his first tryst with the sport. “I was 17 and I enjoyed watching World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) on television. I admired The Rock, and wanted to be like him. That pushed me to the gym for the first time,” he says. Around a year later, Siddiq witnessed a State-level bodybuilding competition, which sparked his desire to take up the sport seriously.

“I saw the crowd’s reaction to the competitors, and I decided that I wanted to be on stage one day. I drew inspiration from Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is an icon for all of us.” In the documentary Pumping Iron, which chronicles Schwarzenegger's path-breaking route to stardom, the Hollywood star talks about one of the turning points of his career.

The introduction of big quantities of meat in his regimen, after years of ignoring his diet, finally allowed Schwarzenegger to put on much-needed mass. This aspect is not lost on Siddiq.

The 25-year-old states that he consumes 30 egg whites and two kilos of boiled chicken in a day, apart from large servings of fruits and vegetables.

And three months prior to competition, rice, bread, salt and oil are off the table.

“I don’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. Ever. A strict diet overall must be maintained to succeed as a bodybuilder."

The choice to remain a teetotaler is commendable, but to voluntarily stay away from rice and salt seems absurd. Does he not get tempted to break the rules? “At times, yes. But, there is no place for good food in the life of a champion. From the start, I’ve dreamt of making something of my life. This dedication keeps me straight.”

Before the Mr. Asia title, this work ethic saw him win the Mr. Karnataka and Mr. India championships, which caught the attention of powerful people in the movie business.

Director Shankar, who is credited with a long list of Tamil blockbusters, cast Siddiq in his to-be-released flick, Ai. Siddiq will feature in a few fight scenes with lead actor Vikram, and recalls the experience with excitement. “It was great fun to be on a movie set. I have been approached to act in Bollywood movies as well, but I think I will focus on bodybuilding for now.”

With the Mr. Universe event coming up in Germany later this year, Siddiq clearly has his hands full.

He is desperate to do well, especially since there is more than just a medal on the line. Funds are hard to come by, and the genial giant is able to compete in various international competitions thanks to contributions from his benefactors.

“I am grateful to Manjunath Hegde (Chairman, Indian Fitness and Bodybuilders Federation) and Karnataka Home Minister K.J. George. They have helped me along the way; it is otherwise quite hard to survive in our sport. I feel that it is my duty to succeed.” Siddiq soon takes leave, and as he makes his exit, he nods and smiles at onlookers. They, however, find it prudent to simply get out of his way.

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Printable version | Jun 18, 2021 4:22:31 PM |

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