The Unstoppable Iron Men of Chennai
The competitive bodybuilders of southern India have few fans and no riches to gain. Yet these outsider gym rats eat, sleep and breathe their unforgiving sport.
Text by Naveen P M
Bodybuilding ranks on the bottom rung of the sports ladder in India, a country where cricket is considered religion, and cricketers are practically demigods. Yet Chennai, a 4.3-million-person metropolis in southern India, has been a breeding ground for competitive bodybuilding for decades. The sport has boomed in popularity here over the past fifteen years, even while stymied by a lack of adequate infrastructure and laden with social stigmas (many people assume the massive bodybuilders are thugs).
Being a bodybuilder in India is a tough task. Many of these athletes are poor and struggle on an almost daily basis for such fundamental things as food, not to mention supplements. With no sponsors, many borrow substantial sums of money from friends and family to prepare for competitions. They expend copious amounts of time and cash on their sport, despite the meager returns (usually small cash prizes). At times, some have been unable to compete in international events when …
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