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Contestants muscle in on a place in bodybuilding final.

Byline: Tyler Mears Reporter tyler.mears@walesonline.co.uk

BODYBUILDERS showed off their physiques at a competition in Cardiff.

The Paul Grant Welsh Bodybuilding Championships were held at St David's Hall in front of more than 1,000 spectators.

Over 130 people stripped to show off their muscles for the only United Kingdom Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation qualifier in Wales for 2015.

The event was open to anyone in the UK and the judges chose three athletes from each class to compete in the UK finals.

It was organised by Neil Hill, from Tenby, who also coaches professional bodybuilder Flex Lewis, from Llanelli, who competed in this event in 2003 as a junior and went on to win almost every single amateur show he competed in across the globe. Professional bodybuilder William Boncac, from Poland, who is also a part of Neil's team, guest starred at the event, two weeks before he competes for the Mr Olympia title.

Neil said: "The event is very popular this year in Wales.

"It used to be that the general public were completely misguided by bodybuilding. There was a stigma surrounding the sport that all the athletes must be taking drugs.

"But what's happened recently, especially since the competition has been opened up to women, is that it has become more mainstream.

"There's a cross over now between training at the gym to be healthy and showing your physique off on a stage and this has allowed the sport to grow immensely."

Neil, who used to compete as a professional bodybuilder himself before turning to coaching, said: "I used to compete until I damaged my knee and it was a huge psychological blow to me.

"Bodybuilding is good for the mind because it builds a stronger mindset and allows you to set goals. It creates self confidence, self awareness and a healthy lifestyle through eating well."

But bodybuilding is not one for the faint-hearted. Every aspect of a bodybuilder's day has to be in sync, including the number of meals eaten in a day.

Paul Turner, 42, from Llanelli, took part in the over-40s class and said he had been eating nearly seven meals a day.

He said: "I have been training for more than 20 years and competing for nearly 10.

"It has become part of my lifestyle and I follow a strict diet."

Before the competition, Paul, who designs training plans, had to cut out carbohydrates, up his cardiovascular exercise and "dry up" - drink a very small amount of water to dehydrate himself.

Also participating were 21-year-old Kubilay Aytac, 23-year-old Rory Frary and a number of other competitors from Pacific Fitness Community Leisure Centre in Rhondda. Kubilay, who trains at Energetics Gym in Treorchy, said: "It was a very exciting but nervous experience as it was my first time competing but as I stepped on stage and started to pose the nerves broke away and I felt con-fident and proud to be up there and I grew more confident as the posing went on."

The event also featured a number of women, including 21-year-old Anna Munday who travelled to Cardiff from Leicester to compete.

She said: "This is my second competition and I've been training for two years.

"I think more women should get involved in the sport, aside from the glitz and glamour it is also such a healthy lifestyle to live.

"It's a great way of meeting new people and everyone is so supportive of each other."

Neil has now booked the venue for the next five years and is planning on holding competitions in both June and September.

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The winners of the tall bikini fitness class at The Paul Grant Welsh Championships of Bodybuilding in Cardiff
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 8, 2015
Words:619
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