I beat the legendary Choga - Henderson

HARARE - While growing up as a skinny teenager in Bulawayo, Grant Henderson never imagined one day he would become a muscleman and win the coveted Mr Zimbabwe crown.

It was a tremendous achievement because the young Henderson had dethroned the legendary Innocent Choga to win the title in 1993.

Let’s put Henderson’s triumph into perspective. At that time, Choga had dominated the entire bodybuilding contests and had won the Mr Zimbabwe title on four occasions.

GIGANTIC: Grant Henderson had an impressive stature during his young days when he won the Mr Zimbabwe title in 1993.

Henderson entered the Mr Zimbabwe contest as an unknown quantity after only taking the sport seriously a couple of years back when he had participated in the Bulawayo Ironman. 

“I started off as a 22-year-old competing in the Bulawayo Ironman where I placed second to George Munyoro,” Henderson tells the Daily News from the United States.

“I competed in the Western Province championships at 23 as a heavyweight and won the overall title in Cape Town.

“The guy who came second to me (Trevor van Schulk Wyk) won the Mr. South Africa that year but I was not allowed to compete in the SA Nationals because I was a Zimbabwean citizen.

“I went back up to compete in the Mr. Zimbabwe where I had tough competition from Givemore Marume, Tendayi Chaipa and the four time reigning champ, Innocent Choga.

“Innocent was the man to beat and even one local newspaper did an article on our rivalry which took up nearly one full page.

“I beat Innocent that year and he cried about unfair judging but I believe that with George Takundwa and Bible Mhiza running the organisation the judging had been fair.”

It was a remarkable achievement by Henderson because during those days, no one thought Choga, who was at his peak, would lose a contest.

The journey to the top for Henderson had started when he was only 14 when his parents encouraged him to make use of the gym equipment at their family home.

The young Henderson did not hesitate to take up the sport since he was also an avid reader of Muscle & Fitness magazine that was usually full of posters of the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bob Paris and Lee Haney.

“I started at the young age of about 14 with the weights.  I was a skinny boy and my parents had some dumbbells and a bench,” recalls Henderson.

“They had both worked out and encouraged me to do the same.  My dad bought me some old issues of Muscle & Fitness magazine and I was awed by the physiques of Arnold, Bob Paris, and Lee Haney.

“Here in the States I have had the pleasure of meeting Arnold and even working with Lee Haney in my time at Biochem Supplements.”

From there on, the young Henderson was hooked to the sport and as they say, the rest was history.

Two years after dethroning Choga, the former Christian Brothers’ College student, who had all the attributes of a well-conditioned bodybuilder relocated to the US where all the major fitness publications scrambled to have him on their covers.

WORLD CLASS STATURE: Grant Henderson appeared on the covers of many US fitness magazines.

“Getting a cover on Muscle & Fitness was amazing! It was unexpected for a boy from Bulawayo,” says Henderson.

“After that I got covers on all the major magazines like Ironman (three times), Musclemag (three times), REPS (two times), Flex, Planet Muscle (30 times) and a number of European magazines.

“I also appeared on a billboard here in Los Angeles and one in Bangkok, China.”

However, Henderson dream of competing as professional in the US never materialised due to his work commitments.

“I had wanted to compete in the US as a pro. I could have partitioned for my IFBB Pro card after winning the Mr. Zimbabwe but I wanted to make a statement by turning pro at the Mr. USA,” Henderson says.

“Sadly I started getting very busy with my career in Vitamin Sales and wasn't putting 100 percent into the gym.

“Once I had more time for the gym I learnt that the very top pro's in the IFBB sometimes take health risks to get in winning shape via supplements and diuretics.

“I decided that my health and family was more important than the risks. I still work out every day, eat healthy, don't drink and I'm still in great shape.”

The women participation in bodybuilding has always been a challenge both in the past and at present for local show organisers.

However, Henderson believes the landscape of local bodybuilding is destined for greater heights given the current structures on the ground.

“The sport was healthy when I was competing with the men’s divisions having as many as 6-10 each including the junior divisions,” he said.

“However, the women's divisions were weak in numbers and there were no Physique divisions. Looking at the Facebook page that Quiet Shangai (local bodybuilding federation spokesperson) has built the sport in Zimbabwe and South Africa has grown in leaps and bounds. Now they have all the new divisions and SA has the Musclemania contests.”

Comments (1)

"Grant Henderson truly is the Best of the best!"

Ronnie Pierce - 4 October 2014

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