Hanssen defies all odds

HARARE - Like a teenage girl, she bolted onto the stage.

In the background was the music of American Grammy award winning artist, Pharrell Williams tracked titled Happy and like an infectious disease the whole house was singing and clapping along.

“Because I’m happy, Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof, Because I’m happy, Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.”

Such energy was not coming from a teen, neither from a lady in her 20s or 30s but from 47-year-old woman and mother of five children, Wendy Hanssen.

She was going through her normal routine pose and gestures at the 2014 edition of Mr and Ms Zimbabwe contest where she had bagged the ultimate prize.

“Winning a trophy, title, prize or reward of any kind is always exciting and motivating. I was certainly hoping to see a lot more entrants in my category though,” Hanssen, who has gone three eight pregnancies, told the Daily News yesterday.

“Entering the competition was my reward to myself for the months of hard work I had put in. This has been a journey of so many varied reasons.

“The fact that the federation was willing to allow the class I entered to go ahead was, I feel, a show of support for the future of women’s bodybuilding in Zimbabwe.

“I see it as a sign that they recognise it as being just as important to the competitors as the other categories hosted.”

A self-confessed iron addict from her teenage years, Hansen is still hopeful that one day she will win an international Ms Olympia award through hard work.

“I first stepped into the gym in the 80’s in Bulawayo at Bulawayo Health and Fitness. I remember it was separated into the ladies and gents sections and I walked straight into the gents section,” she recalls.

“I was an iron addict from day one and vowed I would one day enter a Mr and Ms Olympia competition and it is still a dream.”

Her journey into bodybuilding was influenced through seeing pictures of American female bodybuilding champion and actress Corey Everson.

The American won Ms Olympia title for a record six years in a row from 1984 to 1989.

“Seeing pictures of the incredible Cory Everson on the walls of the gym as well as many other incredible and inspiring muscled women, I knew what I wanted immediately... to be like that,” she said.

“To not only look and feel good about how I look but to inspire and motivate women around me to improve themselves too.”

Hanssen, who trains  at Triton Gym in Chisipiti under the tutelage of Clever Paradza, derives a lot of support from her family led by husband Rolf and children; Amy Hijlkema (24), Bradley (24), Colin (19), Dale (17) and Errol (14).

“Rolf and I have been married for 20 years. He has been a quiet background supporter and he, along with my three youngest children, were all at the show along with a huge support base of friends who have been following my journey,” said Hanssen.

Her biggest fan though remains her third born, son Colin, who was born with Cerebral Palsy.

“My family have been an incredible support and Colin has been a huge motivator. I care for my son and I don’t rely on a caregiver,” she said.

“After I get him up in the mornings and have bathed, dressed and fed him, he accompanies me to the gym.

“He’s a mini celebrity there. He loves the interaction with other folk and people in general react positively to his presence.”

Meanwhile, National Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness media liaison, Munashe Matandirotya who is also the editor-in-chief of the only local bodybuilding magazine, Muscle Xclusive paid tribute to Hanssen for her dedication and passion towards women bodybuilding.

“Internationally, we have had cases of athletes who qualify for a Pro- ard as Masters (over 40 years) and actually end up making it to the Olympia like Canadian bodybuilder Marc Lavoie,” Matandirotya said.

“I am not aware of any female bodybuilder examples but the story of Lavoie certainly shows that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

“Wendy Hanssen can certainly take her physique to any level, if that indeed is her goal.”

Hanssen is also a former BMX cycling champion and having earned her world plate in 2010 she finally retired in 2012 after the BMX World Championships in South Africa.

Comments (1)

What a life changing story and well articulated article...

Peter Metro - 24 October 2014

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