The Arnold Sports Festival is arguably the biggest multi-sporting event on the African continent, with athletes in 47 different sporting codes gathering to compete. Among the competitors preparing to descend on Johannesburg from 5-7 May this year is Grahamstonian bodybuilder Francois Botha, who defied the odds to qualify for the Arnold Classic at just 18 years of age.
Botha, who is studying Personal Training at the Trifocus Fitness Academy, was invited to the tournament off the back of his victory in the Junior U/18 division of East London’s IFBB Buffalo City Qualifier. Although he had trained and dieted rigorously for the tournament, he admitted that even he was surprised by his success.
“I was very surprised with coming first. I predicted top three, definitely, but I wasn’t expecting to be number one,” he said. “There was a boy standing next to me and he was very good. He was the defending champion for the U18s. Once I beat him, I felt very accomplished.”
Now, just two years into his competitive bodybuilding career, Botha will turn his head to his biggest challenge yet. On the competition ahead, he said: “As an 18-year-old, it’s such a privilege to go to a show like that, so I am very scared and excited at the same time – but also very motivated. I know it’s one of the biggest shows in the world.”
Botha’s father, Johan – the chairperson of Makana Natural Bodybuilding – hailed his son’s achievement. “I am super proud of him being invited to the Arnold Classic. Such an invitation does not come to any bodybuilder on a regular basis. You might only be invited once in your career and for him to be invited at the age of 18 is very special,” he said. It also means so much to have someone from our club in Grahamstown competing at the highest level.”
Despite having already reached tremendous heights, Botha is not planning on slowing down anytime soon. He dreams of getting a Green Card or Pro Card and competing at many more international shows.
For now, however, he is focused on flying the flag high for local bodybuilding and causing a stir among the sport’s big guns in Sandton.