After a successful trip to Taranto, Italy, Francois Botha can call himself Makhanda’s Mr Universe, as he finished second in his two categories at the International Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation (IBFF) Mr Universe competition in late June. Botha, who is only 20 years-old, competed in the tournament for the first time in 2019, competing in the Junior U23 category, as well as the Senior Men’s 80kg category, placing second in both.
The young bodybuilder boasts a lean and chiselled physique, which he has developed over years of dedication, diet and training, and was heralded as being one of the five most defined athletes at this years Mr Universe, which included professional athletes. This was particularly humbling for Botha, as this was the first time the bodybuilder has competed on the international stage.
“I have been through so much the past three months, I had prepped for 13 weeks for these two trophies,” said Botha. “They have been the most amazing things I have ever accomplished.”
Being in front of an international audience and panel of judges for the first time raised some mixed emotions and feelings for the young athlete. “[when I am on the stage]I am excited, I am nervous, I am anxious… I am in two worlds basically. I don’t know really how I feel, but I know once I’m on that stage and I see my competitors and I see the judges and the crowd, it is just so overwhelming,” said Botha.
For an international bodybuilding competition such as the Mr Universe, athletes are tasked with executing eight compulsory poses which are designed to show off the competitor’s muscles and body symmetry, with the most symmetrical and well-balanced athletes being scored higher. The various categories are lined up on stage for the judges to assess, before they make their judgements and announce the top five placers in each category.
Botha’s two categories were spaced out well on the day, and he knew after a couple of minutes after posing for the U23 category that he was placed second in the world in that division. This gave him a great deal of confidence heading into the senior category later that day, which he feels helped him secure second place in that division too.
Heading into the competition, however, Botha had no idea that he would perform so well. “I had absolutely no clue who I was up against… there was between 17 and 20 countries that were participating, and we were all in different places. I didn’t know if I was going to come first, if I was going to place.”
Botha’s dad, Johan, is exceptionally proud of his son for his achievements on the world stage. “This is unbelievable, I mean as a young junior, at the age of 20, representing South Africa at the Mr Universe, it is the highest level to compete is unbelievable,” said the older Botha, who is a champion bodybuilder in his own right. “I am unbelievably proud of him.”
The plan for 2019 was for both Bothas to compete in the Mr Universe, with the goal that they would win the Junior and Senior categories respectively and be part of the same line up at the end of the day, however a serious injury to the senior Botha has postponed that dream until 2020. The ultimate dream for both athletes is to share the podium with one another, with Johan stating that Francois will obviously beat him.
The younger Botha was humble in his achievements, and thanked all of his sponsors and supporters, but said that his father is is biggest inspiration. “I would just like to thank everyone that was a part of my whole journey, mainly my dad. He was absolutely phenomenal, I could not have done anything without him. Placing in these two categories was 90 percent my dad, I just added the extra 10 percent. He made all of this possible and I love him very much.”
From here, Botha will be taking part in the Welkom Classic on 27 July, which will give him the opportunity to qualify for the IBFF World Cup in Johannesburg in September. He has already qualified for the World Champs in December that will either be hosted by Russia or Slovenia. He hopes to move into the higher weight category in the coming years too, with the goal of competing in the 90kg category.