Whitehorse’s Ben Wondga and Matthew Johnson are pumped — in more ways than one.
The two bodybuilders are pumped physically, with big muscles. They’re also pumped mentally — really excited — to have made the podium at the Knight of Champions bodybuilding competition in Surrey, B.C., on Sept. 9.
“I’m absolutely blown away,” said Wondga. “I’m still in disbelief. I knew I was going to bring a good package to the show, but in bodybuilding you can’t control what other people bring and you can’t control what the judges like to see. So I went in very humble, just hoping to make top three so I could qualify for provincials.
“I far exceeded my expectations and won my whole division.”
With top-three finishes at the event, hosted by the B.C. Amateur Bodybuilding Association, Wondga and Johnson both qualified for the provincial championships next July. They both plan to attend.
Wondga flexed his way to first place in the light heavyweight division for the first win of his career.
Johnson, who was in his first competition, placed third in the masters (40-49) division and fourth in light heavyweight, the division Wondga won.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic about it,” said Johnson. “It’s because of Ben that I went to this one because Ben and I train together at Peak Fitness.
“I started about six years ago. It was just a lifestyle change that I was looking for. My parents passed away in their younger years and I decided that wasn’t the route I wanted to take. So I decided I wanted to start getting in shape just by doing cardio and a little bit of resistance training, and over the years I grew into it and loved it more and more every year. Then I met Ben a couple years ago and really started pushing it.”
Wondga competed at the Knight of Champions two years ago in what was his first competition, placing third in light heavyweight (80 to 90 kilograms). With that finish Wondga qualified for provincials the following summer, placing sixth. But the finish didn’t sit well with Wondga, who then made it his mission to improve.
“I was not happy with my sixth-place finish, I knew I had to make some changes to my physique, so I worked last year to put on some size,” said the 39-year-old. “I gained about 15 pounds in muscle last year. And then 15 weeks before this show I started prepping, cut it all down, and the results were just what we were looking for.”
Wondga and Johnson work out 1.5 to 2 hours, six days per week, with six to seven days per week of cardio.
In preparation for the competition Johnson started cutting weight at the start of May and lost about 16 kg.
“(Johnson is) a huge inspiration to me,” said Wondga. “I’m blown away by his dedication, his work ethic, his approach to the sport, and his whole attitude of putting 100 per cent into it and doing the best he could. I couldn’t be more proud of him. To be honest, I’m probably more happy for him than I am for myself.”
Wondga is sponsored by the Peak Fitness gym in Riverdale. Not only did this past weekend mark his first win, it was his first time attending Knight of Champions with a fellow Yukoner, no less a friend.
“Most people down there knew who I was already, so it wasn’t as nerve-wracking,” said Wondga. “This time going down, and not being by myself, it was great to meet new people and introduce a fellow Yukoner, and have conversations about what our life is like up here as bodybuilders.
“It took an edge off, having a friend there and sharing the experience with him.”
“It’s nice to go down there. You’re all likeminded, you all eat the same, you all train the same, everyone works hard,” said Johnson, 46.
“Nutrition is definitely the key to success in bodybuilding. It’s counting your macros — your proteins, your carbohydrates and the fats that you’re eating. We all weigh our food, measure our food, day in, day out, seven days a week.”
After months of counting every calorie leading up to the competition, it’s only fair to indulge a little following the competition.
“I’m a big fan of peanut M&Ms, so that was my go-to meal right after the show,” said Johnson. “That was like a pound of peanut M&Ms.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org