by John Plummer
Photography by Kevin Horton
The Arnold Classic Africa – the biggest multi-sport event on the continent of Africa – gets underway today.
It has grown each year since it was first staged in 2016, thanks to the efforts of organisers Wayne and Michelle Price and co-promoter Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is once again in Johannesburg for this weekend's gathering.
The three-day event includes 70 sports and a fitness expo, with bodybuilding and fitness at the heart of it all.
Like the Arnold Classic Europe, the physique competitions are exclusively open to athletes from national federations that belong to the IFBB, which is the world's largest fitness and bodybuilding organisation. This means that in the UK, only members of the UKBFF can take part.
As the Africa event has grown, so too has British participation and no fewer than 12 IFBB Elite Pros and amateurs from these shores have flown out this year.
It's easy to see why: the presence of Arnold, the chance to combine a trip to Africa with top quality competition and $90,000 prize money spread equally across all nine pro categories, in recognition of the fact that all athletes deserve equal respect, are among the reasons.
Wayne Price always goes that extra mile to help, too. This year he offered the first pros to sign up free accommodation.
About 200 pros from around the world are set to take part.
The British pros include Ade Bishop, who turned up as an amateur last year, won the women's physique class to turn pro and then finished third in the pro show to fly home with a cheque for $1,500.
Ade will be sharing the stage this year with fellow Brit Andrea Corbett, who is making her women's physique pro debut.
Paul Harris, the reigning British champion in classic physique, will also be making his pro debut.
Mahmoud Elmawardy, who has already qualified for this year's IFBB Pro World Championships, is one of 20-plus men's pro physique athletes on the roster.
And Alaura Galeru, who is featured in the global IFBB magazine Muscle&Health, will be lining up in pro wellness.
Seven leading UKBFF athletes are due to take part in the amateur show.
They are: Abdul Aloumi, Sarah Burdock, Bridget Foster, LisaMarie Graham, Paige Rebecca, Mariana Semchii and Donna White, who all qualified at UKBFF events.
Good luck to the UK team!