The story of how Wesley Clarke won the BNBF Championships 2002, becoming UK's No.1
Far away from the madness of 'Ozzfest' at Castle Donington & Dublin, the BNBF British Open Natural Bodybuilding Championships in Edinburgh were attracting equally mad, albeit diametrically opposed, men and women.
Since 1st January, everything has been focussed towards this weekend and becoming British Champion. I get up extra early at 6.30am to make sure I get on that 10.00 train out of Kings Cross, so it's a big relief as I arrive at Kings Cross in plenty of time.
The train arrives 25 minutes late at Edinburgh station which now means I have to rush in order to get to the Minto Hotel for my polygraph scheduled for 3.30pm. I first check in at my hotel, get changed and then jog most of the mile and a half in pouring rain to the Minto.
I arrive 5 minutes late and meet up with Susan McLaughlin, Nigel Davis and Al Lombardo outside Room 18. After filling out a couple of forms, I'm taken into room 18 for my polygraph. This is conducted by Al who's a very experienced polygrapher from New York. He spends about 20 minutes putting me at ease by explaining the whole procedure to me and going through the questions before wiring me up and going through the questions again for real. The questions all require yes/no answers and range from "Is your last name Clarke?" to "Are you a Natural Bodybuilder?". Al then processes the responses on the computer and lets you know the result there and then.
It's still a relief to hear that you've passed even though you know that you're 100% clean! After paying £20 for the privilege of being tested, I am 'good to go' and prepare for the next day. I treat myself to a few lemon syrup & raisin pancakes to go with my LA Whey and return to my hotel to relax and get ready to meet up with an old university friend, Satnam, who lives locally.
Satnam and I meet up at 6.30pm with our respective wives and go to an Italian restaurant of my choosing (chosen because of the presence of a healthy options menu). Ti Amo turns out to be a very nice restaurant and I end up having Salmon wrapped in Smoked Salmon with salad followed by Chicken Breast in Lemon Sauce with salad then a fruit salad washed down with a couple of glasses of red wine. Almost an ideal pre-competition meal; probably could've done without the salt in the smoked salmon and the dressing on the salad though.
Manage to get back to my hotel to catch the Eurovision Song Contest. This is a bit of a ritual with me as I've religiously watched every Eurovision since 1975 when Holland's 'Teach In' won with 'Ding A Dong' (a personal favourite!). Eurovision is unique in its style of entertainment and seems to be getting camper by the year. Anyway, Latvia win with the camp and catchy "I Wanna" (deservedly so in my opinion although I don't think I could pose to it!).
The big day! I get up at 7.00am initially full of excitement which soon turns to anxiety as I realise that I have a crick in the left side of my neck. I get this problem quite often and this one is not as bad as it could've been. I quickly run through my posing routine and the neck doesn't affect it significantly which puts my mind at ease and allows me to focus on the day ahead.
The weather's not too bad so I decide to take a walk before breakfast down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace and back. Spend the rest of the morning having breakfast (mackerel fillets, lemon syrup pancakes, coffee and bananas) and reading the Sunday paper.
Arrive at the University Theatre at 1.00pm and watch the pre-judging for the under 21s and the masters to familiarise myself with the instructions as this is my first BNBF show. I then go to the changing rooms to stretch and pump up. By this time, the problem with my neck has cleared up but now I have a new problem; my legs feel tired. I therefore decide to keep my pumping up to a minimum and preserve my energy for the stage. One of the strongest memories I will take with me is the few minutes backstage just before going on stage. I was walking around eating sweets whilst my competitors were still pumping up furiously!
I have mixed feelings at the end of the pre-judging. Although I sense that I'm in at least 2nd place based on how the call-outs went, I am disappointed because I didn't give as good an account of myself as I could've because my legs were still tired. This made it difficult for me to hold most of the poses to the extent that I was visibly shaking even during the symmetry round. I now had to make sure I was fully rested for the evening show. I make my way back to my hotel via Tesco's, have some chicken, bread rolls and bananas then lie down and watch the England-Cameroon football highlights.
I arrive back at the theatre at 6.00pm for the start of the evening session. The show starts impressively with dramatic music and lights accompanying Jon Clark and Rachael Hayes' entrance. Jon and Rachael are the World Couples Champions and perform a very accomplished routine before MC Vicky McCann begins to host proceedings. The BNBF certainly know how to put on a show! I remain in the audience to watch the Under 21s and the Masters before going off to the changing rooms to prepare.
I spend the first 15 minutes of my preparation in agony as I let cramp take over both my hamstrings. I'm then able to spend another 15 minutes stretching before I start pumping up and rehearsing my routine. This year, I decided to put more effort into my posing routine and enlisted the help of dance teacher Julie Howell from my local theatre school. I came up with the idea of posing to Sandie Shaw's "Puppet on a String" and Julie helped me with the puppet/robotic movements in between poses. I knew that if nothing else, it would be completely different from everyone else's routine. However, I wasn't prepared for the reaction that I would eventually get.
As soon as my music starts, the majority of the 400 strong audience spontaneously start to cheer and clap along and I was given a huge round of applause at the end of it. Seems to have gone down well! I return to the stage a few minutes later with the rest of the lightweight men. We're then asked to run through the compulsory poses and do a posedown before the final result is announced. A mixture of relief and elation overcome me as I'm announced the winner and am presented with an impressive statuette. No time to dwell on my achievement though as I have to go backstage and wait for the posedown for the overall title.
The battle for the Overall Mr boils down to myself, Colin Dillon (Masters and Heavyweight Winner), Nick McCaffrey (Novice Winner) and Steven Rinaldi (Under 21 Winner). In the silence just before the winner was announced, someone from the audience was heard to shout "Give it to the Puppet Man!". His request is granted as I am then announced Overall British Champion! Absolutely fantastic and the pinnacle of my sporting career to date. For this I'm presented with an even larger statuette (2 feet tall and weighing 18lbs), a nice BNBF sweatshirt sporting the legend "WNBF Professional Bodybuilder" and an envelope containing the application forms for my WNBF Pro Card. I was then supposed to have been chauffeur-driven in a Rolls Royce to the after-show party at the Minto Hotel. However, in an effort to surprise me with it, I'd left the theatre before anyone could tell me about it. I end up being chauffeur-driven in Satnam's Peugeot 205!
The party allows me to talk to a few people, drink cider and eat junk food. I'm barely halfway through my pint when I'm called back up to Room 18 for another drugs test. This time it's urine analysis and is conducted by Susan. The sample was to be sent to labs in San Diego and I'll get the result in due course.
Another early start. This time due to my head still buzzing over what had happened the night before. I decide to go for a walk around Edinburgh's East End on my own before breakfast. This gives me a chance for calm reflection on what I've achieved. I've realised a dream and become a British Champion! I'm going to be competing at the Pro World Championships in New York in November! It's difficult to stop myself grinning like an idiot.
After breakfast, my thought turn to the more mundane task of getting my huge newly acquires trophies back home on the train with me!
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