Meshack Ochieng: Photos of a Bodybuilding Champion Giving Kenyan Women Sleepless Nights
Meshack Ochieng’s journey to the pinnacle of the natural bodybuilding world has been a cocktail of sheer grit, self-discipline and a slice of fate.
Dropping out of school for lack of finances after finishing class eight at Adek Primary School, Ndhiwa – Homabay County 22 years ago, the 39-year-old never, in his wildest of imaginations, thought that one day he would be the Mr America Bodybuilding Champion.
“To win this iconic event is beyond my wildest dreams. This is the biggest major breakthrough for me since I landed here in the United States in 2012,” said Ochieng after bagging the Mr. America Bodybuilding Championship in Atlantic City, New Jersey on October 8, 2022.
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“It hasn’t been an easy journey to reach where I am right now. A long one too,” he told Mozzart Sport as he narrated how his elder brother Mike Otieno, a mechanic, played a huge role in jump-starting his bodybuilding career.
With the hopes of continuing his education beyond class eight dashed, Ochieng joined his big brother in Kisumu to find some work and learn a skill or two. “This is where I started lifting weights, mostly blocks from the construction sites, as they were the only weights we could afford then. But once in a while, I would train in some better gyms.”
When two years later Otieno moved to nearby Mumias town for better opportunities, Ochieng followed him. It was his dedication and discipline as an apprentice and in the gym that prompted Otieno to enroll him for his first contest in Mr. Kakamega Championship. “Mike saw the discipline I had in following the workout routine and always making notes about my training and decided to enroll me in my first contest (Mr Kakamega Championship). I won my class and that’s how it all started.”
“Thereafter I tried to make contacts with people I thought would help me polish my posing, advise me on training and also how to diet.”
Within one year, the five foot and three inches tall Ochieng, who currently weighs 80 kilograms, won the Under 21 Mr. Kenya in 2003 before graduating to the senior ranks in style to win the Mr Kenya titles in 2004 and 2012, and Mr Africa title in 2010. Other titles he won include Mr. Bungoma, Mr. Tembo, Mr. Kisumu, Mr. Kericho, Mr. Nakuru, Mr.Eldoret.
Having won Musclemania Africa and finished third in World Fame Tour Africa, and with nothing much left to prove in Kenya and Africa, Ochieng moved to the US in 2012.
“That’s when I got the opportunity to go to the USA to compete. Through a friend, I made the move, and once there, I enrolled myself in school again, and at the same time competed here and there.”
After winning the Missouri State Championship in September, Ochieng said his next focus was on the Mr America crown. “It was time to go for that iconic one title that has the real bodybuilding history dating back to 1939.”
On the road to glory, he stunned six finalists, including defending champion Corey Brown and Yorton Cup winner, Levi Burge, to reign supreme in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
A total of twenty-six bodybuilders made it to the finals from a field of 100 musclemen drawn from the 50 states. The 26 finalists were then drawn into short and tall categories where three finalists were picked in each for the final pose-down.
Making his first appearance at the championships, Ochieng beat US-based Nigerian Bada Lakan, who won the tall class to second place as home-boy Brown settled third. Ochieng and Lakan competed at the Mr. Africa Championship in Nairobi in 2010 where Ochieng won.
Burge managed to finish fourth followed by Quantarrius Wilson as Gregory McBridge wrapped up the top six place.
Ochieng, who wants to be a role model, is advising against the use of steroids for upcoming musclemen. He explains that for natural bodybuilders, they cannot grow past a certain stage and become huge like their unnatural counterparts. He also cautions against ego training.
“As a natural bodybuilding athlete, I want to be a role model to not only Kenyan athletes, but to all across the world. Most people especially in Kenya or Africa only know the big guys. There is a stage you can’t pass as a natural bodybuilder and look like those big guys without using growth hormones and steroids. Bodybuilding is divided into two; natural and unnatural bodybuilding.
I belong to natural side, meaning I have to only use healthy supplements and normal food to acquire the look I have. I have to get tested before I compete and even if I win cash, I won’t get paid until the results come negative. Even though you’re allowed to use supplements, some do contain banned substances so you have to be careful about what’s going into your system.
My advice to upcoming athletes, please stay away from steroids. Train smart all the time not with ego. Injury is the worst thing for any sportsperson so train with care. I’m lucky not to have any injury since I started lifting weights.”
Despite his immense success, Ochieng has kept in touch with his roots, helping to nurture new bodybuilders and sponsoring competitions in Kenya.
“I’ve done a lot in terms of nurturing others to compete. The current Mr. East Africa Rashid Issa is someone I convinced to start bodybuilding. There are many others that I coach and help here and there to realize their dreams. Even though there’s no good federation in Kenya right now, the sport has grown so much because of people like Evelyn Owalla, Rashid Issa and me. We have so many females now joining the fitness industry and that what makes me happy. I do help sponsor some shows in Kenya each year.
I’ve achieved what I wanted to achieve in bodybuilding. Right now I’m just helping my sponsors HardBody Supplements to grow and reach as many people as possible. Having sponsors is a plus if you are a bodybuilder. The sport can be expensive so I’m happy to be among the few athletes with full sponsorship.”