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Bodybuilding is serious business for Lin Peiqu
(That's Beijing)
Updated: 2004-04-02 14:31

Think bodybuilding is the exclusive domain of narcissistic meatheads who are all brawn and no brain? Think again. Lin Peiqu, nicknamed 'Mr China' by the media, is single-handedly breaking the muscleman mould - no small feat in a country that's just beginning to get pumped.

Lin Peiqu, a 27-year-old Guangdong native is nicknamed "Mr China" [file photo] 
The 27-year-old Guangdong native has already amassed a myriad of achievements in a sport he only got into 7 years ago - in 2002 he was crowned National Fitness Champion and won best performance across all categories at the national championships in Sichuan province. In October of the same year he placed 5th in the 70kg category at the Busan Games in South Korea - the first time that a Chinese from the mainland has placed so high.

Lin has been a sports nut from the start. As a student at the Guangzhou Sports Academy in 1997, he was working towards a promising career as a middle distance runner until a knee injury brought his hopes to a crashing halt. His coach suggested he switch to bodybuilding. "In fact, my teacher always wanted me to body build because they thought I had a suitable body shape, but I wanted to run." He is now one of the academy's biggest stars and found adapting to what seems a very different sport straightforward. "Progress was very rapid because I had already progressed very far. I found it easy to change from one to another because I was already used to a serious training schedule."

Lin credits his buff bod to sheer dedication and will. "Being healthy is my life and I work incredibly hard to achieve my body," he explains. His training regimen is intense and time-consuming. Everyday he goes for two 50-minute runs and has two 1 1/2 hour sessions at Nirvana where, on an ordinary day, he lifts up to 500 pounds. For every event, he trains for three full months, but manages his time so that it doesn't interfere with his normal life. "I still get to spend time with my friends and family."

Not surprisingly, building up all that muscle requires food - lots of it. To get that well-honed look, he eats six low fat meals a day and handfuls of nutritional supplements, but Vegans beware: his diet requires ample portions of beef, fish, vegetables and especially chicken. If the chicken flu wiped out China's avian population, Lin would be in serious trouble. Bodybuilders exist on a diet of protein to develop muscle, and have a skinny supermodel's aversion to fat.

Armed with chiselled good looks and a thoughtful nature, Lin's mainstay is his job as one of Nirvana Fitness Centre's most popular personal trainers. For RMB 200 an hour, gym members can buff up with China's best. "As a trainer, I'm proud that I can share my knowledge. That is just as important as winning competitions," he explains.

Whether he's oiled up for competition or fully-clothed on the street, Lin always draws attention, especially from women - groupies flock to his competitions and even as we were queuing up for a coffee, a couple of Beijing beauties alternated between giving him admiring glances and yours truly evil 'who-does-she-think-she-is' glares. Lin remains unperturbed, however, explaining that he is unconcerned with his celebrity status and doesn't treat the interest from the ladies as a perk of the job. "I don't do bodybuilding for the attention. I see myself as setting an example to others as to what they can achieve through fitness."

Lin prefers the time he spends training rather than the actual performances. He shyly smiles when explaining that he has a fiancee, an Asian-American currently studying in the States. "She's also obsessed with health and fitness so we have a lot in common," he says, adding that she too remains unfazed by the hordes of female fans. "Of course, women scream at the performances, but I'm in the sport for the training, not for the attention."

For now his eyes are firmly focused on 2006, which will be a crucial year. "I want to represent China at the 2006 Asian Games in Qatar and, equally importantly, get married soon after." Central to his life is his religion. His Christian beliefs carry him through stressful competitions and arduous training. "God gives people different jobs and I believe that my job is to educate others about health and fitness." Lin also emphasises his aim to further develop the sport of bodybuilding in China, which is still in its early stages due in part to the expense of dedicating yourself to the training and the equipment involved. "Although it is popular in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing, bodybuilding is not as well known in less urban areas. I hope that I will be able to change that."

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