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Kenya pioneer bodybuilder Mickey Ragos going strong at 71 years

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- In Kenya, the name Mickey Ragos is synonymous with bodybuilding. Born Michael Sanya, the unrivaled Ragos’ first foray into bodybuilding saw him win Mr. Nairobi title in the mid-sixties.

Back then, because gyms in Nairobi were scarce - in fact, he remembers that they were four - necessity became the mother of invention for Ragos, 71.

He fashioned weights using bricks and iron bars.

His dogged efforts paid off in 1969 when he won Mr. Kenya title, which he went on to dominate and win an impressive 11 times.

Ragos also participated in Mr. Universe championships, but laments that due to steroid use by other bodybuilders, he did not manage to post impressive finishes.

After hanging up his weights in 1993, Ragos became assistant secretary of the Kenya Body Building Federation (KBBF), but he quit to concentrate on his passion; training future bodybuilding champions.

"I opened a gym, Ragos Gym, in Dandora estate.

"Nowadays I am what you may call a freelance trainer.

"I opened the gym with my savings and financial help from other people.

"That is the job I do fulltime; running the gym and training bodybuilders," he told Xinhua on Monday.

"Many bodybuilders have passed through my hands.

"Some are working overseas, while some are working and honing their skills in Kenya.

"My son, Frederick Sanya lives in the USA, and he has even participated in Mr. Universe competition."

Ragos still does physical exercises.

He says he cannot retire from exercising.

He trains for two or three times per week.

"Most of my age-mates just sit idle, which is not advisable.

"If you are idle you will gain weight, not to mention that you may be affected by lifestyle diseases.

"70 is not the age to stop training."

Ragos says that the standards of bodybuilding in Kenya have not gone down.

His gym is a testimony that bodybuilding is a popular sport, and it can be an income-generating activity and can help youths to avoid social vices.

But he says what is lacking is sponsorship for competitions and government support to grow the sport.

"In Kenya, we seem to have short memory.

"We forget athletes who have done the country proud and brought prominence.

"Kenyans love and celebrate you when you are a hit.

"But once you retire, you are forgotten. I have seen it happen with many sport people.

"When the bodybuilding federation has competitions, they call me; but the government forgot about me."

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