At a glance, Andile Mapapu looks like your average student. He is 19 years old. He is in second year studying BPharm. For the purposes of our interview he invited me in his room at Chris Hani residence. Like any normal student, his room is a bit untidy. The bed has not been made up yet even though it is 1:30 pm. Books and papers litter the table. We sit down and he plays Rick Ross’ song ‘The Devil is a liar’ on his computer. “I listen to Hip Hop music, to artists like Drake, Kanye West and Rick Ross,” he says with a bright smile. Mapapu has reason to smile indeed. He recently won the Makana Bodybuilding Contest in the under 21 category and the Men’s overall contest. All of his trophies and medals are displayed on top of his bookcase. When asked if he expected to win the competition he says confidently that he believed he stood a chance. He had worked extremely hard three weeks prior to the competition by training six days a week, and going on a strict diet. His diet included dramatically increasing his protein intake.
But Mapapu has not always been this confidence and of course he was never as ripped and muscular as he now looks. “I used to be a shy person and I was super skinny growing up,” he explains. “I did not have a problem with it until I played rugby and started comparing myself to other guys. I felt a need to gain weight, and so I eventually dropped rugby and became more interested in weights.”
His interest in weights began in 2009. He was still in High school then. It was not until last year when a friend at the gym suggested that he enter bodybuilding contests that Mapapu went into the competitive side of this sport. At first he was reluctant, he admits, but after watching a lot of videos about bodybuilding he decided to have a go at it. Although he was nervous during his first ever competition in Port Elizabeth he came out on top. He attributes his success to hard work. “I believe in hard work and dedication,” he says. “You can be anything you want to be in life.” He adds that he applies that philosophy to other areas in his life, especially to his studies, though he admits it is challenging to balance both bodybuilding and his studies.
Being part of the born free generation Mapapu says that he voted in the recent National elections. “My voice needs to be heard. We [the youth] have a voice in the new South Africa,” he says. His short term future plans are to set up either a blog or a facebook page, so that he can motivate others on healthy living. He is also hoping to open his own gym in the future, perhaps be a personal trainer too and ultimately find a way to link his degree with his love for bodybuilding. His advice to other people who are hoping to succeed in whatever they want to do is, “Do something you love. It’s either you do something you love and you do not work hard enough to succeed or you do something you do not love and work hard at it but do not get success. In that case try something else.”