From refugee to champion bodybuilder, Canmore man finds new life at gym | CBC News

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A man who came to Canada as a refugee from Zimbabwe rediscovered his zest for life after he joined a gym and transformed himself into a champion bodybuilder.

Andrew Mabidi had to leave his country in 2010 when he discovered that there was a plot against him and that his life was in danger.

“The only thing I had was the clothes I was wearing and my wallet, and I just had to leave,” he said.

“There was no time even to say goodbye to my son. He was four by then when I left home.”


Mabidi lived for a few years in Calgary before moving to Canmore. But he soon realized that he was deeply unhappy with his new life and missed his young son terribly.

Andrew Mabidi came to Alberta as a refugee from Zimbabwe more than a decade ago. He took up bodybuilding to help overcome the challenges of adapting to life in a new country. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

 “I was just going to work and come back home feeling tired and I would just cry myself to sleep, and wake up the next day and repeat the process,” he said.

That’s when Mabidi decided to join a local gym, which he says changed everything. 

“I started smiling again after so many years,” he said.

“It was tough at first. Eventually, I fell in love with my training, but whenever I was in the gym, my mind always kept going back home and without knowing it, I’ll end up crying in the gym [and] disturbing everyone training.”

Determined not to give up on his fitness regime, Mabidi resorted to going to the gym at three or four in the morning when it was empty.

His hard work has paid off. He took first place in a division for athletes over 40 at the 2021 Alberta Naturals bodybuilding competition in November and came home with two medals and a trophy.

“When my name was pronounced that I won the first place, I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that I did it,” he said.

Mabidi’s friend Mason Hubbell says he finds Mabidi inspiring.

Mabidi recently took top honours for a division for athletes over 40 at the 2021 Alberta Naturals bodybuilding competition. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

“He’s extremely dedicated. He comes and he works out six of seven days a week, sometimes twice a day,” Hubbell said.

But Mabidi is not just concerned with his own fitness goals.

Ellen Bowman, who works out at the same gym as Madidi, said one day he noticed she wasn’t pushing herself hard enough.

“So he came over and helped me with my sets and my reps and really, really pushed me and showed me that you can push past your limits and not just to the bare minimum,” she said.

“So ever since, I mean, I guess any time I see Andy walk into the gym when I’m working out, I’m half dreading, because I know he’s going to push me to my max. But it feels really good and I’m grateful that I’ve met him.”

Mabidi is now working on bringing his son over to Canada. And he’s got something for him when he arrives — one of his bodybuilding medals.

“I had already showed him on the video last time I chatted with him on the video. I said, ‘One for me. One for you'”, Mabidi said.

“He said, ‘Dad keep my medal. I’m coming.’ I said, ‘I’ll keep your medal.’ So I’m keeping it for him.”

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