20 September 2021, by Starmühler
All muscles take centre stage
In the field of bodybuilding, the most breathtaking body is the winner: muscular, flexed, radiant. Even if the body in question is sitting in a wheelchair, has a prosthesis or is unusual in some other way, this does nothing to detract from its magnificence.
The website for the four-day sporting event taking place as part of World Pride in August 2021 bears an important message: “EuroGames at Copenhagen 2021 is going to be the most inclusive sporting event ever. It will be accessible to those who have trained for years as well as those who just happen to pass by.”
It is a powerful concept: everyone who is eager and able to do sport is invited to participate in one of the 22 different athletic competitions taking place. Here, age, profession, stature, gender, background, religion, fitness level, skin colour, chromosomes, family background etc. are simply irrelevant. All that matters is the thrill of doing sport together.
Celebrating a variety of bodies
The fact that it takes a separate event such as the EuroGames to make this inclusive concept a reality says a great deal about the competitive culture that prevails in the field of mainstream sports. In particular, professional athletes who suffer from disabilities or from physical or mental impairments are repeatedly forced to fight for their right to compete against able-bodied persons at competitions. That is why numerous competitions and organisations have come into being to make sports more inclusive, and to not only allow for a greater variety of bodies, but actively celebrate these.
One discipline in which this body image is very much at the forefront is bodybuilding. Here, the body is forged into a form in which each and every muscle is part of a ‘work of art’. Naturally this is demonstrated at competitions, some of which also include special categories for the disabled.
International bodybuilding competitions
• Wheelchair Olympia
The fact that every body is strong and beautiful in its own way is also demonstrated at the Wheelchair Olympia Competition, which is taking place in Orlando, Florida this year from 7 to 10 October 2021. This additional category has been part of the Olympia Weekend since 2018, an event that traditionally took place annually in Las Vegas before its move to Orlando. These competitions are organised by the Professional League Pro Wheelchair Division of the International Federation of Body Builders (IFBB), and their partners include the NGO Wheelchair Bodybuilding Inc. Established in the USA in 2006, this organisation has been organising various competitions for disabled bodybuilders ever since in order to offer them more opportunities in the world of sports.
• Disabled bodybuilding
The ‘Deutsche Bodybuilding- und Fitness-Verband e.V.’ association, founded in 1966, is a member of both the IFBB and its European sister organisation, the European Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation (EFBB). The association organises national and international championships. Since 2015 there has also been a Disabled Bodybuilding Category at the German Juniors and Masters Championship.
• Arnold Sports Festival
At this festival in Columbus, Ohio (USA) established by Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1989, everything revolves around strength in a wide variety of disciplines. One of these is the Pro Wheelchair discipline, which is part of the IFBB Pro League – a category in which the US-based Wheelchair Bodybuilding Inc. association is also an organiser. The smaller European version of this festival takes place in Seville, Spain, but does not include a special category for the disabled.
• World Para Powerlifting
While there is no bodybuilding competition at the Paralympic Games, there is a powerlifting competition, and it is one of the fastest-growing sports in terms of the number of athletes participating – nearly 100 countries are represented here. And while the focus is also on inclusion and on maximising diversity here too, competitors are subjected to a binary division into female and male athletes. Powerlifting debuted as a solely male discipline at the 1984 Paralympic Games, and it was only in 2000 that women were able to win medals of their own.
Process and comparisons
Disabled categories are generally subject to the same requirements and processes as are able-bodied categories. Contestants are tanned, oiled and posed, and cups are won. Many of the competitions focus on wheelchair users, but in the first competition in the Disabled category at the German Juniors and Masters Championship, there were also people competing with different disabilities. Wheelchair Bodybuilding Inc. also works with new categories based on different handicaps that will take place alongside the existing wheelchair weight classes.