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El Salvador flexes its muscles at Pan Am Games bodybuilding

August 11, 2019

LIMA, Peru (AP) — They flexed their muscles glistened with oil on the bright pink stage, blew kisses to the crowd and smiled to the judges, trembling to keep the posture on their toned and deeply tanned bodies.

This was not just any competition. All those hours up at dawn for heavy weight routines. All those strict diets. All culminated in this moment in the spotlight on the world’s stage.

In the end, El Salvador came out strongest in the debut of bodybuilding as an official sport in the Pan American Games on Saturday. Paulina Zamora won the gold medal in the women’s fitness category, while Yuri Rodriguez, both from the Central American country earned gold in classic bodybuilding.

“Our sport is hard. I’m not going to lie telling you that you enjoy the pain of weights,” Rodriguez said after the medal ceremony.

“This hurts, but when you achieve something like this, you say to yourself: ‘I can do it and I would give much more.’ We’ve made history. My name is immortal. I’m the first Pan American bodybuilding champion.”

In all, 16 women and 32 men participated in the tournament. The women competed in the fitness category; the men in classic bodybuilding. Judges evaluated symmetry, or the equal development between the right and the left side of their body; harmony, or equal development between the body’s upper and lower sides; and muscularity, or the athletes’ fit shape.

Bodybuilding featured as demonstration sport in Toronto 2015, but its official inclusion into the Pan Am Games in Lima was celebrated by officials and loyal supporters who take their training seriously.

“This means a lot to the sport of bodybuilding because it’s a dream that came true,” The President of the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness Rafael Santonja told The Associated Press.

“It’s an inspiration for all our athletes,” said Santoja, who has been bodybuilding for nearly 50 years. “It represents the Olympic ideals, the Olympic principles, and this is a boost for the bodybuilding lifestyle. We’re very proud to be in the Pan American Games.”

For now, bodybuilding is not included as part of the official competitions for the 2023 games in the Chilean capital of Santiago or the Olympics. But Santonja said it continues to grow worldwide, and he hopes it will be included in the next Pan Am Games.

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