The amateur bodybuilding champion tells Alys Francis HOW he muscled into the big league
In January 2013, Roney Sohi knew he was a big man.
Towering at six feet and two inches, the Bentleigh East resident who was born in Punjab and moved to Australia 11 years ago, always had a commanding height. But he also had a soft, barrel-shaped belly, thick limbs and chubbiness in his cheeks.
He had not always been this way.
Around a year and a half earlier, Roney was fitter than most people dream of being, training as a weightlifter under the guidance of Robert Kabbas—who won a silver medal for weight lifting in the 1984 Olympics. Descended from traditional North Indian wrestlers, Roney’s father used to drop rivals in the ring. His brother Napinder Singh was chiselled from heaving weights. Fitness pumped through Roney’s veins.
Then one day a freak knee injury saw him suddenly facing well over a year of sitting around recovering. Unable to train, his body quickly changed; hard muscles gave way to soft flesh.
Many people would have given up at this point, opting for a life with more leisure and less mornings at the gym. Not Roney. Once his knee was strong enough in January last year, he found himself staring down the cross-trainers and weight machines he knew so well. Ready for business, ready for the burn.
In those early days, Napinder was chief on Roney’s cheer squad. Unfazed by his brother’s out of condition shape, Napinder pushed him to train with a new goal in mind. A goal some may have considered far-fetched back then: becoming a bodybuilder.
By October, the “naysayers” and “haters” who doubted Roney were left speechless. The former weight lifter had reached his new goal and then some, shedding around 40kg; his newly sculpted muscles cementing him in the amateur bodybuilding league.
On his Facebook fan page ‘Supa Roney’, which currently has more than 5600 likes, Roney has posted before and after photos of himself. His transformation is dramatic. One wouldn’t blink if you saw his new post-training body jumping into the WWE pro wrestling ring—where pumped bodybuilders throw soft punches and chairs to delight the American crowd and TV viewers worldwide.
Roney doesn’t pretend his new ripped body came easy. Next to the before and after photo he explains: “This is me after a lot of hard work, dedication, sweat, hardcore training, strict dieting, positive thinking, dreaming big, having faith, patience, plus lot of ups n’ downs, naysayers, negative people, haters. Words can’t express how much I have been through but nothing could stop me to get where I am today. I’m so thankful to GOD for giving me so such strength to overcome everything—anything which tried to slow my pace. I’m blessed and thankful to have people like you as family, friends, fans who stood behind to tap on my back and say, ‘Roney you can do it’. Thank you guys, it’s just a beginning.”
Roney won his first amateur bodybuilding competition in Punjab last year. Surprised and encouraged by his success, he entered the 2013 Mr India competition in Delhi, coming first in the 95kg category. Seeing he had promise, Roney’s training team then paid for him to fly to Italy for the IBFA World Championship in October 2013. Roney made it into the top 10 in the tall category and placed seventh. “It was like a dream come true you know, because I aspired to that. I got a first place in India, I got the Mr India title. So I was really shocked like, how come you know? It’s too quick,” he says.
Having transformed his body, Roney found his life was now changing rapidly too. “My friends and everyone and other boys were coming and going, ‘Bro we want to take a photo with you’,” he says. People started contacting Roney, wanting to hire him for photo shoots, wanting to hire him to train them like he trained himself. He now makes extra money modelling while working as a personal trainer at Star Fitness gym and bouncer at Crown Casino. “I’ve got so busy in my life now, helping people. I love it. And I’ve got too many girls texting me. I don’t know why,” he adds.
But of course, not everything has changed about Roney. He says he’s still the same down-to-earth guy underneath the muscles. He loves his parents, chills out with friends at home, goes to watch the odd movie, seeks quiet time in the countryside and keeps out of fights: “If people are angry with me, I always give them a smile. I never get angry and say, ‘Oh man, I’m gonna punch you’. No way, never, I’m friendly,” he says. And his parents support his muscular aspirations. “They want me to become a star one day,” he says.
Having achieved so much so quickly, Roney’s bodybuilding dreams have grown to be supersized. “I’m just going to turn my body into monstrous. Come home, train hard, eat food,” said Roney, who currently tips the scales at about 104kg. “My target and my dreams are, I want to become a pro bodybuilder. I don’t want to waste my time in a small weight category, I want to take it serious.”
How does Roney train for competitions? Not surprisingly, he goes pretty hard, sweating through a 45-minute workout in the morning and another hour at night. He fuels his aching body with 2kgs of chicken a day, around 18 eggs, fish, green veggies—“everything… I love food,” he says.
Having placed third in the tall class at the National Amateur Body-Builders Association (NABBA) International Championships in Preston on 18 May, Roney is currently enjoying a little downtime. “I’m still training hard but not training hard like in cutting season (when I’m preparing for a competition),” he says. But for a big man with big dreams, it surely won’t be long before Roney is back putting in extra hours under the weights, sweating for his next contest; for a few more inches of muscle.
Published in The Indian Sun (Indian Newspaper in Sydney)