Spang Airmen compete for Mr. Universe title
By Staff Sgt. Tammie Moore, 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office
/ Published December 11, 2006
SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY (AFPN) -- Representing the United States and the Air Force two Airmen from Spangdahlem Air Base traveled to Cuxhaven, Germany, to compete in the legendary Mr. Universe competition Dec. 2.
Troy Saunders, Men's Class II competitor, and Justin Usery, Men's Class III competitor, were asked to participate in the event based on their performance at various other competitions throughout the year, each placed 11th in their categories.
Altogether, six Americans were invited to compete in this year's event alongside more than 200 athletes from around the world.
The Mr. Universe competition is viewed by bodybuilders as the biggest event in the sport, Usery said.
Both began training for this contest months ago. Saunders traveled across Europe competing in other events to prepare for this event. Usery, was deployed to Qatar until the beginning of November. Participating in the competition after just coming off from a deployment was challenging for him.
"It was really hard to cut back on certain things like carbs because of the heat," Usery said. "I really needed another three or four more weeks to be fully prepared."
Saunders, who is a veteran weightlifter, adhered to a strict workout regimen to prepare for this event which consisted of lifting three times a week for an hour and a half and completing two cardio workouts a day for an hour each time. He believes that cardio is an important part of his workouts.
"The cardio helps to keep your body in a deficit of energy in versus energy out," he said. "Basically, I burn more calories than I eat and force my body to burn fat."
Preparing for competitions like this can be very demanding physically and mentally for athletes, while at the same time proving to be rewarding.
"The most difficult part was competing in seven competitions in eight weeks," Saunders said. "This extended my diet from my average 16 weeks to 22 weeks. Beyond that I was thrilled to compete and I was in the best shape I could be; and that was a success in itself."
Usery, who has been bodybuilding since he was 15, also said he found this experience rewarding.
"This was tougher than any other competition I have ever been in," Usery said. "I was extremely proud to be in the top-15 for my class."
The two bodybuilders said they walked away from this challenge with many memories and knowledge they can use to enhance their future performances.
"I was regularly complemented on my excellent conditioning," Saunders said. "Both the American and German judges said I was the best when it came to being the most ripped (leanest) athlete, but as this level being another 10 or 15 pounds heavier is a must for me to be competitive."
Usery said, he is planning on taking the rest of the year off from competing to work on specific areas.
Both lifters look forward to using their Mr. Universe experience for preparing for other events.
"It is going to take me a good year to get ready for the next Mr. Universe competition," Usery said.
For those who are new to bodybuilding, Usery offered the following thought.
"You really have to work out everyday, stay motivated and eat right," Usery said. "If you do everything it will fall into place."
In addition, Saunders recommends people who are interested in professional weightlifting and bodybuilding, should take advantage of opportunities and participate in competitions as they come up.
"Often I hear bodybuilding hopefuls say they want to wait until they can win a show before they compete," he said. "Having competed in more than 40 shows throughout my career, I can attest that the experience gained through competing in a show is invaluable. Of course, don't go to a show unprepared, but if you plan on waiting until you are big enough, you may find that the time never comes."
Overall, both Saunders and Usery said they feel very proud having received the opportunity to be part of this years Mr. Universe competition.
"I was very honored to be selected to compete and represent the U.S. team," Saunders said. "The camaraderie was unequaled and the support they showed toward the military and its athletes was humbling."