Before jetting to Dubai for International Natural Bodybuilding Association Championships, Mubarak Kizito sounded confident as if this was not going to be his first appearance on the international stage.
“I am not afraid; I have prepared enough. I will do my best to do my country proud,” he told Daily Monitor before departure.
“I’m targeting a podium finish and, you never know, a gold medal.”
But I had heard enough of such audacious promises, most of which actually never delivered. But Kizito is a meek fellow, who prefers his muscles to do the talking.
Within a month after winning the 2015 Mr Kampala Championship, the 27-year-old was heading for uncharted waters. But he didn’t want to go with a minnow’s mentality.
Ivan Byekwaso, the face of bodybuilding in Uganda, had been to the 2014 event in Nitra, Slovakia but deliberately skipped the 2015 edition to prepare for the INBA Natural Universe tournament in Austin, Texas. He briefed his understudy on rules, vital poses, among key factors.
Invoking Byekwaso’s performance in Nitra, local association president Hajj Twaha Ddungu, believed Kizito could pull it off. But he did not expect gold.
Countries like Australia had 96 participants, others countries had 50, others 20. Ghana, the best-represented African country had six entrants. But like Byekwaso in Nitra in 2014, Kizito was the only Ugandan entrant in Dubai.
His first objective was making the last three in his category, the ‘Short Men-U35-Novices. “That would give me a chance to showcase free poses,” he said. These are the small things that bias the judges’ mind and swing the decision in one’s favour in case of any stalemate.
“As the announcer read the names, I got nervous ‘Am I the last?’ But I was elated being declared the winner of the category.”
After winning in his category, in the final Kizito faced off with two other category winners. After the regular show, one was dropped as Kizito tied with Ghanaian Isaac Afedi Tetteh in the tiebreaker.
“With the judges’ eyes concentrating on just the two of us, I got a little more confident, that Allah was on my side. Then I heard my manager scream in jubilation,” Kizito recalls.
Kizito was declared the overall champion among the Novices.
“A Ugandan who lived in Dubai rushed to the stage to give me a Ugandan flag; guys in the sprawling Dubai Sports City Arena took turns posing for photos with me; I was overly delighted. I just couldn’t believe it.”
Back home, “everybody was surprised because no one expected me to grab gold. Perhaps that’s why some didn’t want to sponsor me.”
Kizito says this was the perfect gift for the determination to never give up even when the signals suggested so.
“If you believe in something and work hard at it, God will bless you in it.”
Kizito says balancing preparations and catering for his family was the hardest experience.
“You have to stay relevant on the job, because every single coin counts. And you have to keep training because every second in the gym counts,” he says.
Finding the ideal food—boiled eggs, oats, brown rice, and vegetables—which are saltless, cost him around Shs100,000 a day because most restaurants in Kampala do not prepare such special meals. That means extra cost.
Yet his biggest worry was about “how shall I make the Dubai trip without any financial backing?”
“But I was determined to go, anyway.”
But Kizito reserves special thanks to his manager Paul Kayizzi, who footed 50 percent of his expenses.
“He was the one who said ‘Mubarak you much compete in Dubai come what may.” Grand Global Hotel, where he worked as a trainer, contributed about 10 percent, as well the fans.
The farthest Kizito had been for a competition was Kenya but here he was going to Dubai, alone. A day to departure, his manager bought a ticket to travel with him. In Dubai, most athletes camped at a hotel near the competition arena but I could not afford the US$250 (about Shs900,000) per night. So we got a cheaper one, where I spent US$99 (Shs360,000) per night on accommodation for the two weeks I stayed in Dubai.”
But it was quite a distance from the arena. “Before the prejudging, we came late to the arena and I entered the stage without any warming. But my performance surprised the judges.”
Unlike his ordinary departure, Kizito returned to a somewhat hero’s welcome. “Even the National Council of Sports recognised me.”
But this being bodybuilding, a less hyped sport in Uganda, and Kizito being a man who prefers a simple profile, his victory, Uganda’s first gold medal on world level, did not attract the attention it deserved.
The Dubai victory had given Kizito the license to compete in the World Cup and the Natural Universe, two of the most prestigious tournaments in natural bodybuilding in the world.
Ahead of both events in USA, Kizito training in Nairobi for two weeks. Unfortunately, he and colleague Billy Ssetenda, were denied US visas.
He wanted to use his champion status to change the face of Uganda’s bodybuilding; where young talents get genuine chances to compete locally and internationally.
Now based in Dubai, Kizito is yet to achieve his dream but Ronald Kalule, one of the three boys he nurtured into the sport, finished second, behind three-time winner Isaac Mubikirwa at the 2019 Mr Uganda Championship.
Maybe, like his mentor Kizito, Kalule shall soon raise the Ugandan flag abroad.
Full name: Mubarak Kizito
Born: September 19, 1987
Village: Kituu ku,Kasawo.
Parents (both deceased): Kamadi Namwanja and Rose Nakaweesi
Childhood: Grew up in buli,Kabalagala and Bwayise.
Career: Started bodybuilding in 2005 and contested in Mr Kawempe.
2006: Started training in Jinja.
2007: Won flyweight (50kgs) category & finished third overall in Mr Kampala.
2008: Won flyweight category, emerging eighth overall in Mr Uganda.
2009: Won flyweight category, at the Bob Classic Championships, at Sheraton Hotel.
2009: Was runner-up in bantamweight (50-60kgs) at Mr Kericho, Kenya. Chosen best poser.
2010: Was runner-up in FEM-NTP Africa, Eldoret-Kenya.
2011: Won bronze at Muscle Mania, Uganda.
2014: Won silver in bantamweight category in Muscle Mania, Kenya.
2015: Crowned Mr Kampala
2015: INBA world champion in Dubai.
Clubs: Nakivubo Powerhouse; Hotel Grand Global.