Connect with us

Around the World

Gambia’s Local Architect Becomes One of Germany’s Strongest Men. The Remarkable Story of John Gomez

Hysterical shouts and cheers define the background in a highly contested roller coaster of Strength War. Clad in a white undergarment and black trainers, an exhausted John Gomez gasps for air occasionally bursting out in screams.

The scene follows Gomez’s victory over a much hyped and seasoned powerlifter German-American, Karl Ess.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“I was very happy and proud after my victory because for me, I was doing it to take my country’s flag where it’s supposed to be so that the other youths back home will be confident and work hard,”[/perfectpullquote]

John Gomez on his unforgettable come-from-behind victory over Ess, last June.

Not much was known of the buffed up muscular man and his win, making him the first African and Gambian to ever win a Strength War battle – an inspirational tale of zero to hero.

Ironically, not a paragraph of his record battle win graced the covers or back pages of tabloids in his home, Gambia.

It was his second duel since arriving in Berlin after the first in South Germany where he came second in a deadlift championship.

Based in Europe, Gomez is the only athlete from the continent to take up this trade of power demonstration and doesn’t hesitate to show off his abilities when the occasion calls for it.

The 27-year-old takes inspiration from the African Rhino – a beastly extant species of odd-toed ungulate from the family of Rhinocerotidae – styling himself with the moniker, The African Rhino.

Gomez, inspired into weightlifting by an uncle called Joe King, hails from a humble background graduating with a certificate in architecture, obtained from a tertiary school in Gambia.

Gomez made a living as an architect and worked the weekend as a bouncer at Senegambia Hotel – a renowned resort 25-minute drive from his hometown- to supplement the income generated from his architectural work.

But his future would take a turn. While trying his hands on all these, he found an insatiable passion for lifting weights and soon transformed into one of the stars of Garden Gym, a popular local gym in the Serrekunda area, Gambia’s most populous city.

Professionals confined to this sport rake up millions in earnings but for Gomez, the venture was for the sheer fun of it affirmed by the ‘strong’ and ‘great’ support around him.

“I got the inspiration to do weightlifting at a very young age. I guess it was during my junior school level around 2006-7. I used to see my uncle (Joe King) going to the gym and at times I followed him.

“But I started involving in it around 2009 at London Corner Gym then later, I moved to Garden Gym where I got the power, stamina, and experience.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“When I started my career, I was not considering making money out of it or whatsoever. I think the love I have for the sport gets me going.[/perfectpullquote]

“Despite the fact that weightlifting is not making waves in the Gambia, I just believed in myself and I’ve got strong and great people around me and they’ve always helped me to keep moving.”

Lifting tagged irons and metal bars is known to take a toll on the body but for the likes of Gomez, he was spurred on by the search for the perfect shaped build. Such a brutal quest requires a high intake of carbohydrate and protein-rich nutritional food stuff, a thing majority of local weightlifters in Gambia do not have at their disposal.

Quizzed on how he coped, “I don’t think you can move on if you focus on that as a bodybuilder or weightlifter.

“I believe even with good nutrition and all supplements in the world, if a sportsman is not determined in the field, gym or wherever you do your work; you just have to focus your mind because the weights don’t talk.

“Though I was not doing diet in the Gambia, I ate good food and most importantly I work hard when I enter the gym. And after my workout, I give my body enough time to relax.”

Gambia’s Strongest Man

Gomez 2

Gomez has his sights set on becoming one of the world’s strongest weightlifters. (Facebook)

After years of tackling and enduring what are sometimes back-breaking weights, the ‘African Rhino’ deservingly blossomed into stardom. Instigated by the Gambia National Bodybuilding Competition (GNBC), gym-goers were attracted by the winning package in which Gambia’s Strongest man was accorded an all-expense paid trip to train in Germany’s Olympic Centre, a tempting chance Gomez found irresistible.

That trajectory would lead to an unforgettable chapter, livening up the inner spirits of a one-time desolate figure whose path would dawn on a new era. John clinched the staked prize – memorabilia he reminisces with the fondness of an elated toddler.

“It was powerlifting instead of bodybuilding. I was so proud and felt very uplifted. It made me hungrier and ready to do more.

“I think that was a big turning point in my life and career. Going to Germany to train in the Olympic Camp was something that really boosted my morale. You know that feeling when you are given the opportunity to go abroad to do what you like doing, I was so happy.

“I was aware of the challenges (ahead) and I was ready for it,” Gomez tells Ducor Sports, in fits of laughter from his residence in Germany.

Two weeks later, newly crowned Gambia’s Strongest Man decided to stay following the elapse of his 14-day training camp in Berlin.

“I have to stay because I love what I’m doing and I want to get better every time. I want to see myself in the next level.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“I love my country and I am ready to represent it at any level, but I know there are things that I need to get me to where I want to be, which I know I couldn’t get in Gambia.”[/perfectpullquote]

His decision to stay opened up a new career path in Strength Wars – a professional sport in which power-lifters are pitted to compete with lucrative prizes on offer. A second-place finish in South Germany’s Deadlift Championship had Karl Ess accepting to challenge the Gambian.

Excruciating does not fully sum up the brutal weight lifting the two endured and Gomez topped the chart becoming the first African to triumph in a Strength War contest.

Two months on, he got seeded with former fitness model 27-year-old German star, Daniel Roman Gildner but lost. The fiercely contested duel had the Gambian-born shedding tears in apparent disbelief following his first career defeat which Gomez blames on a shoulder injury, sustained weeks before the competition.

“My defeat to Roman was a big lesson for me. It gave me the chance to know my weaknesses and I worked on them. It was very hard for me (to have lost), very strange.

“Those who really know me, know I’m not that loser type. So it was hard that’s why I cried but I learned a lot after all. I think I lost because of the shoulder injury I had just weeks before the competition.

“But thank God, I have put that behind me now and I’m working hard for my next competition. I have got big plans this year. I want to go for Germany’s Strongman and powerlifting championship.

“From there, I want to go for an international championship. Like I said earlier I want to take the Gambia’s name to the world of weightlifting because many youths out there are doing weightlifting but they don’t know where it can take them or the benefits.”

Gomez ‘The African Rhino’ has certainly come a long way. Today, he picks weights with relative ease. In his own mantra, ‘Weights don’t talk.’

They certainly don’t. On the biggest weight he has ever taken on, his answer came swiftly.

“The biggest weight I ever lifted was 290kg.

“The life of weightlifting is great. I think it is a sport that makes you feel good. Just that one needs to be mentally and physically fit and avoid all sorts of drugs or any other thing that will distract one’s mind or damage one’s health,” he concludes

The mention of John Gomez might not ring a bell among sports fans on the continent, but the bouncer turned powerlifter is certainly setting a benchmark in a field given little or no attention.



Featured photo: John Gomez took weightlifting and turned it into a rewarding career. (Facebook)

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Around the World

Translate »