JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s first pro-wheelchair bodybuilder Macethandile "Max" Kulati is itching to go and defend his title at the 2023 International Federation of Body Building and Fitness (IBFF) World Championship in Koper, Slovenia.
“In June 2022 I had my very first international bodybuilding competition in Koper, Slovenia at the IBFF World Championship. And it's where I got my pro card and became the first wheelchair pro bodybuilder on the African continent,” said Kulati to Eyewitness News.
The IBFF champion, like many other South African athletes, lacks the funding to represent the country and hopes he won’t have to miss another international championship.
Wheelchair bodybuilder Macethandile "Max" Kulati, Coach Lionel Harker and bodybuilder Lloyd Gobelani flexing at the gym. Picture: Ibff Pro Max/ Facebook.
“This year I was supposed to go to Italy and compete there to become the wheelchair Universal Pro-Bodybuilder but unfortunately, I couldn't go because I had no funding for my trip. Then I got this second opportunity to go to Koper Slovenia in October to defend my title not as an amateur but as a pro.”
The man, who hopes to one day compete at Mr Olympia - the world’s most prestigious bodybuilding competition, said he didn't have enough words to thank everyone who had been helping him.
Moreover, the para-athlete has embarked on fundraising campaign to see his dream come to fruition.
“It's going to be my first time competing as a pro bodybuilder since I won last year. Now I'm fundraising to get myself to Slovenia, defend my title, and become a two-time world champion. I need to raise R49, 000 to cover all my travelling expenses including my visa. I need to have this amount by the end of August at the latest to book everything early.”
South Africa's pro-wheelchair bodybuilder Macethandile "Max" Kulati competing in Koper Slovenia 2022. Picture: IBFF Federation/Facebook.
Mr Olympia has catapulted the careers of legendary bodybuilders like Frank Zane, Ronnie Coleman, and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kulati hopes to have his name in the history books one day.
“When I'm going to a competition, I always motivate myself by saying that this is a long journey, and it won't be easy. It's either I become a failure or a winner and failing is not Max. The Max I know always wins against all odds no matter what.”
HOW KULATI BECAME DISABLED
The wheelchair bodybuilder became disabled in 2014 after he slipped and fell while on duty at a local butchery. But he didn't make a fuss about his injury.
Little did Kulati know that he would later experience numbness in his legs after a couple of weeks - which signalled his disability.
“I went to a doctor who gave me an injection in my back, assuring me it would solve the problem. I felt better and went home. I went to sleep and when I woke up, I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t understand it. I had no sensation in my legs and they felt cold,” he recounted.
Wheelchair bodybuilder Macethandile "Max" Kulati. Picture: Facebook.
Kulati, who grew up dancing, playing soccer and rugby and dancing, was referred to Livingstone Hospital in Gqeberha where medics conducted multiple test on him.
“Doctors told me there was a growth in my spine that affected my nervous system. I underwent medical procedures, but my nervous system was damaged, and I was left paralysed from my waist down." Kulati is a power-lifting champion and is now trying to make his mark as a bodybuilder, saying all he needed was a chance to prove himself.
“I'm a young man that's coming from a poor background who didn't even know that one day he'll become a professional bodybuilder and represent his country. And now I'm proud to say that I'm "IBFF Pro Max".
TO DONATE TO Max: REFERENCE: Max 2022 BANK: Capitec ACCOUNT NUMBER: 1854590403
SA's wheelchair bodybuilder Macethandile "Max" Kulati. Picture: @macethandilekulati/Instagram.