Mind over matter for bodybuilding champion

Caleb Mutombos overall performance at the weekends Shameen Classic saw him walk away with the winners trophy in his division. Picture Fuad Esack

And it’s easy to see why, he works out hard and is always ready to lend a helping hand if needed.

At just 110cm tall, weighing 45kg, Mutombo has a disability, which stunted his growth but this never stopped him chasing after his sporting and academic goals.

On Saturday, the young bodybuilder, from Retreat, won his division at the IFBB Shameen Bodybuilding Classic held in Rugby, near Milnerton.

Inspired by American motivational speaker, Les Brown, who overcame many personal challenges before finding his voice on radio, television and on stage, Mutombo found his passion when bitten by the bodybuilding bug a few years ago.

Originally from the DRC, Mutombo overcame negativity and prejudice to compete in numerous national bodybuilding competitions. He says he’s also motivated by former international bodybuilding champion Arnold Schwarzenegger and technology entrepreneur, SA-born Elon Musk.

Mutombo moved to South Africa with his family at the age of two and settled in Johannesburg. He started training when he was 12. By the time he was 16, he took his training up a notch and eventually entered his first competition at the age of 19.

A newspaper shared his inspiring story and it got to international ears, which led to him receiving an abundance of support and sponsorships, including gym membership, access to supplements and two fitness courses.

This sparked an interest in health and fitness and he hopes to become a qualified personal trainer and IT specialist.

“I kept on training everyday, at least five days a week. It’s always been clear to me that I’d need a real source of long-term income. so I focused on my studies as a personal trainer so I would be independent and do everything on my own.”

Despite a positive outlook on life, Mutombo admits that it’s not always easy. He started feeling like his dream was dying.

“Eventually I broke down and burnt out. At the same time I’ve also gone through quite a bit of emotional growth. It hasn’t been easy going through some anxiety, self doubt, fear etc.

“I always get back up when I’m down because I know God has not brought me this far to quit.”

Just a few years ago he had to move out of the Kids Haven children’s home in Johannesburg.

“Thus I decided to move in with my brother-in-law and sister here in Cape Town. The good news is that I’ve recovered and I’m willing and ready to pick up the pieces. Make no mistake I haven’t given up, I’ve just experienced a setback. However, it’s good because now I’m stronger than ever and it really got me thinking about what I really want to do with my life,” he says.

Now a first year Information Technology (IT) student at False Bay College’s Fish Hoek campus, Mutombo has a keen interest in cybersecurity.

“I’ve always wanted to code before I found bodybuilding so I’ve chosen to study IT and I am doing really well.

I have been inspired by other motivational speakers and I think it would be great to just pass it on. So I’ve taken on motivational speaking and I am doing these free talks,” he says.

Although happy with his performance at the weekend, Mutombo is already gearing up for his next competition, saying he hopes to take part in the Clash of The Titans bodybuilding competition later this year.