Nepali bodybuilders aim to dispel racial stereotyping

Hong Kong Nepalese Bodybuilding Association hopes to inspire and empower other young Nepalis, both male and female

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 September, 2015, 3:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 September, 2015, 5:50pm

With bulging biceps and barrel chests, members of the Hong Kong Nepalese Bodybuilding Association hope their demanding hobby can inspire other young Nepalis and help overcome negative racial stereotyping in the city.

Iron is being pumped overtime this week as 11 amateur sportsmen prepare to face off on September 20 for the 12th Mr Hong Kong Nepal competition in Yau Ma Tei.

This year, for the first time, the event will also feature a Miss Hong Kong Nepal Physical Fitness contest, to motivate and empower young Nepali women in the city.

Nepalese bodybuilders fight back against negative racial stereotyping in Hong Kong

“I hope what we are doing will be noticed by the whole community and the government, so they will see we are not a bunch of lazy drug addicts,” says Roshan Limbu, 39, a founder of the association, which organises the contest.

Limbu, a bodyguard who in 1998 became the first Mr Hong Kong Nepal, says the association’s main goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle among young Nepalis.

“We want the younger generation, those who are interested, to see our example of not only hard work, but how it gets results. We are focusing on getting more young people into the association,” he says.

The efforts have already paid off, Limbu says, with more people in their teens and early 20s  involved.

I hope what we are doing will be noticed by the whole community and the government, so they will see we are not a bunch of lazy drug addicts
Roshan Limbu, bodybuilding association founder

“Some of the guys have come because of their parents … so they don’t drop out of college or school, being jobless and doing nothing,” he says.

The association, which has about 200 members, was founded in 1998 but later disbanded. Limbu helped restart the group in 2005, and the Mr Hong Kong Nepal contest has since been an annual event.

Bodybuilding, especially at the competitive level, is tough going, Limbu says, and some of the contestants have been working out six days a week.

“We normally work long hours in Hong Kong, so it’s quite difficult. We have to spend time with the family also, and about two to three hours in the gym.”

Two-time Mr Hong Kong Nepal winner Tamang Sambu Kumar says he trained solidly for a year before he first competed.

Kumar, who won the contest in 2006 and 2009 when he was working in security management, says: “Even though I was working 12 hours a day, every evening after work I trained for one or two hours.”

For Sunday’s contest, judges include members of the local Nepalese community and representatives from the Hong Kong China Bodybuilding and Fitness Association. They will be looking for the best muscular symmetry and toning, low body fat ratio and personality.

Contestants usually diet for two to three months before the competition, cutting out all fat and sugar to enhance muscle definition, Limbu says. “To be a winner in the competition, they need to do hard work with determination and concentration, and there’s time and money involved.”

He adds that the musclemen work out mostly in small Kowloon gyms because expensive club packages are beyond their means.

The Hong Kong Nepalese community numbers about 30,000, most of whom are descended from Gurkha soldiers stationed here in colonial times. Media reports often focus on drug problems among Nepalese youth, while the community’s contribution to cultural diversity, health, education, arts and other sectors, is widely overlooked.

Mr Hong Kong Nepal and Miss Hong Kong Nepal Physical Fitness, Sept 20, 6pm-10pm, Henry G. Leong Yau Ma Tei Community Centre, tickets HK$100 and HK$150