Engineering dropout to Mr World: Chennai bodybuilder’s tale 

Chennai: Like most teenagers from Chennai, R Manikandan – an avid fitness enthusiast – got into engineering immediately after completing school. But, unlike the flock, he decided to drop out of college to pursue his passion for professional bodybuilding. The risk he took and his efforts bore fruit when he was crowned Mr World recently.
Manikandan (27) shared his journey from being an engineering dropout to being crowned Mr World.
Fitness life for Manikandan started at the tender age of 17. He was overweight as a school kid and wanted to bring it down.
“Growing up, I was a huge fan of wrestler, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, and that was what got me interested in fitness and bodybuilding initially. I wanted to reduce my weight and build muscles. Slowly, it turned into a passion and I started competing in local bodybuilding championships,” he recalled.
But bodybuilding, as everyone knows, is a costly sport as it requires training equipment, a special diet, and, not to forget, immense discipline too.
Mani said, “To support my training, I worked as a gym trainer during my first year in college. But, the student life made it difficult for me to work on my fitness. So, I decided to drop out and concentrate on bodybuilding full-time, though I was a topper in the first year.”
Though Mani’s engineering education got stalled, his thirst for knowledge in bodybuilding began. He completed fitness and instructor training courses and joined as a trainer at Le Royal Meridien. Soon, his passion towards his profession made him the youngest and highest paid trainer there.
Manikandan said, “It was during my stint as a trainer that I came across Sriram Vasantharajan with whom I started the fitness studio – Toneez. We now have branches in Nanganallur and Kattupakkam.”

While his career took off, Manikandan decided that money should never stop his journey towards fitness and bodybuilding. So, after a short gap, he started competing in bodybuilding championships again and became Mr Tamilnadu 2017, a title that he has won four times.
Mani was also crowned as Mr South India and the Mr World for amateurs in 2017.

Having won all the top honours in the amateur category, Manikandan decided to step it up a notch higher and competed with the top bodybuilders from the country in the Pros Championship for bodybuilding in 2018 and he won!

“I am the first person to win a silver in a World Championship for Bodybuilders under Indian Body Builders Federation (IBBF),” he says.
Recently, Mani brought laurels to India by winning the prestigious Mr World title in the men’s physique category held at Qingdao in China.
Mani said, “It is a premier competition conducted by the World Body Building and Physiques Sports Federation, a 143-member country organisation. This year witnessed more than 300 athletes and 100 delegate officials from 15 countries participating. It was an honour to represent India and win a medal on the world stage,” he said, explaining the significance of the title.
After having achieved some of the top honours in professional bodybuilding, Manikandan wishes to make this discipline popular in India. He says, “In world championship events, mainstream sports like badminton are well-known and talked about, but not bodybuilding.  I want to change that.  My dream is to make all sports get attention.”
He also requests parents of aspiring bodybuilders to support their children’s dreams. “Being a bodybuilder requires discipline and focus. So, bodybuilding prevents children from taking to vices like drinking, smoking and drugs. So, all parents must encourage their children to get into fitness training.”

A Harsha Vardhan