hd_pubpage_230hStarting this month, I will write a series of articles that will feature three Canadian bodybuilders who, I believe, deserve recognition this year. The first will be Erik Alstrup, whom I saw compete twice in 2009.

Alstrup’s name might be familiar to those who knew the Canadian bodybuilding scene in the ‘90s. He won the Canadian Bodybuilding Championships in 1998 as a heavyweight, which earned him an IFBB Pro Card, and he competed in one pro show, the 2009 IFBB Toronto Pro Invitational. But that was his only pro show; after that, he disappeared from the competitive bodybuilding scene.

Earlier this year, I was at the IDFA’s Natural Novice Classic in Toronto, taking pictures in the front row, when Erik tapped me on the shoulder and introduced himself. He’s now in his late thirties. We talked for a bit, and he told me that after 1999 he basically became disillusioned with pro bodybuilding and turned to other sports, including triathlons and marathons. (He says he participated in over 50 triathlons and 20 marathons!) Hence, the disappearance. However, he was now looking to make a bodybuilding comeback and he was encouraged to see an organization like the IDFA, which only promotes drug-free shows, operate so successfully in Canada. If he was going to make a comeback, it would be on a "natural" bodybuilding stage.

And that’s what happened. Alstrup turned up at the IDFA’s Montreal Classic in June weighing about 180 pounds – considerably lighter than in the ‘90s. But he still looked great and he won the show convincingly. That win earned him an IDFA Pro Card, something most people would accept in a heartbeat. But he didn’t. This was his first contest in over a decade and, from what I understand, he wanted to get more experience before moving up the ladder again. As a result, he showed up at the IDFA’s Toronto Classic in July and competed in their amateur division. Once again, he won the overall title and, because of his amazing physique and showmanship, he was the real star of the show despite the abundance of high-quality competitors there. After this show, though, he accepted the pro status.

Alstrup at the 2009 IDFA Montreal Classic on June 27.

Alstrup competed twice more in 2009, both times in November. The first was as an IDFA pro in their Pro Universe competition in Toronto. He came in second to the IDFA’s reigning champ, Dickens Lambert. The next time was at the UFE Nationals which he won. (UFE is another Canadian organization that offers drug-tested events.) Unfortunately, because I was booked for other competitions that month, I couldn’t see him compete at either event. However, I did see pictures from both competition and, no surprise, Alstrup looked fantastic again. In fact, from what I can tell, he’s never looked bad.

Obviously, one of the reasons I’m singling Alstrup out is because of his competitive record – no other Canadian competitor has made a comeback that’s as impressive as his has been this year. A couple more reasons have to do with his physique and the fact that he knows how to display it. Alstrup possesses great shape, excellent symmetry, and razor-sharp definition, and he poses better than anyone else I’ve seen competing this year. When he’s on the stage, he owns it – you can’t help but watch him when he’s up there.

Another reason has to do with his mindset. I talked to Erik for almost an hour before he went onstage in Montreal. At one point in the conversation, though, he politely excused himself and told me that he had to "get ready." Of course, that meant putting on his tan, oiling himself up, and then working his muscles to get a pump. But it also meant something more – getting his mind in competition mode. At both of the contests where I saw him compete, I watched him from a distance backstage and can attest to the fact that when this guy gets ready to go on the stage, he prepares his mind like he prepares his body – no doubt, one of the reasons he can effectively participate in marathons and triathlons. In the moments before he actually steps on the stage, he seems to be in a world of his own. I’ve watched plenty of competitors get ready to go onstage, but I’ve seen only a handful who use their mind as much as they use their muscles when they’re competing. Alstrup is one of those few.

The final reason is, perhaps, the most compelling – how he conducts himself off the stage. I found him to be nothing but courteous and respectful toward everyone at the competition, even toward his fellow competitors. What’s more, at one contest a competitor in his class fell ill while on the stage. The first to rush to his rescue was Alstrup, who led him off the stage and ensured he got proper medical treatment. Not only that, Alstrup stayed around long afterwards to ensure that this competitor, whom he didn’t even know, would be fine. Unique? Unfortunately, in bodybuilding, it is.

In the last ten years, I’ve been to many competitions where contestants have fallen ill. But, until that show, I had yet to see one competitor rush to the aid of another. In fact, most just stand there when something happens, seemingly concerned only with themselves. What I saw from Alstrup was something quite different and, ultimately, something extremely impressive. If only more competitors could act that way.

Alstrup at the 2009 IDFA Toronto Classic on July 11.

Alstrup has a great physique along with the skill and ability to show it off, and he has the mindset that helps him to compete at the highest levels. These attributes alone makes him a winner, but his conduct off the stage as well is that of a true champion.

The qualities Erik Alstrup possesses are rare, and they make him one of the three great Canadian bodybuilders that we wish to recognize this year for their outstanding abilities and achievements. Stayed tuned for my articles in January and February to find out who the next two are.

. . . Doug Schneider, Publisher

Doug Schneider is the publisher and chief photographer for SeriousAboutMuscle.com.