Forget Marvel, we’ve found a real superhero

By Niccola Anthony

A veteran on the international body building circuit, Ian Nordahl’s rise to the top of the sport has been nothing short of superhuman.

The 71-year-old Docklander has just returned from the Natural Olympia Body Building Titles held in Las Vegas, where he placed sixth in the Men’s Ultra Grand Masters (60+ years) category.

The Las Vegas competition follows the Australian national Men’s Ultra Grand Masters title he picked up in September in Brisbane and the silver medal he won at the Natural Universe Ultra Grand Masters competition earlier this year.

Since taking up the sport in 2007, Mr Nordahl has appeared on stage 35 times at the international level and 33 times at Australian level, picking up a slew of medals for his efforts.

However, the one title that has eluded him – the Natural Olympia Ultra Grand Masters Champion – is the title that he most hopes to win before his retirement from international and national level competition.

Despite his successes, Ian’s involvement in the sport has not been without its trials. A terrifying stroke on an ordinary Sunday in March 2012 left him unable to walk or talk, much less train at the intensity required for international body building.

Around 3pm, Mr Nordahl was working out at Rekdek Gym in Lorimer St where he trained a number of clients, when a “bomb” went off in his head.

Slightly perturbed by the disturbance, he wrapped up his gym session and headed back to his apartment to have a rest, locking the apartment door behind him.

But before making it to his bed, Nordahl fell forward and was contorted into a position with his leg tucked behind himself. He couldn’t move.

For 14 hours he lay in that same position until a few of the ladies who he had meant to take for a morning training session grew concerned of his whereabouts and came to the apartment to check up on him.

What followed for Ian was a two-month hospital stay and an intensive six-month rehabilitation program, four sessions a day over four days a week.

“At Royal Melbourne, I remember one of the doctors saying ‘he’s going to be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life’ and I remember thinking then and there that I wasn’t going to accept that,” Mr Nordahl said.

“They gave me a motorised wheelchair and as soon as I saw that, something clicked in my mind and I thought, ‘man, I’ve got to get up and move!’ And that’s when they put me into forms of rehab.”

Remarkably, it took only nine months from the time of the stroke for Ian to get back to the gym and recommence training. It was a slow process, but eventually Ian was back to appearing on stage at the international level in body building competition.

In 2016, he won his first medal at the Natural Olympia in the Ultra Grand Masters competition since the stroke, placing third.

It’s clear from Mr Nordahl’s success in the sport that body building inhabits a large part of his life. A dietitian’s dream case study, his “day on a plate” features steel cut oats, plenty of lean protein, healthy fats such as avocado and cashews and lots of vegies.

While many would baulk at the strict dietary requirements and early morning training sessions, Ian appears completely at ease with the demands of the sport – a consummate professional.

“It’s a very individual sport, body building, even though you travel as a team. Individually, [the outcome] just depends what the judges think,” Mr Nordahl said.

“It can be hard, but once you’ve done it for a while it’s not hard at all. You sort of slip into a certain mode of thinking.”

And with those remarks, we deem Ian Nordahl deserving of a higher standing among us mere mortals.

Summer at The Docks

Summer at The Docks

December 1st, 2021 - Shane Wylie
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