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Friday 20 August 2010 | Published in Regional


Top Shape Gym is pumped and ready to host next Saturday’s 4th International Asia Pacific Bodybuilding and Fitness Championships at the national auditorium.

Gym owner Puai Wichman is keen to use the event to inspire Cook Islanders to aim higher and stride over their hurdles just like Wanganui bodybuilder Alison Richards.

Here, Glenn Watson of the Wanganui Chronicle tells Alison’s story:

Cancer robbed her of a breast, but next week Wanganui woman Alison Richards will compete at the Asia-Pacific bodybuilding championships in Rarotonga.

The 49-year-old is living proof of what can be achieved with a steely-minded attitude and a zest for life.

Eighteen months ago, encouraged by her sister and brother-in-law who were both bodybuilders in Auckland, she joined the gym and began working out.

She wasn’t a big woman, nor was she petite. “Just average size really,” she said.

Cycling and indoor rowing kept her in pretty good shape, but she figured regular gym sessions would be good for her image and a confidence booster. With daily workouts on the walker with weights thrown in, she quickly noticed some pleasing results. She also discovered muscles she didn’t know existed.

“Progress came quite quickly,” she said. With the help of her 21-year-old son Jamie, who set her daily training regimes, she was well on the way to sporting the beautiful body. Then a shock – she discovered a lump in a breast. Her worst fears were confirmed and she had her left breast removed.

She could have sat around feeling sorry for herself, but Alison decided to get back to the gym. Several months later, Alison’s toned and tanned body is free of cancer and she’s about to pack her bags for the Cook Islands.

There she will compete for New Zealand in the senior women’s division in what will be her first international event.

Last week she was second at the Manawatu championships.

Getting to Rarotonga is not cheap – so one of her bosses has chipped in with $250 and Richard McVerry, of McVerry Motors, was only too happy to help.