Santosh Kumar Shrestha: the Hercules of the Himalayas

Before he arrived in Sydney in 2008, Santosh Kumar Shrestha had been to a gym for a month, little less than a month to be accurate. Once here, he did what most immigrants do after they emigrate to a developed country – double shifts, extra extra hours, hanker after every penny that could be saved and then, after all that, attend classes.

Santosh Kumar Shrestha: INBA Rookie of the Year 2015
Santosh Kumar Shrestha: INBA Rookie of the Year 2015

Fast forward to March 2015, the 33 year old gym addict from a small country town in Nepal has stunned fitness gurus in Australia by winning this year’s International Natural Bodybuilding Association’s (INBA) Rookie of the Year Award.

He beat 20 seasoned fitness enthusiasts from across Australia all of whom were under 25, Santosh told “People did not believe me when I yelled out ‘1982’ as my birth year during urine test. They thought I was saying ‘1992’,” he said. The event being a natural bodybuilding competition, participants are required to undergo a rigorous urine test. A participant can be fined $5,000 and disqualified for life if any trace of performance-enhancing drug is detected in the urine.

INBA’s website describes the Nepali national as ‘a very happy and fit man’. Happy he certainly is after he successfully stormed the Melbourne bodybuilding event on 8 March. “I felt so proud to be standing there among top local bodybuilders. I was happy that I could represent my country, Nepal. I looked around and could not see one from Nepal or for that matter from any other South Asian countries,” the happy and fit man said. He had quietly hoped that he would be at least one of top five but ‘I was so nervous when my name was not called even when it got up to number two.” Then they announced his name as the winner of the Rookie of the Year award and he could not believe his ears.

Santosh Kumar Shrestha
INBA posted these backstage pictures long before he was declared winner of the Rookie Award

As the winner of the Rookie of the Year Award, Santosh is now eligible to participate in an upcoming qualifying competition for the 2015 INBA World Championships to be held in Dubai on 14 June 2015. According to INBA, the event is expected to heighten ‘natural bodybuilding and modelling from obscurity to centre stage in the world of fitness and health’.

As only top three in the qualifying competition will be allowed to participate in the Dubai World Championship, it’s all war zone for Santosh from here on. Because his ultimate goal now is to participate in the world event. “For now, my aim is to qualify so that I can participate in the World Championship,” Santosh said.


INBA Dubai World Championship 2015
INBA Dubai World Championship 2015

On 13 March, Santosh posted a selfie from Camperdown Fitness Centre at 4.45 am which was captioned, “When others sleep I do workout.” That’s the routine he follows every day. He is at his favourite gym by quarter to five where he works out for an hour and then heads to work straight. He is back at the gym early afternoon for another 3 to 4 hour session. It is this strict regime full of discipline and dedication that has seen him rise from an ordinary Nepali immigrant to a promising bodybuilder of the country.

When he first decided to join a gym in 2010, he had two jobs at the time. He still managed to go to the gym at least one hour a day. But in 2014 he quit one job to be able devote more time to his passion for fitness.

Asked what motivated him at the beginning of his journey, which began in earnest once he arrived in Australia, Santosh wasted no time in confiding: Salman Khan. Khan is a phenomenal Bollywood star whose stardom hinges mostly upon his good look and robust physique. They say every young man in India imagines himself to be a Salman Khan at some stage in his life. “He is chasing 50 and look at him, he still has it,” Santosh expressed his admiration for the artiste.

He believes if you have got dedication to good health and control over diet then it is very much possible to control your weight. “People complain about weight and say it is hard to bring it down but we bodybuilders do not look at it that way. We can take our weight up or down as we wish and need,” he remarked as he spoke over telephone from his gym in Camperdown. He was apparently 72 kilogram in December 2014 but by the time he was competing for INBA Rookie of the Year Award in the first week of March, he was 61 kilogram only. How is that possible? ‘Diet and workout,’ is the simple answer from the iron man. As much as he loves his Nepali food, he cannot eat it regularly due to his bodybuilding necessities. Salmon, green vegetables and chicken breast are some favourite ingredients of the Himalayan Hercules who is a complete non-smoker and does not drink regularly. If he has to, once in a blue moon for the happiness of his well-wishers and family, he drinks half a cider and that’s about it!

Santosh would like to see more of his fellow Nepalis to be able to enjoy the good health he does and therefore, is always forthcoming to help those who seek it. “I have already helped in excess of 40 guys from Nepal. But the problem is they want fast results, in a month. Look at me, it took me good four years to be where I am today.”

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