FLEX WHEELER: WINNING WHEN IT MATTERS, NOT ALWAYS!Bodybuilding is an art (or can we say a sport) that gets nicknames so used to you, and yes the popularity too. Well over 98% of professional bodybuilders, just like other celebrities have one nickname or the other to them. Our hero for today is no exception.
Born Kenneth Wheeler, August 23, 1965, he has gone through thick and thin almost all his growing years as a youth in Fresno, California, USA and displayed a rare combination of body skills and physique ability.
Here comes Flex Wheeler.
Flex had a blossoming career being a former American IFBB professional bodybuilder, won the Arnold Classic times and again, totaling four and described by many industry big wigs as a strong pillar of bodybuilding. He’s more of a gigantic pillar than a simple man he would like to be known for. Flex while addressing reporters replied to a question on what he hopes to make his crowning achievement in life, “Watching my children grow into adulthood, and live happy, healthy successful lives. My family is my legacy. Not my freaking symmetry!”
As a child, it was a weak and fragile Wheeler as he got a pretty rough ride of child abuse and social malfunction tendencies, having being diagnosed of dyslexia. Perhaps, common to other bodybuilders, he excelled fully well in sports, did some martial arts and started bodybuilding later as a teenager.
In his ninth grade, Flex began working out with his brother Darnell and friend, Mike Garza. All they did back then was lifting backyard weights at Mike’s after school and the boys thought “Why not get more serious with this?”, and they went on to a real gym in their homeland, Fresno, precisely the Dina. It will really be a little time however before Darnell’s enthusiasm dropped and the two others all the while kept at it.
Through word of mouth, Flex got to know about the AAU Mr. Fresno, a bodybuilding contest in his hood and a timid Flex couldn’t really see himself career-wise in bodybuilding probably due to the unpopularity of the game at the time. A shove from Jeff Lawson, a friend was all he needed and Wheeler went on to clinch the first position at the AAU Teen Mr. Fresno. Worthy of note however is the fact that he signed up then and again the next year at a local bodybuilding competition between schools. He applied for and won the Best Abs category thus bringing him into public limelight.
Though Flex enjoyed lifting and bodybuilding, he never thought about having a decent career around it and if a free offering from Jeff was all he needed to have a re-think, then he got it. Flex joined Fitness Plus and switched on to the NPC from the AAU thus winning the Governor’s Cup at 198 and a quarter.
By 1989, he had bagged the Mr. California title which honestly did not mean much for Flex, probably still held back by the skepticism of the whole muscle-slamming thing.
Your career can get pushed up pretty high by yourself, much more than anyone else can motivate or encourage you. It was still a young but steadily-increasing Flex at the Junior Nationals in 1990, however he sobbed right from the stage on to the elevators having come a distant second at the same event; he later went on to admit, “In those days, I did not handle defeat well”.
Time to move on to new things. Flex did and as he came of age, experience taught him he could only keep going, nothing less. This spurred him and a friend on to sign up for the AAU Teenager Black America contest, one competing against the other, and Flex stole the show.
Forward to 1991 and in USA, Flex grabbed the 2nd slot at the NPC USA Championship (HW) and luckily, it was an outstanding Wheeler a year later when we clinched the 1st prize, HW and Overall at the same contest. Ranking at the top of every show in which he contested was fast becoming a norm for him and he has gone on to win shows that really mattered; Perhaps, luck wasn’t too much smiling for him during his active days as he has never won the Mr. Olympia championship right from when he started contesting in 1993 with a 2nd position and then concluding with a 7th in 2002, even after he formally retired in 2001.
But hey, Flex got his own dose of the top pie as he won the Arnold Classic a record 4 times, the IronMan Pro Winner 5 times and at various times won the South Beach Pro Invitational, France Grand Prix, Hungarian Grand Prix and the Night of Champions.
Not a perfectly nice guy on stage, he did not exactly have good ride with the press, a development some attributed to his overconfident and arrogant style on stage. In 1999, Flex got hit with a deadly kidney disease, Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerolis – FSGS, with no cure or therapy, before receiving a kidney transplant in 2003.
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