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By JOSH CLAYWELL email@example.com
HARDIN COUNTY — Ken Caldwell wasn’t supposed to be here.
Not after a serious car accident in 1987 in Germany in which Caldwell said he broke nearly every bone in his body.
But Caldwell is. And now, along with Elizabethtown resident Joel Preston, Caldwell turns his attention to the Kentucky Muscle Strength and Fitness Extravaganza at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville on Saturday.
“Oh my goodness, I can’t wait. This is a goal of mine. I want to be on stage before I turn 50 and I feel like a million bucks,” said Caldwell, a 49-year-old Radcliff resident. “I’ve been hitting the gym twice a day for a while now.”
Caldwell will be stepping on stage for the first time, while the 47-year-old Preston has competed since he was 20.
The duo competes in the master’s division for ages 40-and-over of the National Physique Committee, the largest amateur bodybuilding organization in the United States.
“I train five days a week; weights for maybe an hour each day and cardio on top of that,” said Preston, a 1979 Breckinridge County High School graduate. “Getting ready for these competitions is more diet than anything. I’ve dieted 18 weeks for this show. I haven’t had pizza or ice cream or anything like that since June. It’d be nice to have it occasionally. But I don’t eat it because I know it’ll take me away from my goal instead of toward it.”
Preston is going for his second win in two months – he won the Bluegrass Classic in Lexington on Oct. 8 – and his fourth win overall.
Preston has won the NPC state championship (2003) and the Natural Northern USA Bodybuilding and Figure Championships in 2007 in Cleveland.
“It’d just be another accomplishment in the sport. I’ve been doing it for so long and I train for these competitions to win,” Preston said.
Since Caldwell began training for his first show more than a year ago, the duo has developed a close friendship through the sport.
“I’ve been picking his brain. He was the first person that motivated me on the stage,” said Caldwell, who retired from the military in 2002. “I saw him in Lexington and when I saw him step out on the stage ... you should have seen his look and his aura. That motivated me. I saw every athlete, but when I saw Joel out there, I said ‘That’s what the judges are looking for.’”
Preston, who started lifting weights when he was 12 and first competed in 1981, also competes in the open light heavyweight division and said he wanted to be a bodybuilder after seeing a picture of the governor of California at a competition.
“I saw a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger when I was a kid, and that’s all it took. I never got as good as he was, but it kept me going,” Preston said.
Caldwell’s route to the stage took much longer.
After recuperating from his accident, Caldwell started going to the gym and lifting weights.
“People would always ask me if I was a bodybuilder and if I competed. I never was able to put a yes behind that,” Caldwell said. “It was the million-dollar question. So I decided to take it to the next level.”
And after lifting weights for about 15 years, Caldwell decided to try and become an amateur bodybuilder.
But, Caldwell admits, he won’t get nervous until his weight class walks out on the stage.
“Everything in the back of my mind is saying I’m not supposed to be here because of that bad car accident,” Caldwell said. “God is awesome. I’m reaching my goal. I said I was going to be on stage before I turned 50, and here I am.”
Like Caldwell, the amateur stage is as far as Preston wants to take his career.
“To be as big as you have to be at that level — plus everybody isn’t going to get to that level even if you do take steroids — you have to be the best of the best,” Preston said. “I’m not selling myself short or anything, but just to be able to be at the level of competition I’m at is hard enough for most people.”
Josh Claywell can be reached at 505-1752