By her own admission, University of Fort Hare sports officer Mihlali Rodolo knew very little about bodybuilding a year ago.
While she was in charge of an incredible six sporting codes at the university, the muscle game was not one of them. But how things can change in 12 months.
On Monday she will be flying out with Team South Africa as one of seven officials joining the 38 athletes at the World Bodybuilding & Fitness Championships and Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
“I’ve really fallen in love with the code,” the 32-year-old said ahead of her departure.
Rodolo has built a sterling reputation as a sports administrator, overseeing rugby, volleyball, chess, karate, softball and athletics at Fort Hare since 2016.
In 2021, her tireless work ethic earned her a spot on the University Sport South Africa (USSA) executive committee for rugby – and it was through this channel that bodybuilding found her.
During the USSA karate championships in Johannesburg last year she was asked to attend the bodybuilding event at the same venue to “see how it’s done”.
Given her superb record in elevating rugby at Fort Hare, the USSA leadership believed she could do the same for bodybuilding, which did not have a strong presence at tertiary level.
Being named interim chair of a sport that was mostly foreign to her was no walk in the park, but if Rodolo has proved anything it’s that there is no challenge too great or small.
Despite the bodybuilding programme at UFH being put on hold due to the former coach moving to China, she was still able to host this year’s USSA championships at her home university from June 30 to July 2.
“The turnout was good and we took about 10 athletes from the tournament to the SA championships in Mpumalanga in September. The Proteas team was selected from there.”
Rodolo is fascinated by the discipline needed to keep bodybuilders in peak condition, from their diets to the way they train. Being at the head of so many codes, it is something she relates to.
“I’ve been doing this for some time now, so I’ve learnt how to manage everything as best I can.”
While she will only knock out the exact details of her team manager role in Barcelona when she meets with the team on Monday, it will more than likely involve being at the beck and call of the athletes.
“Seeing bodybuilding at this level will be interesting as I’ve only seen it from a South African perspective until now,” she said.
“I want to see how the pros do it.”
She will also be using the opportunity to learn what she can about the administrative side of things on the global stage.
One of her big goals is to re-establish bodybuilding at Fort Hare and have athletes from the university competing at nationals again.
While this will not be her first trip to Europe, having previously visited France with Fort Hare’s rugby team, Spain will be new to her and she is looking forward to taking in the culture and sights.