The Trials of Sergio

With victories like these, who needs defeats? Sergio Oliva Jr.'s rookie year was no walk in the park.


Per Bernal


“Winning the New York Pro was a quantum leap in my career. It was the major step in a journey I had started back in 2003 when, as an 18-year-old, I weighed 140 pounds at 6' and decided to take up bodybuilding. I won the Nationals weighing 240 pounds, so here I am in New York 18 months later, 20 pounds heavier and the leanest I’ve ever been.

“It took me 14 years to get here, and it’s been a helluva journey with plenty of self-inflicted bumps. Mentally, I’ve always been unsure, sort of like the same little kid I had started out as. I was so nervous. I couldn’t get a pump, could barely eat, and was scared to talk to anyone backstage. I even left the hotel without my posing trunks and had my friends run back to get them since the competitors were already doing their routines onstage. It was simply a train-wreck ride toward victory.”

Per Bernal


“I feel this was validation to everyone else that I had not only arrived but that I’m also here to do more than place at shows and be an average pro bodybuilder or someone who is feeding off the notion that I’m only just my dad’s son. I’m here to not only win pro shows but also to win an Olympia one day. While this win was validation to people in general, it is validation as well that I was right to be confident in myself. And in a topsy-turvy way it proved I had the guts to progress, during the worst contest prep of my life, when everything was falling apart.

“I had to hustle to get a flight to New York, and then Brooke having to remain in Australia just about did me in. I needed her next to me as I trained and prepared, but that wasn’t possible. That hit me hard, real hard. But even from 8,000 miles away she kept me going and on track. Then I had the infection, and I thought that torpedoed everything. When I stood alone with Jon onstage I just felt as if I had put every one of my eggs into the basket that was the New York Pro. Didn’t even have a return ticket to L.A. I thought I might have to do a Kai Greene and do some dancing in Times Square to get a ticket back home. I couldn’t have gambled any more on myself. So I’m now proud of what I achieved. All the sacrifices and trauma ended up being worth it.”


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