After seeing Emro Karaduzovic in the 212 class at the 2010 New York Pro anyone who saw him four years later at the Tampa Pro would have had a hard time recognizing him.
As he himself admits, the decline was somewhat obvious and would have led any normal person to assume that his career as a pro bodybuilder was indeed over. However, Emro is made of stronger stuff than that (the guy served in the French Foreign Legion for god’s sake!) and at this weekend’s Arizona Pro he is about to start clawing his way back to where he was heading some six years ago.
So what happened?
Well I sat down with Emro who currently works and trains at Synergy Fitness on 31st St in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan to ask him about that AND of course his time in the Foreign Legion!
But before we get into all that just how did this Montenegrin native get into the sport of bodybuilding….
“I started off with Japanese Judo and competed for many years. I was doing good, had speed and technique but my trainer said I didn’t have enough power so I went in to the gym to build more strength At that point I used the gym only to build power for my judo – Deadlifts, bench press, pull ups, overhead press – nothing that focused on bodybuilding. However after too many years competing in judo I broke my hands and started working towards competing in bodybuilding. I started competing as a bodybuilder when I was 34.”
I understand that somewhere in the middle of all this you managed to serve five years in the French Foreign Legion. How on earth did that come about? I just can’t see it as a career choice at school!
“This happened as at this time I could not get into college to do Sport’s Education after high school in my country as I was not a Communist - and also because I said I was Montenegrin and not Yugoslavian. So I went to Russia to continue my education.
Once I had completed college I came back to my country and of course I needed a job but they would not take me for the same reason – because I was Montenegrin and not a Communist. At that time I was recruited to go in to the federal army but I did not want to serve in this army so I chose to go to France and join the French Foreign Legion.”
So how do you feel those years in the Foreign Legion shaped you as a person?
“Over there it changes everything…first it changes body then it changes mind. You are put to the test many times and both mental and physical stamina are challenged to the extreme. If you are weak you are punished till you are strong. You also learn great discipline.
During my time in the Legion I travelled a lot mainly in Africa – Somalia, Madagascar, and Chad. However after five years I left as my hands were not as good as they had been broken. I also lost too many teeth in combat. I always tell people I did not lose these teeth (Emro points to his teeth) due to eating chocolate!” Laughs Emro. “So after five years I had served long enough to have a pension for life and I left. Also you have to be 100 per cent healthy for the French army and prepared for action, my hands alone disqualified me.”
On leaving the Legion we get back to your story as a competitive bodybuilder…
“After coming back to my country I had some money behind me as well as my pension from The Legion so I opened a gym in Montenegro and this helped me work out correctly for bodybuilding. Not too long after I opened my gym I met this guy from Serbia. He had been in bodybuilding longer than me and he helped me a lot when it came to getting in to competing.”
Fast forward to 2003 and Emro gained his pro card in Montenegro while competing in the Masters over 40 division. Which in turn led him to competing in the Grand Prix in London in 2004 and Toronto in 2005 then, when over here competing in Atlantic City in 2006, he made the decision to stay in the USA in order to fully pursue his bodybuilding career.
Now it would be fair to say that subsequent showings in the New York Pro and Tampa Pro saw Emro in less than stellar shape which is something he readily admits….
“Looking back I did too many competitions not looking like a pro. All my money was tied up buying machines for my gym -I hope to open a gym in New York one day (possibly the Bronx). For those competitions I had no real funds for proper diet and supplements so my condition suffered greatly.”
With those shows now firmly placed in the past Emro is beginning his return to form by testing the waters at this month’s Arizona Pro where he will in fact be presenting himself with somewhat of a baptism of fire by competing in the 212’s at 59 years of age!
“Yes, this show I will be doing the 212’s but next time out I will be doing the Masters over 50 division possibly the NY Pro or Pennsylvania I haven’t decided yet. I also want to make more progress towards opening my own gym. I have all the best equipment currently in storage in the Bronx so it is just a matter of finding and funding a space.”
Beyond that Emro says he still has a thirst every day for training and sees himself up there competing well into his 60s. One thing is for sure we have a few more years of seeing Emro Karaduzovic compete and he may very well have saved the best till last!