Lonely road to glory for Jordanian bodybuilder

‘Dana Soumbouloglou has been scrutinized all her career, now she looks to go pro outside Jordan’

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Jordanian bodybuilder Dana Soumbouloglou aspires to compete in Ms. Olympia (Photo: JNews)
AMMAN — At 27, Jordanian bodybuilder Dana Soumbouloglou has been shouldering the weight of taboo and backlash for the better part of a decade. But the strongwoman remains steadfast, gunning straight for her dream to participate in Ms. Olympia.اضافة اعلان

“I have been in love with sports since I was a kid, having done Taekwondo, swimming, gymnastics, football, handball, and ballet. But bodybuilding is my passion, I cannot describe it, it helps me exorcize all the negative energy in my body and boosts my self-esteem,” Soumbouloglou told Jordan News in an interview.

The athlete traced her passion for bodybuilding back to 2012 in Greece, where she was pursuing a degree in media and journalism.

“I signed up for a gym and while out walking with my father, I watched a bodybuilder walk down the street. She was my motivation to follow my ambition,” Soumbouloglou said.

“My father has accepted this crazy notion of me being a bodybuilder, but I struggled for a long time with my mother until she understood that this sport was my passion.”

But it was not only Soumbouloglou’s mother who took issue with her involvement in such a male-dominated sport.

“A lot of my relatives were against me but that was not (enough of) a hurdle to stop me from marching towards my goal and passion,” she explained.

Soumbouloglou also receives the occasional comment from random passersby on the street. Someone once asked: “Why have you turned yourself in to a man?”

“I remember receiving a message from a girl saying: ‘If I had a body like yours, I would kill myself,’” she said. Even official bodies have opposed the athlete, according to Soumbouloglou.

There have been other comments about and scrutiny of her physique, but at the end of the day, “It is a sport, it has nothing to do with men or manhood,” she said. The bodybuilder is now looking to go pro outside of Jordan.

“I have participated in several championships and I am now trying to get my pro card to take part in the biggest one — Ms. Olympia — after the Jordanian Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation rejected me on the pretext of breaking tradition,” said Soumbouloglou. “Aside from me being the only Jordanian woman who plays the sport — I do not have any competition in my own country.”

President of the Jordanian Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation, Mamoun Kalimat, denied claims that the federation has refused to take in Soumbouloglou or any other athlete; telling Jordan News:  “The athlete, Dana, has not submitted an official request to the Jordanian Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation for assistance,” Kalimat said, pointing out that “our doors are open to all athletes within the [boundaries of] rules and regulations.”

He went on to explain that “It would be very difficult to establish a base of women bodybuilders in Jordan as our society is very conservative of its traditions, but laws and regulations do not prohibit it.”

The bodybuilder currently works seven days a week at a unisex gym in order to cover the high cost of pursuing her dream. Training and dieting expenses can exceed $30,000 a year, and that number is likely to double when it comes time to participate in championships, according to Soumbouloglou.

Soumbouloglou also criticized an absence of support from local companies. Although she has been honing her craft for almost 10 years, she has only ever received one sponsorship offer, which she said was “not nearly enough” to cover expenses.

“Every girl needs to fight for her goal and walk the path that makes her happy, because what’s the point of living life without a goal?”