AP PHOTOS: Masks, COVID-19 no match for Israeli bodybuilders

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Wearing face masks and not much else, dozens of Israeli bodybuilders greased up their bodies as they prepared to flex their muscles under the scorching Mediterranean sun to compete for the title of Mr. Israel and other categories.

Because of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, this year’s competition was staged outdoors at a Tel Aviv shopping mall.

As they waited to go on stage, the 85 participants were required to don protective masks in line with health codes. Although the masks were removed when they went on stage for the actual competition, the 200 or so people in the audience wore face coverings. Police even paid a visit to make sure everyone was in compliance.

Winners were chosen in several categories, including “natural” bodybuilding. Female bodybuilders competed to be named “Miss Bikini.”

For some, getting into peak condition during the pandemic and lockdown measures was a major challenge.

Shay Bobis, a bodybuilder and trainer for one of the competitors, said that “all the staying at home and the uncertain situation” disrupted training routines and led many would-be champs to drop out.

“You sit at home all day and fight with the food and you don’t have a gym or anything to do all that time,” he said.

Bobis said the contestants who made it to Wednesday’s competition were disciplined and in top form — describing them as “warriors.”

The big winner, Dudi Digmi, was named Mr. Israel for a second year in a row and is set to represent the country in the Mr. Universe competition next year.

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Follow Oded Balilty on Twitter at www.twitter.com/obalilty

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