ON THE same day Hatton Vale State School teacher Andrew Pickwell was announced coach of the Queensland Schoolboys Under-12 rugby league team, he received another welcome piece of news.
The 45 year-old physical education teacher competed in and won the World Fitness Federation (WFF) World Championships in Cyprus.
"I was appointed Queensland coach the same day I won my competition, so you could say it was a pretty good day for me,” Pickwell said.
For the 20-year bodybuilding competitor it was his first World Championship title, after finishing second in his only other appearance at the 2014 iteration on the Gold Coast.
Owner of a host of state and national titles, Pickwell said it was something of a metaphorical weight off his shoulders after breaking through for his maiden World Championship crown.
"It has been a long time coming, and I never envisioned coming this far,” he said.
"I've won state and national titles on the way, but this is certainly a step up from that. It was nice to get that recognition.
"I did that other show in 2014, but to be honest the competition in Cyprus was pretty stiff in comparison so I consider this win to be even better.”
Pickwell underwent a dramatic transformation prior to competing, dieting for 18 weeks in order to hit the Cyprus stage at his most lean.
That included dropping a massive eight kilograms in the final four weeks, in order to dip below the 80kg mark at weigh-in.
For Pickwell, the weight training is the easy part - it is those final four weeks that hurt the most.
"I had to get under 80kg and the only time I did so was the morning of the weigh-in,” Pickwell said.
"I've always enjoyed the weight training side of things, but dieting is also such a massive part of it.
"You get back what you put in, there's no hiding from it and I find that rewarding.
"If it was easy everyone could do it. You need to be disciplined and stick to it - it's something of a lifestyle.
"That's the case for a lot of sports, but between the training and dieting it's with you the whole time.
"It's the challenge of it all and seeing the results that is the most rewarding.”
Pickwell juggled his competition prep with teaching responsibilities for 10 weeks, before taking long service leave in order to better focus on peaking for the World Championships.
"Being a primary school teacher and working with kids, I was aware I couldn't let what I was doing affect my work,” Pickwell said.
"I don't think I could have been teaching (during those four weeks). I was fortunate to be able to take long service leave when I did.
"That's another reason why I don't compete year in and year out, but it just so happened the window opened up for me to do so this year.”
Having spent almost half his life in the gym, Pickwell admitted to being occasionally frustrated with the nonchalance of people pointing and claiming his physique is the result of drug use and not hard work.
"I've been training for over 20 years, and yet people always like to say, 'oh, he must be using something',” Pickwell said.
"Sometimes you take it as a compliment, since you must be looking pretty good for someone to say that, but it's also a bit insulting because I've put a lot of time and effort in over the years.
"People seem to think there's some kind of magic bullet, but there isn't.
"From the outside looking in, people don't realise there's no easy way of doing things. It doesn't just suddenly happen, but an accumulation of the work you put in.”
Now he has reached the pinnacle of amateur bodybuilding, Pickwell was awarded a pro card for winning his Performance class in Cyprus.
He then stood on stage as part of the professional circuit, where he placed fifth overall.
But the school teacher has no desire to utilise the pro card, admitting age might finally be starting to catch up with him.
"I haven't got anything in mind for the near future,” Pickwell said.
"I'll always continue to train because I enjoy it, but I'm 45 now so the with the body and mounting injuries and things it will be good to have a break.”
Pickwell's attention will now turn to an entirely different sport, ahead of the Queensland Schoolboys Under12 rugby league championships.
Having coached Met West to four state titles in his tenure, and a Queensland Invitational side to third at this year's national championships, he is relishing the opportunity.
"I played a little bit of league as a kid, but I had a swimming background originally and coached swimming a fair bit at first,” Pickwell said.
"But when I started teaching it was hard to fit everything in.
"I got involved with junior rep footy and got a taste for it. I've been coaching schoolboy rugby league now for a good 16 or 17 years.”
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