By Michael Nsubuga
Former International Natural Bodybuilding Association (INBA) Mr. Universe and five-time Uganda Bodybuilding Champion Ivan Byekwaso, who, in 2018, was wrongly pronounced dead after he had relocated to Germany, is back in the country.
Six years ago, he flew out to compete in the 2016 INBA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, having won the INBA World Cup and Natural Universe crowns in 2015 in the US.
But it was during that time that he had fallen out with his sponsor, Jack Pemba of Pemba Sports Africa, over financial issues and was struggling to make ends meet in Uganda.
When an opportunity for him to pursue green pastures came, he took it with both hands.
He now returns not with the gold medal he had intended to add to his world titles, but with a happy family, including in-laws of Kazakhstan descent, having tied the knot with his wife in Viktoria. They have a one-year-and-seven-month-old daughter, Maria Byekwaso.
“Everything is fine with me and I would like to thank God for enabling my return. I’m happy and strong with my family,” Byekwaso said at Entebbe International Airport on Sunday, July 31.
“I have returned home because there is no place like home. No one has chased me away from here. I met my wife in Germany and after exchanging a few pleasantries, the rest became history as what started as a friendship has blossomed into a marriage; Germany is a beautiful country too.
“But whatever we do, we should involve God because he has power over everything and I would like to thank Brother Ronnie Makabai of ETM Church who enabled me to travel to Europe.
“I went as a competitor and had resumed training and competing for Germany before I was imprisoned. But the good thing is, the truth came out, but the outbreak of COVID-19 put all plans on a halt and I decided to give it a break. I have since moved on,” Byekwaso stated.
“My return has also allowed my new family members to visit Africa for the first time because they had a different perspective about the continent and now have a different experience,” Byekwaso noted.
About the lady that framed him for his imprisonment in Germany, around the time he was wrongly pronounced dead, Byekwaso said he had since forgiven her and moved on.
“I have never been dead. It was just unfounded gossip. I had just been imprisoned over fabricated rape charges from another woman, but I thank God and the German police that found out the truth and I regained my freedom. I forgave her and put that on the side, and embarked on a new life; that is why I have a happy family right now. We are happily married and I’m now well off unlike when I was struggling back then in Uganda,” Byekwaso stated.
Asked about what attracted her to Byekwaso, Viktoria Bechtold, his wife, said it wasn’t about his physique and muscles, but that he found good attributes in him.
“I love Ivan. He is a good person, he looked very good, with good character and was speaking well. I wasn’t attracted by his muscles,” Viktoria noted.
In Germany, Byekwaso regards Harry and Claudia Klus’ family as his foster parents and who helped him settle in the country. He met them in church and they liked him and also supported him during the time he was jailed.
He rose to more fame when he won the INBA World Cup and Natural Universe crowns in 2015 in the US. But the victory came with only bragging rights that left him yearning for opportunities that would also bring some food to the table. Pemba took him places before the two parted ways in 2016.