“People don’t take me seriously any more as a coach the second they realize my disability.” Marco Pietrowski, a professional fitness model and personal trainer, was involved in a car crash in 2013 that left his C3 and C4 vertebrae in his neck dislocated, and fractured his C5.
“On 9 December 2013, I was in a motor vehicle accident as a front seat passenger, my neck got dislocated and was fractured below the dislocation, due to such a complicated injury, I am now medically diagnosed as an Incomplete Quadriplegic. I was a personal trainer and lifestyle coach before my accident, after my accident, I wanted to get back into it but the gyms that I applied at had rejected me – which was due to a misunderstanding about my disability.”
Pietrowski was in the shape of his life after winning a South African bodybuilding title and earning Professional status, but all that changed in an instant.
“In 2008, I had begun competing as a Fitness Model winning my first two shows and had received my Pro Status. In 2013, I competed in WBFF (World Beauty Fitness and Fashion) and was announced the very first Pro Fitness athlete in South Africa. As a coach, I am proud to say that I have opened doors and created champions, from Juniors right up until Seniors/Masters and now the disabled.”
One of those para-athletes that Pietrowski will be training is wheelchair body builder Macethandile “Max” Kulati who recently took part in the IBBF World Cup at the Emerald Resort and Casino in Vanderbijlpark, where he won second place.
“I have chosen Max because I completely understand what he is going through, physically, mentally and emotionally. When I came across his profile on social media, I had goosebumps because I can see the determination and passion in his eyes, the look of a champion. I then knew that I had to contact Max and offer him my assistance.
“If there are any corporate companies that would like to assist Max in reaching his dream, please reach out to him, whether it may be financial assistance, supplement sponsor or food donations, every single contribution will help Max not only reach his personal goal, but it would make life a bit easier whilst raising three children as a single father.”
Kulati needed assistance to get to Gauteng to live out his dream of making a mark in the body building World Cup, and now he has a coach who not only understands disability but body building as well and together they will be working on making sure Kulati brings back something from the 2022 IBFF World Championship in Koper, Slovenia, that they are training for.
“I will be passing on my years of experience and knowledge onto Max, he has a massive show next year in Slovenia, which we will start preparing for. I cannot reach my dream of going overseas due to physical limitations, but I will help others who are able to reach that dream. I, too, have a coach who is a Wheelchair Olympian who lives in Italy and placed 2nd at this year’s Mr Olympia Wheelchair Bodybuilding Division, I will be guiding Max in the right direction as a Wheelchair Bodybuilder.”
Para-body building isn’t as big in South Africa as it is overseas due to lack of access to a lot of gyms and instructors who are afraid to assist disabled people or don’t have the know how.
“There is not enough development when it comes to disabled athletes due to lack of knowledge and understanding, I am hoping to change that by showing the public how incredibly powerful people with disabilities really are.”
Pietrowski coaches Kulati for free but hopes to make a living from it again.
“I am unemployed with no financial support whatsoever, I have my own website with the services that I provide, but I haven’t been receiving any income from it as yet. At the moment I am only training two people, Max and an able youngster with great potential who will be competing in Natural shows.”