From the very early age of 4 years I was always impressed with strongmen, and actually went to a school fancy dress party at age 5, dressed as Atlas. My mother had made me a 50lb. replica weight from a “Vitabrits” packet, painted a curly moustache on me, and sent me on my way. I actually “felt” strong dressed like the legend “Atlas”.
David Berry 5 years of age David Berry Over 50 years
These thoughts stayed with me till I was 16 and went to join a weight lifting club in Townsville, with the burning desire to compete in the Olympic Games. Well! What a disappointment. Here I was told I was too long and skinny to be a good Olympic weight lifter, and that I should go away and try some Bodybuilding for a few years to see if my resemblance to a stick insect could be minimised.
I didn’t have any money, so I managed to get hold of some scrap steel discs and a bar and started training at home, learning all I could from the American bodybuilding magazines, only because there were no Australian Mags produced back in the early 1960’s.
Steve Reeves was a legend back then, and when I saw him as Hercules in a movie, with his huge arms destroying the pillars of a Roman Coliseum, he fuelled my enthusiasm.
I was active in the sporting arena, with Surf Life Saving Clubs, and athletics, and used my home gym to try and gain some muscle. I married the love of my life, Gioia Tate at aged 21 and struggled somewhat, to fit in training with trying to earn enough money to buy a home and raise a family of three sons. I became so frustrated with the pressures of work and the lack of training, I started again when I was 27 years old, but this was short lived as I had taken on a State Management Role for a large American Company based in Brisbane. This was a high pressure job, and I could see it was affecting most aspects of my life.
At age 35 I saw the light and decided to give it all away and buy my own Gym (Archers Gym in Brisbane). I figured this would at least afford me the opportunity to train when I wanted to, and learn more about nutrition, and go and watch some bodybuilding competitions, never dreaming that one day I might step on the stage myself. My wife Gioia and I ran the Gym together, and I guess I encouraged her to compete first, just to see how it all went. Gioia has the distinction of competing in the very first Ms. Australia Bodybuilding competition in Australia in 1979. She placed 4th at aged 40, and won the Encouragement award from a field of 20 other girls whose average age, was no more than the number of girls in the competition.
After 4 years of some of the hardest training I have ever done, I entered my first comp, The Novice Mr. Queensland. I was fortunate enough to win this division from 18 other competitors. In the same year I traveled to Sydney and placed second in the Novice Mr. Australia (interestingly enough, my son Greg, who eventually worked with me in Archers Gym on the Gold Coast for 12 years, was able to duplicate my effort, some 19 years later, winning the Novice Queensland, and placing second in the Australia).
The taste of competition fired my boilers enormously, and I could not wait to compete again. By this time I was in my 40’s, so the Masters Categories offered the most opportunities for me. It was disappointing that I was not able to train as hard, (and with the knowledge I had developed) as a young person. I am sure I could have attained even better results, had I the opportunity.
David Over 40 years
I managed to win the Over 40’s Masters Queensland and Australia the following year. I enjoyed competing, and won both of these titles another 3 times each before I turned 50.
I continued running my Gym and competing throughout my 50’s, winning the over 50yr. Masters Category, Queensland and Australia, twice. I suppose the real highlight of this decade of my bodybuilding career, was to travel to Greece for the First Natural Mr. Olympia. My boyhood memories of Steve Reeves came flooding back, and I had visions of having my photo taken as a bodybuilder, amongst the ruins of some ancient coliseum. How good would it feel to emulate my Movie Hero, my career in pumping iron would now be complete.
I still find it hard to believe I actually returned with the Gold Medal, and my photograph. I still smile when I look back on my preparations for this comp, doing posing practice in the lounge room copied by my grandson Jayden 6yrs at the time, and Grand Daughter Jemma, (aged 4 yrs.),working so hard to pull off a double bicep pose or a most muscular. Only a bodybuilding parent would appreciate the effort and the imitation.
In the year 2000 I assisted with the running of the Natural Competitions in Queensland, helping develop the interest in Natural Body Building in this State, starting with 50 competitors. Within 4 years we had attained 143 competitors for our State Titles, a big effort, a lot of work, but all so very worth while.
In 2003 I placed 1st in the Australia Masters over 60 years, and third in the Natural Mr. Olympia in New Zealand.
David Over 60 years
I have competed many times with the ANB and really enjoy the camaraderie found amongst the ranks of both the officials and competitors alike.
At my most recent comp with the ANB in Brisbane, I placed third in the Masters over 50 yrs., in the 2006 Queensland Titles. The younger blokes proved a little tough for the old work horse. I reckon I still train as hard as I ever did, and still have good strength levels, but coming to terms with a few aches, not quite so much fullness, and skin that does not fit as well as it used to, rests poorly, within my enthusiasm, however, I enjoy the involvement with this sport more than ever.
I have had the privilege, of assisting more than 500 competitive bodybuilders over my 28 year career in this industry, as a Gym Owner and Personal Trainer; some of the guys winning Mr. Queensland, Mr. Australia, and Mr. Universe, and some of the Girls winning Ms. Olympia Bodybuilding, Ms. Olympia Figure, Ms. Queensland and Ms.
Australia in both these categories. It was so pleasing to see, one of my good friends and colleagues, “Debbie Taylor” also graces the Champions’ pages of the ANB.
I hope to stay involved with this sport till the end. I would like to become the first person in Australia to have won the over 40yr., the over 50yr. the over 60yr, and the over 70yr. Masters Australia Title. I guess time will tell.
Bodybuilding has helped me keep my approach to life, young and enthusiastic. I continue to enjoy my training with my friends and clients. Bodybuilding is a sport defined by effort and attitude. It is a timeless venture knowing no bounds, and bringing like minded athletes together seeking personal improvement.
My competition stats blur a little, but the tally is around 65 competitions,- about 30 first places, quite a few seconds, a lot of thirds, and a whole heap, from 4th down to last. I have no doubt Bodybuilding set the direction, and has played a major role in my life, - all for the better.
I have either met, trained with, dined with or rubbed shoulders with some of the greatest bodybuilders over the past quarter century including, Reg Park, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Serge Nubret, Frank Zane, Tom Platz, The Mentzer Brothers, Shawn Ray, Albert Beckles, Chris Dickerson, Lee Haney to name just a few. Most of these names may not mean a lot to our younger generation, but when I was starting out these guys were legends.
I have seen the transformation of popular physiques from “big and smooth” to “lean hard and ripped”, and progressively to the very huge, lean hard and ripped look attained by massive amounts of you know what. I felt disappointed when a similar trend found its way into the women’s Bodybuilding arena. I recall what a “good sort” I thought Rachel Mc Lish was, when she won her first Ms. Olympia, and how appealing her physique was, and now when I see the Professional Ms. Olympia, I sometimes wonder why they even bother to separate the women’s divisions from the men, they look so much alike.
The introduction of “Figure” and “Body Shaping” divisions for the women was long overdue in arriving, and was seen as an opportunity to allow the women to revert back to the look of the early Bodybuilders, (like Rachel Mc Lish,) shapely, defined and not overly muscular.
The best thing, I believe that ever happened to Australian Body Building, was the formation of the Natural Body Building Associations. This afforded athletes a level playing field for those not wanting to get involved with drugs, and still able to achieve their goals of a State or National Title, without detriment to their health.
Robert Powell , of the ANB, stand tall in my esteem as men who genuinely wanted to further Natural Bodybuilding opportunities for so many young people in this Country and certainly the older ones too. Over so many years of his untiring input into Natural Competitions, they have earned the respect they so richly deservePlease visit Dave's commercial website, he is still working, however you might not guess what he is doing, so please take a look!