Premchand Degra aka India’s Arnold Schwarzenegger is an inspiration for people who want to pursue bodybuilding as a sport in India. His hard work earned him success and respect during his career in the sport. In spite of all the shortcomings in the personal life, Degra went onto achieve his dream in bodybuilding and was the poster boy of Indian bodybuilding.
The legend of Indian bodybuilding changed the face of the sport in India by bagging the title of Mr Universe in the year 1989 making him the third Indian to capture the title. His life has not been easy as you would expect as he had to struggle his way to glory.
Born in the small village of Babri Nangal that lies in Gurdaspur in Punjab, he faced a struggle at a very young age. Premchand was only 5 years old when he lost his father and his mother was solely taking care of 5 children. In spite of all these the trouble, he muscled his way in the international bodybuilding arena.
He started out as a wrestler, but soon switched to bodybuilding and started winning titles which included Mr Punjab, Mr North India, and Mr India which he won 9 times in a row. After his success in India, he went onto build name for himself on the international stage securing the title of Mr Asia in Middle-weight Class at Karachi in 1983, he repeated the feat at Seoul in 1984.
After his success in Middle-weight Class, he switched over to Light Heavy-weight Class. Switching the weight category did not affect his performance as he bagged Mr Asia contest crown for three years running starting with Colombo in 1985, Taipei in 1986 and Malaysia in 1987.
Degra moment of glory came in 1988 when he won the Gold in Middle-Weight class and was crowned Mr Universe at Queensland in Australia. Degra turned professional in 1989 and the same year participated in Mr Olympia contest where he finished 16th in the competition
His achievements on stage earned him more accolades as he was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1986 and the Padmashri award in 1990. He is the only bodybuilder to have received the highest civilian awards. In 2003, he received IFBB Achievement Medal for winning Mr Universe in 1988.
Premchand, who is currently 60 years of age, continues to inspire the youth with his legacy. ALong with his two sons, he runs two world class gyms in Gurdaspur – Punjab by the name World 88 Gym where he guides the aspiring bodybuilders with all his experience and expertise.