The battle for the soul of bodybuilding has raged for decades. It pits those who want to impress with aesthetics versus those who want to shock with freakishness. The conflict heated up in the ’90s when classicists like Shawn Ray and Flex Wheeler unsuccessfully battled modernist Dorian Yates. Some can combine the best of both factions: sculptor and monster. But more often bodybuilders and fans have to choose sides. Put Henri-Pierre Ano squarely on Team Aesthetics. The 2013 Canadian Nationals champ vows to maintain his slim middle and pleasing lines as he continues fleshing out his tall frame.
Ano was rooting for Team Aesthetics before he ever hoisted a barbell. “The first time I saw a bodybuilder was the winter of 1991 or ’92 [when he was 10 or 11]. We stopped at a little general store, and I saw a muscle magazine. On the cover was Shawn Ray. I asked my mom to buy the magazine for me, and she did. The first thing I did when I got home was cut out a picture of my face and stick it on Shawn Ray’s body, because I said, ‘I want to be like that,’” he remembers with a laugh. “After that, Shawn Ray and Flex Wheeler were my favorites. I always liked those physiques that were really aesthetic.”
Ano was born in Montreal, Canada, on Oct. 15, 1981, the son of a father from Ivory Coast and a native Québécois mother. Both parents were high school art teachers, which likely influenced Ano’s eye for physical harmony. He was proficient at drawing and painting when he was a kid, but he later gave up the pen and brush for a hockey stick. “Being in Canada, my main sport was hockey,” he says. “I played junior league, but I dropped out when it was apparent I wouldn’t make it to the NHL.” He switched to basketball in high school and then played for a small college team.
As part of his basketball conditioning, he started lifting weights. “There was a little gym at school. We didn’t know what we were doing, but I noticed serious changes [to my body] right away. Teachers and others accused me of using steroids, but I wasn’t using anything.” Still, despite his proficiency for gaining muscle and his early Shawn Ray fandom, it never occurred to him then that he could be a bodybuilder. It wasn’t until 2008, when Ano was 27, that he began truly lifting. Through his telecommunications job, he received a trial three-month membership to Pro Gym in Montreal.
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