Don’t look at a map. It won’t tell you the whole story. Florida and Haiti don’t seem very far apart—a relatively short plane trip, that’s it. But there’s one major difference—among a few others, of course—between Haiti and the United States: politics. In the States, we elect a president and know he’ll be in office for at least four years, maybe eight. In Haiti, not so much. Leadership comes and goes unexpectedly, and when a coup d’état (a government overthrow) occurs, its negative effects trickle down to all Haitians.
Just ask IFBB Pro League athlete Al Auguste, who was born in Leogane, Haiti, and lived in Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital, until age 14, when his family moved to Florida. “It’s like a bad neighborhood in any city here in the United States,” Auguste says, referring to the environment he grew up in. “We could never have an established power, a person in office for a long period of time. It’s like, walk in the door and the next thing you know, they’re out the door. There were a lot of disturbances due to the political unrest. And when something like that happens, it forces schools to close. Sometimes, I would miss school for a couple months. Thank God I had a strong family. We were able to manage without being involved in bad situations where we could possibly lose our lives. My mother kept a close watch on me and my brothers and sisters. We didn’t have it easy, but we were able to survive.”
That’s an understatement. The 35-year-old Auguste, the youngest of five children, is doing more than surviving. He’s thriving as a start doing it, it doesn’t take long to start seeing results.”
Upon graduating from St. Joseph’s with a degree in education, Auguste moved back to Orlando and worked as a teacher and substitute coordinator in a public school district for five years while also coaching soccer. All the while, he continued to lift, never seriously considering a competitive bodybuilding career. “And then one day, I was at the gym and a gentleman approached me and told me I should start doing bodybuilding. So I took him up on the challenge. And I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Maybe it helped that he’d grown up in Haiti, where life can be tough and overcoming adversity is a requirement for those seeking success.
It didn’t take long for Auguste’s physique to get noticed. In 2001, he placed first in the middleweight class at the NPC Central Florida, then fifth at the Southeastern USA. He continued to finish high in regional shows and competed in his first NPC Nationals competition in ’05, finishing seventh in the welterweight class. In the years that followed, he was close, but not close enough, to reaching his goal of being an IFBB pro. From ’07 to ’09, he placed runner-up three times in contests with a pro card on the line (twice at the Nationals and once at the USA, all in the light-heavyweight division).
But Auguste never wavered. He hit the weights even harder and finally, in 2010, earned his pro card at the USA after winning the light-heavyweight division. And while some have been known to reach their goal and subsequently relax and enjoy the accomplishment, Auguste’s work ethic only increased.
“Whatever place I come in—first or last—I’m always hungry for more,” Auguste says. “That drives me. If you’re in first place, someone’s going to be gunning to knock you off the pedestal. And if you’re last, you have to train harder to prove to the judges that you deserve to be on the same stage as the guys that finished first, second, and third. Regardless of where I place, I’m always going to keep training hard.”
This attitude helped him start off his rookie year with a bang. Auguste won his pro debut, the 2011 IFBB Pro Bodybuilding Weekly 202, which qualified him for the Olympia 202 Showdown this past September, where he placed a disappointing ninth. “In my opinion, I think I should have placed higher,” Auguste adds. “But competing in my first Showdown, it was very unlikely that I was going to get the nod and be top five. I accepted it, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy with it.”
Auguste is determined to climb the ranks of the IFBB and someday reach his ultimate goal of winning an Olympia 212 title (the division increased the weight limit following the 2011 Olympia). But it won’t be easy, especially considering his current occupation. Having left the education field in his mid-20s (“Because I was so disgusted by the way the school system was run here in the state of Florida,” he says) and not yet making enough money as a bodybuilder to pay the bills, Auguste currently drives a delivery truck full time for a tire company in Orlando. His workday starts at seven every morning, and goes until at least five in the evening, sometimes later. When preparing for a contest, he does cardio in the morning before work, then goes back to the gym to lift in the evening after his shift.
“It’s certainly difficult,” Auguste explains. “Working out early in the morning, getting ready for work, then going on the road and doing a route and coming back home to get ready to go to the gym—it definitely takes a toll on the body, but that’s what I have to do to support myself right now. It’s tough, but I manage.” How long can he keep this up? How long can he maintain loading and unloading tires off a truck all day, five days a week, while also training and dieting at a level that he hopes will make him the best bodybuilder in the world under 212 pounds?
“I’ll go as far as my body takes me,” Auguste says. “Who knows, I could be 50 years old and still competing, or in the next five years I could be done. As long as my body can handle the dieting and training, I’m still going to be competing.” Makes perfect sense. Al Auguste has come too far to stop now.