CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — He trained for two years and shelled out more than $600 out of his own pocket for the privilege of competing in Sunday’s Marine Corps Community Services Okinawa Far East Bodybuilding Competition.

In the end, John Wayne Johnson of Kunsan Air Base walked out of the Butler Theater with a third-place finish in the men’s lightweight division, and a bronze statue emblematic of same.

Was it worth it? “Definitely,” Johnson said.

The 28-year-old staff sergeant assigned to Kunsan’s 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron has spent the better part of the last couple of years making sacrifices, watching his diet and hitting the weight room, but he had not actually entered a competition until Sunday.

He wanted to compete in a bodybuilding event slated in July at Kadena Air Base, near Camp Foster, “but that was canceled because not enough people entered,” Johnson recalled.

“So they put me in touch with the MCCS people here,” Johnson said, referring to MCCS Semper Fit Athletics, which has sponsored the Far East event since 1996. He requested and was granted permissive temporary duty from his unit.

“They were very supportive of me,” Johnson said. “But I had to take care of the flight and accommodations.”

That meant buying round-trip passage between Seoul’s Inchon International Airport and Okinawa’s Naha International Airport, costing around $500. He was able to stay at Kadena’s Shogun Inn, at $24.50 a night, for five days; he returned to South Korea on Monday.

On Sunday, Johnson took to the stage with four other men’s lightweight entrants. Some among the packed house of spectators later said it was the “most competitive” of the five men’s weight categories.

While not the most muscular of the five, Johnson displayed perhaps the best showmanship, flashing a perpetual smile as he flexed and posed.

In the end, Johnson finished behind two Japanese competitors, but he didn’t sound too disappointed with the outcome and said he was ready to keep training for more competitions down the road.

“I consider this a steppingstone for the future,” Johnson said.

All told, 34 people, mostly Japanese and American troops stationed on Okinawa, entered the competition, with six of the eight weight categories won by Japanese. Navy Lt. Monique Gourdine-Shaw was voted the women’s overall winner by the panel of eight judges.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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