A Wigan woman who only took up bodybuilding two years ago has flexed her way all to a world title in Rome.
As recently as 2016 Katherine Hayes was content to watch muscle-bound husband Mark strut his stuff on the stage.
But his enforced retirement due to Crohn’s disease and her encouraging dad Graham Marsh’s death more recently spurred her on to take up the sport herself - and the results have been remarkable.
Just back from Italy she is now the newly crowned International Bodybuilding and Fitness Association fitness category champion of the world.
The 39-year-old, who has lived in Marsh Green all of her life, says that her enthusiasm to succeed in bodybuilding is in large part a tribute to her late father Graham Marsh, who died in
April following liver failure caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Mrs Hayes, who came second in her first show after moving up to the athletic category in The World Fitness Federation in 2017, said: “I had started my diet for the season in January and it was not long after that he took ill, and I was due to compete in May.
“My dad always told me to never quit, and that if you wanted to do something, then with the right mental attitude and determination you can do it.
“I had previously lost my mum some years ago so my dad was my best friend, so I decided to carry on with preparation in memory of him.”
What followed was a series of first place finishes in prestigious competitions hosted by the IBFA.
The first of these was in the “Mr Liverpool” show in May this year, where Mrs Hayes took first place for “trained figure and best presentation”, which then qualified her for the British finals in June.
It was here where Mrs Hayes claimed the crown for the overall ladies class, ahead of people who have been in the bodybuilding business for “years and years”.
From British finals came her Roman glory.
She said: “I’m not lying when I say I felt like I was out of my league. When I won at the worlds I was completely overwhelmed, but went in with the right attitude and used all the experience I had.
“The aim now is to see how I progress, gain some more weight and size, and hopefully progress further!”
Mrs Hayes train, just like many others, at her local Xercise4Less gym, but with a particularly rigorous and intensive training programme.
She said: “It’s a very strict lifestyle, even off season – which it is now – is very strict because you need to get more calories in for next year.
“I personally love the challenge, and just give it a good go.
“I’ve been with my coach Jayne Tingle since day one, and she and my husband have helped me massively.”