A bodybuilder from Swindon is preparing for a prestigious international bodybuilding competition, after leaving the sport for 30 years.

Vernon Montgomery, 61, will be representing the UK in the Mr Universe bodybuilding competition in Venice later this year on Sunday, November 17.

The gym manager and former Mr Swindon and UK finalist was inspired to make his comeback to bodybuilding after a 30-year absence, when new categories were added to encourage older athletes to compete, and he had access to an empty gym to train during lockdown.

Last month, Vernon won the Mr World competition in Budapest, but he says the experience highlighted the significant changes to bodybuilding over the years, particularly the reliance on social media and documenting everything online.

He said: “My work is my passion and I love what I do. I trained for two years solidly on my own, going from being fat and happy to fit and firm and I came down from 16 stone to 12 stone.

"I decided to compete again and I did two warm-up shows to get the feeling of being back on stage again after being away for 30 years and came second twice.

“It was scary going back up there again and there is a new way that things are done. Also, there’s no audience anymore, it’s all for online and there are social media cameras out the front, so it’s more of a film set than a show people come to see.

“Everyone backstage is on their phone - selfies, videos, blogging/vlogging. I guess most are selling themselves to get likes and a fanbase up and I suppose most are personal trainers and online coaches, as followers is the new currency.

"I haven’t got Facebook or Instagram – I’m 61 years old and none of it makes sense to me.

“It’s more theatrical than it ever was and social media is driving the new model. More people want to be on it, hence bigger shows and more competitors. Social media is a great place to get your abs out or sell yourself as the person that everyone wants to be.

Vernon added: “Gyms are great for all ages and it’s never too late to start, when you work out regularly your diet naturally gets better through your own awareness, Swindon has some great gyms all offering great equipment you could never get from a home gym.”