Mike Smith is over the moon after being accepted into professional body building ranks after serving a six-year 'apprenticeship' competing in nearly 30 amateur shows.
The 42-year-old Team Trainstation representative won his category at the NABBA WFF Pro Show in Auckland at the weekend to clinch his pro card - exceeding expectations in what was only his second pro show appearance.
"It was such an emotional experience when the WFF international president came on stage offering me my pro card which I graciously accepted," Smith told the Courier.
"I was all the more blown away when he offered me funding to compete in shows in either Mexico, Kuwait or Singapore.
"My preparation for the WFF Pro Show got off to the worst possible start when my father Ray passed away recently. Winning in Auckland was the best moment. I let everyone in attendance know through my pro acceptance speech that I was dedicating my win and pro card it to my late father."
Smith said his emotions ran wild as he was watched and cheered on by his partner Amanda Stuart in the front row, along with a huge group of supporters who had travelled up from TA and many others from the body building community who have been by his side throughout his career.
"Amanda has been a tower of strength in a supporting role. She works as hard as I do to get me on stage.
"The moment was surreal and still is. I'm still pinching myself being a professional body builder."
Later that night, seven hours after he had competed, Smith accepted an invitation to return to the stage and compete in the pro line-up.
He did not place but pushed his rival competitors hard, looking the part. Experienced Australian Mel Jamie won.
The pro am show in Auckland was once again a huge success attracting teams India, Australia and Singapore, along with the best Kiwis.
"It was a day I will never forget," says Smith.
Smith is now restricted to competing in WFF Pro shows throughout the world, although he can still compete in the NABBA open weighted divisions which he will be doing on September 16 in Wellington.
Te Awamutu's Westend Autos offset some of the expense he incurred competing in the Queen City.
Smith was backing up from winning the Mr NABBA Nelson bodybuilding title.
"I wanted to be put out of my comfort zone in Nelson competing in the non-weighted NABBA section which is generally for the bigger boys that I don't have to deal with in the WFF weighted categories."
His decision paid off big-time.
He not only won the 40s division but went on to win the overall title to be named Mr NABBA Nelson.
Smith is building an enviable record in Sunny Nelson.
Last year he won Mr WFF Nelson.
For the remainder of the season, Team Trainstation will be known as Team Ray Smith.