Any IFBB Pro League athlete will tell you that it's a privilege to be able to take the stage at a competition and show off the months of hard work that you've put into developing your physique. The average time it takes to prepare for a competition is three months - all for three minutes of glory in front of fans and judges. Whether they win or lose, they then walk off the stage and start the process over, or they try to take advantage of other opportunities that lie ahead. Diana Schnaidt is one of these professionals.
Schnaidt has been a professional since 2014. She originally started in the Figure division but had since moved to the Women's Physique division. She considers the competitions she enters to be the highlights of her year.
"It is something different. The feeling is something between a heart attack and extreme happiness," she said. "Every time I get up there I feel like I'm preparing to fly." Continuous gains with pain
By early 2022, Schnaidt had a plan for where she would compete during the season, and she hoped that would be the year she finally made the move to the Olympia. However, the year did not start on the right foot, to say the least.
"I'm not sure what happened, but in January I started to feel pain in my left foot," Schnaidt said. "I had a limp for about a month and found it wasn't getting better."
Schnaidt went to the doctor, and an X-ray showed that she had broken a bone in her foot. She was given a boot to wear for five weeks and the doctor advised her not to exercise during that time to allow it to heal. However, Schnaidt knew her competitive season was approaching and she wanted to showcase the best physique possible. So she continued to train her legs, including lunges and squats. (It's worth noting that Schnaidt can squat up to 395 pounds for reps.)
"A few days I would wear the boot, then a few days I would do everything," she admitted. As a result, she sustained another fracture in her foot, and the doctor ordered the boot to be worn for another five weeks. This time she listened and one of the bones healed. Unfortunately not the other one.
w Schnaidt had to make a decision. She had already missed the New York Pro and Toronto Pro contests that she wanted to compete in. The Chicago Pro, one of Schnaidt's favorite contests, takes place over the weekend of July 22-23. Schnaidt had wanted to win this contest for a number of years, and there was also an Olympic qualification.
"It would mean the world to me. That would be my dream come true.”
More stress, this time from several continents away
This dream has driven her all year so far. While struggling with the physical effects of the injury, the Ukrainian athlete, now based in New York, faced another adversity - the Ukraine-Russia crisis that began in early 2022. Diana Schnaidt has family both in Ukraine and in Russia They are torn about the war. Several family members including her parents, sister, sister's husband and nephew are all in Ukraine trying to stay safe as the fight for their homeland continues. She reported that they are currently unable to leave Ukraine for another country.
"I tried to talk to them every day to see how they were doing," she explained. “They are all very tired and exhausted. Unfortunately, it doesn't get any better there."
Meanwhile, her aunt and other relatives are in Russia watching news and updates broadcast in that country. Because of this, they have a completely different perspective.
“From their point of view, the Russians are saving the people of Ukraine from something that doesn't exist. So there was a quarrel between them. Because of all of that, it drained me mentally, physically and emotionally," Schnaidt said. Needing a way to take her mind off the war and the resulting family feud, Schnaidt decided to focus on preparation and competing in Chicago.
"w I feel like my body is ready, I'm ready," she said. As the struggle to train with her injuries continues, she feels that training has served a much higher purpose for her.
“Going to the gym was my therapy. Strength training has proven to be a therapy for me. It takes my mind to a better place.”
Diana Schnaidt finds ways to adapt
She reported that despite the injury, her upper body training never changed, and while she can't squat or lunge, she's found ways to train her legs with cable and machine work. Regardless of how she has to train, nothing is stopping her from taking the stage for this show. She has competed at the Chicago Pro every year since 2016. Her best finish came in 2017 when she placed second behind Autumn Swansen. One of the reasons she goes all-in is the competition itself.
“I just love this show. It's one of the biggest of the season and you see all these great athletes on this stage.”
One reason she likes it so much is how promoter Tim Gardner looks after the athletes and runs the show himself.
“Tim Gardner shows, Wings of Strength shows, they definitely treat all the athletes very well. That's why this and the Tampa Pro are two of my favorite shows,” said the eighth-year competitor. What sets Diana Schnaidt apart the most is that she's able to compete against a number of great competitors.
"Some athletes prefer to do smaller shows so they can win, but if there are fewer competitors, it's not a real competition," she explained. "Of course everyone wants to win, but when you compete against strong athletes, you feel like you're really competing."
She will grant her wish when she graces the stage in Illinois. Fourteen Women's Physique athletes from nine states and one competitor from China will pose alongside Schnaidt while pursuing the same goal as her - to win and reach the Olympics. In her eyes, that would be a result of personal and international greatness.
"It would make me very, very happy and proud. I would feel like I won not only for myself but also for Ukraine and my family that is there.”