Teenager Marnie Al-Saraf is aiming to turn a tragedy into triumph.
The 19-year-old was one of a group of Harton Sixth Form College pupils on a trip to Tanzania last year when 18-year-old Jack Burden tragically died from a severe allergic reaction.
Since then, Marnie, of Westoe Village, South Shields, says she has been inspired to follow her goals and live every moment.
That new attitude led her into bodybuilding and Marnie came third at the UK Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation (UKBFF) North East qualifier in May and was invited to compete in the UKBFF British finals last weekend.
She didn’t place but said the experience of being there has spurred her on even more.
Marnie, who is starting a personal training course at Gateshead College in November, said: “After what happened in Tanzania, it just pushed me to follow my goals and made me think that, if I was going to do something, I’d give it 100%.
Every time something is hard or I think I can’t do something, I think about what we all went through then, and if we could get through that, then we can get through anything.Marnie Al-Saraf
“It’s really hard work but this is my lifestyle now.
“Every time something is hard or I think I can’t do something, I think about what we all went through then. If we could get through that, we can get through anything.”
Marnie now she trains twice a day at Powerhouse Gym in South Shields, spurred on by trainer Adrian Hanlon.
She said: “After sixth form, I went to university in London and couldn’t even afford to join a gym. I decided it wasn’t for me and moved back home.
“As soon as I was back, I joined Lifestyle Fitness in South Shields and started going back to the gym. I saw something online about the Miss Olympia bodybuilding contest and saw pictures of all the bikini girls and knew I wanted to do it.
“I came third in my first competition and usually it’s just the winner who is invited to the finals, but they invited the top three this time.
“It was such an amazing experience to be there and felt so good to make it after working so hard.”