Gary Clarke, who has cerebral palsy and is a support worker for people with learning difficulties, is competing in the World’s Strongest Disabled Man Competition.
In 2011 I was euphoric to hear from a friend on Facebook that there was a World’s Strongest Disabled Man competition. Having been a fan of strongman since the days of Geoff Capes and Jón Páll Sigmarsson. I can still hear cries of “I am a Viking” to this day.
I remember saying to my grandmother at the time “one day I’ll be doing this”.
I heard there was a local strongman training camp and trained there for a few years until it closed in 2014. Under the watchful eye of Phil Diamond, I entered various strongman competitions. My first demonstration was in 2011 where I took part in the Chase Charity Competition in Guildford, where I pulled a six ton truck, hand over hand, and lifted a car axle for repetitions.
I took part in another charity truck pull event along Paighton sea front, this event was truly spectacular. There were two choices of which truck to pull – a five ton tracker unit (the cab of a truck)or an 18 ton truck, I pulled the tracker unit twice with ease, the guy running the event said “I think that’s enough for you today.” To which I replied “you’re having a laugh mate I have come all this way I want to have a go at the 18 ton.”
I pulled the truck from start to finish, at the end of the pull the organizer said to me he’d never seen anything like that before in 20 years of Strongman. Bearing in mind I had never before attempted a truck pull of this sort I didn’t think it was a bad effort, also I was the only person to finish, and the only person there with a physical impairment. The crowd went wild and the atmosphere was electric, people were even stopping me in the street afterwards and congratulating me on the achievement.
I then flew out to Iceland to compete for the first time in the Worlds Strongest Disabled Man competition. The event consists of six events over two days:
- The truck pull – stationed at the top of a hill in a harnessed down wheelchair I had to pull a 4×4 up the hill, this was by far the toughest event of the competition.
- The log lift – 75kg on an incline bench for repetitions
- The Hercules hold – 80kg each hand on a pulley system, holding on for time , this felt like true torture !
- The loading race
- The crucifix hold – 10kg swords in each hand for maximum time
- The atlas stones ranging from 30-90kg in weight!
I was reasonably satisfied with my debut performance, considering I had not had much chance to practice specifically for the events at the time. I also got the opportunity to meet Magnus ver Magnusson the four time winner of the World’s Strongest Man competition, co-organizer of the event and Strongman icon. This experience was quite surreal as Magnus was somebody I had admired for years and suddenly I was being collected from the airport by him, brilliant!
2014 is my fourth time competing in the World’s Strongest Disabled Man competition
The build up this year has been unique because I have had the privilege to be coached by Laurence Shailai who has won Britain’s Strongest Man twice and competed in the World’s Strongest Man competitions. Laurence pushes me hard and gives me good solid advice on all the events and aspects and training, thanks Loz!
I am fortunate to be sponsored for the Iceland event by Impey Showers. Big thanks to them for their ongoing support.
I have high ambitions to start up a Britain’s Strongest Disabled Man competition next year.
I am living my dream, living proof that regardless of any impairment or disability you may have you can achieve anything you put your mind to. Who would have thought I would be able to pull an 18 ton truck 25 meters?
Watch this space for updates on how I do in Iceland, I will continue to push the boundaries on what I can achieve.