Disabled man lifting weights

“The best way to challenge people’s attitudes by is getting out and doing things” – Gary Clarke

Britain’s Disabled Strongman competition returns this year and promises to be bigger and better than its successful launch in 2015. In this guest blog, organiser and strongman competitor Gary Clarke, who has cerebral palsy and is a support worker, talks about changing attitudes through action.

It’s a great year for disability sport. We’ve had the Invictus Games and the Rio Paralympics are later this summer. In the middle is Britain’s Disabled Strongman competition this Saturday (28 May).

In 2015, I fulfilled a long-time ambition of mine to set up a disabled strongman competition in the UK.  I’ve wanted to organise an event like this since taking part in my first competition back in 2011.

It’s a killer event that culminates with the atlas stone – lifting weights of up to 90kg between oil drums – which is a huge demonstration of strength and courage. I love that it all came from my determination to bring the games to the UK. That makes me very proud.

Disabled strongman preparing to lift the atlas stone
Competitor preparing to lift Atlas stone

Spirit of the Paralympics

I always look forward to watching the Paralympics. The strongman competition is very fresh and raw right now, but I think it’s on par with the Paralympics. The determination these guys have and the willpower to win – it’s the same spirit as the Paralympians. They’re doing it for the sheer enjoyment and thrill of winning.

Setting up the strongman competition is the best thing I’ve ever done to change attitudes and get people to think positively about disability.

People are going to take a step back and think wow; this guy is pulling a four tonne truck and lifting an atlas stone. How many people would think disabled people would be capable of doing that? The best way to challenge people attitudes is by getting out and doing things.

There are no limits, no excuses

I think some disabled people end up believing they can’t do things because that’s what they’ve been told. This competition proves that disabled people can do these very physical challenges and that events can be adapted.

The more people who tell me I can’t do something, the more determined I am to do it. Bringing disabled strongman to the UK was one of those things and I feel really privileged to have done it.

My inspiration is Arnar Már Jónsson, who started the disabled strongman movement in Iceland, where it has been running for 15 years. He was a pioneer and has made all subsequent events possible.

For this year’s competition on Saturday, we have double the number of competitors with 21 disabled athletes taking part in six events, and we’re expecting hundreds of spectators.  Last year we only had a seated class to include wheelchair users. We’ve added a standing class so that people with different impairments can compete on a more level playing field. We’re also lucky to be holding the event at the Strongman Sanctuary in Kent, where the whole team has been hugely supportive.

  • Britain’s Disabled Strongman competition is taking place at the Strongman Sanctuary in Kent on Saturday (23 May) from 10.30. Visit the event Facebook page for more information.