Tag Archives: strongman

“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.


‘I feel like a gladiator’ – disabled strongman competitor Gary Clarke

A guest post by Gary Clarke, who has cerebral palsy and is a support worker for people with learning difficulties. He is holding the UK’s first Disabled Strongman Competition in Stoke on Trent this weekend. 

Since taking part in my first strongman competition back in 2011, I’ve had ambitions to set up a Britain’s strongest disabled man competition.

This Saturday (29 July) my dream is set to become reality as 10 disabled competitors take part in Britain’s Disabled Strongman 2015 in Stoke on Trent.

I’ve always wanted to bring the event to the UK. 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.

The movement is growing worldwide now with competitions being held in America, Hungary and of course the UK this year.

The UK event consists of:
• The truck pull – stationed at the top of a hill in a harnessed down wheelchair competitors have to pull a 4×4 up the hill
• The Hercules hold – holding 80kg in each hand on a pulley system, you have to hold on as long as you can.
• The crucifix hold – 7.5kg sledgehammers held in each hand for the maximum time possible
• The giant dumbbell press
• Atlas stones ranging from 40 to 90kg in weight have to be transferred between oil drums
• A log lift of 75kg on an incline bench

At the moment all the disabled athletes compete together, but eventually I’d like to implement standing and sitting categories.

We’ve got about 100 spectators due to come along on Saturday and we’re expecting more on the day. There’s always a great atmosphere at these events, the athletes are really supportive of each other and the audience really gets behind the competitors. Everyone spurs each other on. Everyone understands how difficult it is.

I feel like a gladiator

Disabled strongman competitor Gary Clarke
Disabled strongman competitor Gary Clarke

It’s been a long time in the planning, but I always knew it would happen. You’ve got to make things happen, just because it hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean you can’t be the first to do it.

I’m not sure what appeals so much about strongman competitions, but I’ve always loved them. I’ve 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.”

It’s just quite a bizarre concept and I’m quite eccentric. I think everyone involved is a bit mad. It’s not a sport for people who want to sit indoors. It’s a real do-er, warrior-type sport. I feel like a gladiator!

I’ve competed in five World’s Strongest Disabled Man events in Iceland. They’re great events and I push myself further in what I can achieve each year. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet Magnus ver Magnusson – the four-time winner of the World’s Strongest Man competition and strongman icon.

There is definitely an aspect of challenging attitudes to disability. We are doing these competitions to a high standard; there is nothing light about them. It’s about pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved.

My hope is that the UK competition will be annual event and that it continues to grow.

Gary is supporting Scope’s fitness fundraising challenge Steptember. Participants are challenged to take at least 10,000 steps a day for the month of September. A huge range of activities, including swimming, cycling, wheeling and weight-lifting, can be converted into ‘steps’ via the event website. There still time to sign up on the Steptember website and get active while raising money for a great cause.