Gary the strongman

Gary has lived in Somerset all his life. He has cerebral palsy which affects his balance and co-ordination. As a child he was a big fan of strongman competitions and aspired to get involved.

I have been a fan since I was 6 and I said to my Nan one day I want to be a strongman

At 16 Gary started to train with weights at his local leisure centre, an activity he really enjoyed.

I always wanted to test myself and I don’t see my disability getting in the way of this. The only limits are the ones that you put on yourself. Everyone has the ability to contribute

Gary became part of the GB powerlifting team and did weight training, but his interest was always in strongman. During this time Gary met Arnar Mar Jonson and 4 times World Strongest Man Magnus Ver Magnusson, who told him about their support for disabled strongmen in Iceland. Gary formed the idea to bringing Disabled Strongman to the UK.

I asked to visit. They invited me to compete as the first UK Disabled Strongman in the world competition in 2011. I got an idea of how they did it and what was needed. I built relationships with the organisers and started a conversation about how to bring it to the UK

Gary and Britain’s Disabled Strongman Competition

But there was no provision for disabled strongman in the UK.

There was no support, equipment or awareness of disabled strongman in the UK. Being part of the Iceland strongman scene, it was fantastic – the camaraderie, competition, it’s hard, its heavy, it tests you physically, mentally and emotionally

In 2015 Gary set up a Facebook group and 10 athletes said they were interested in competing in a UK event. Buoyed by the positive response Gary decided to act.

I got calling friends, family and local businesses. In 2015 we set up the first UK Disabled Strongman Competition, which was held at Stoke on Trent. It was a massive success with the guys from Iceland coming over to referee. Since then there have been 5 championships

As well as the founder and promoter of Britain’s Disabled Strongman Competition Gary is a coach and mentor for athletes with a disability in the UK and delivers promotional and motivational talks in schools, universities and colleges.

I made it my mission to raise awareness and create provision in the UK and create a platform where other people with disabilities can have the same opportunity as me

What helped?

Gary believes that having a strong drive and clear mindset is clear to his success. He has gained a great deal of support from his family, friends and local community.

Being a Chard boy there was lots of local support, sponsorship and encouragement. The mayor gave us the hall for free. We had generous sponsors and people generally wanted to help. We had a lot of local builders who helped load, unload and set up the venues, we had local gym (Phoenix Fitness) that donate space and equipment. It was a real team effort

Gary gained inspiration, help and support from Arnar Mar Jonson the founder of the Worlds Disabled Strongest Man. This has given him confidence, encouragement and motivation.

Challenges

A big challenge for Gary is raising sponsorship to cover the cost of hosting the national event.

The local events are more successful as we could leverage relationships, favours and community spirit to make it happen

Achievements and impact

From small beginnings the event has grown both in size and impact and has gained a national and international reputation

In 2015 we had 10 male athletes. We now have over 20 male and female athletes and our event is now the official qualifier for the World’s Strongest Disabled Man Competition. The last event in Chard was a sell out with over 350 people attending in the local Town Hall. It has put both disabled strongman and Chard on the map

There has also been a huge impact on Gary personally and on other disabled people who are inspired by his story.

Strongman and lifting is my life. It has given me a platform to compete and share my passion for Strongman. It has also allowed me to tell my story and show people that it doesn’t matter if you have an impairment or not you can achieve things. It has enabled me to leave a legacy

The future

Gary plans to develop the Disabled Strongman Competition in the UK and use it to forge connections and inspire other disabled people.

I want to see Disabled Strongman Competitions in front of 10,000 people and on TV. I want to give people the confidence to try out strongman. We now have disabled strongmen across the UK, and we have a growing community of athletes who are training and spreading the word. Generally, I want people to follow their passions like I have