Published: 13:37, 07 November 2021
| Updated: 12:51, 09 November 2021
When Royal Highland Fusilier Mac McLaren was injured in the line of duty, it would have been easy to just give up.
But that's not Mac's way, and now the disabled army veteran is heading to the World's Strongest Disabled Man competition in Iceland after only one year in the sport, and has already been named in the top three strongest disabled men in Britain and broken a world record. He credits a gym in Gravesend for his success.
Mac beating the world record for seated atlas stones
Originally from Glasgow, The Royal Highland Fusiliers veteran moved down to the South East six years ago and found a "family" at Bulks Gym.
It was there he discovered the sport after seeing a poster for Strongman Sundays and joined "on a whim" after asking if the centre would be able to take on a disabled athlete.
The 44-year-old was injured in Iraq in 2003. He was running for cover out on the ground when his right leg rotated the wrong way.
He was medically discharged from the army in 2005 as his leg never fully recovered and he was left with immense neuro pain. Mac is hoping to have his leg amputated because of the pain to "get rid of dead wood."
Jay Hughes, owner of Bulks Gym and formerly one of Europe's strongest men, told Mac he had never trained a disabled strongman but was keen to give it a go, adapting and researching the facilities and training to accommodate his needs.
Mac said: "It kind of took off from there. It was great fun and I got hooked on it. It is quite weird how everything has happened in such a short time."
In the space of a year, Mac - who recently moved to Maidstone Road, Wigmore, from Crayford - has come second at the Britain’s Strongest Disabled Man 2021 competition in Somerset which he said was "so nerve-racking" due to the large crowds and the fact this was his first proper competition.
He then went on to be named second at the Disabled Strongman at The UK’s first Arnold's Sports festival 2021 in Birmingham and set a new world record in the seated atlas stones - which are like large boulders - where he lifted 110kg.
The disabled strongman competitions include the same events as the non-disabled contests but are adapted for the athletes abilities. For example the dead lift from standing is done while seated.
He said: "It is quite diverse. It has come on leaps and bounds. It is great to have a community that is just so open to new people coming in. It is so inspirational to watch."
Mac has credited the competition for being "so inclusive" as they have different categories depending on the competitors ability. Mac competes in the neuro-disorder category.
While competing, the Scottish chap wears a kilt and has dyed his hair to represent the British and Scottish flags in order to stand out.
Although he only became a strongman athlete in the last year, Mac trains at Bulks Gym four days a week and plays wheelchair rugby on Sundays.
He credits Emmy Hughes, owner of Bulks Gym and former World Champion powerlifter, alongside Jay for his achievements.
Mac said: "I would not be here without them. They have been so supportive. They have dropped everything to sort out my disable needs. They have just been super supportive.
"There is nothing they will not do for you. They will sit down and think about it and change the machines.
"It is great to have someone. That kind of support is priceless. They are a family."
But it is not just the staff at the centre that support Mac but also his partner Clare Price, 44, who he has dubbed the stronger woman behind the strongman.
Mac will be jetting off to Reykjavik, Iceland, on November 13 and 14 to compete at the World's Strongest Disabled Man.
Bulks gym in Dering Way, Gravesend, is open Monday to Friday, 6am-10pm, Saturday 9am-6pm and Sunday 9am-4pm.