A downpour Saturday morning followed by strong, gusty winds by midday were no match for unusually strong men and women competing in Central Georgia’s Strongest Man competition.
The eighth annual event took place in the parking lot of the Home Depot on Presidential Parkway in Macon. A total of 77 people entered to compete for trophies and to attempt to qualify to move on to the national strongman competition in Detroit in June.
Greg and Nicole Fields, of Macon, have been organizing the event since 2010. The couple not only compete in strongman events themselves, but they “also mentor others to help grow the sport,” Nicole Fields said.
“Between the two of us, we’ve been competing over 10 years,” she said.
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The event attracted competitors from all over Georgia, “a handful from Middle Georgia” and from other states such as North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas, Fields said. More than 100 people attended the competition.
“Having 77 competitors is a huge event,” she said.
I would love to continue competing in strongman. It would be cool.
Heather Gonzales, cancer survivor
It was the first time Gordon Grimm, of Perry, had competed in a strongman event. He’s a fitness trainer at Edge Fitness at S. Houston Lake Road and Ga. 96. Weighing 185 pounds, he was entered in the novice light-weight division.
“I’m just out here to have a little bit of fun,” Grimm said, adding that he wasn’t trying to qualify for the national event. “But I try hard at everything I do. I won’t do something if I don’t think I can at least be competitive in it.”
The veins showed on his neck and arm muscles as he strained to lift the back of a car off the ground in the car dead lift event. Each contestant had to pick up the rear of a car using the handles of a metal contraption the car was parked on, stand up with elbows straight and put the car back down on the ground for each lift.
Grimm lifted the car eight times.
“I would guess it was about 500 pounds,” he said. “I mean, I lifted a car.”
Drew Sanders, 22, who flew in from Canton, Ohio, won the car dead lift in the light-weight novice division with 22 lifts. His brother, who lives in Warner Robins, and his father were there to cheer him through it.
“I wanted to compete because I like working out, and all my friends told me that I could be strongman, so I said ‘all right, I’ll give it a shot,’ ” he said. “I want to compete one day in the world’s strongest man. I’d like the title. ... So that’s why I started doing it. But I’ve got a long way to go.”
When he weighed in Friday for the contest, he weighed 212, said Sanders, wearing a yellow shirt with “Macho Man” on the front.
“But, now I don’t know. I ate a lot of food (after the weigh-in Friday),” he said, laughing.
Three different cars were used in different classes, depending on the weight division. The cars were donated by Butler Automotive, Fields said.
The majority of the competitors were men, but about 12 women also entered the event. The contest is sanctioned with United States Strongman Inc., and membership in that organization is required to compete.
Heather Gonzales, an elementary school art teacher from Statesboro, was a crowd favorite. On May 13, 2015, she learned she had breast cancer, she went through chemotherapy and finished radiation treatments a little more than a month ago.
By early afternoon she had placed third in the car dead lift with seven lifts and she tied for first in the women log press division for the heavy-weight novice class.
“I’ve been cross-fit training for three years now,” she said. “I like the heavy weights, so this was definitely something I always wanted to do.”
When she learned she had cancer, she was shocked.
“I was like there is no way possible because I was literally the leanest; I was the strongest, physically, I had ever been in my whole life,” she said. “And they were giving me this news. It was hard to swallow.”
Gonzales did six rounds of chemo and had 30 radiation treatments.
As she was going through her treatment, she set a goal to compete in the strongman event, “to kind of force me to get back in it,” she said. “I would love to continue competing in strongman. It would be cool. ... I want to do this again, absolutely.”