There is a lot that I want to say and I may not say it all in the correct order, so bear with me.
First, I came into this competition to get my feet wet again. Just to get back out on the field and get rid of the nerves that I've built up over not competing in 8 years, since retirement. I planned on making mistakes and getting as many of them out of the way HERE before heading off to World's Strongest Man - Masters in December in North Carolina, USA.
Second, I know fully that I am not where or what I used to be in the strength world. I have ran chemotherapy for 3 years now and continue to do so. I will continue to do so as it keeps me alive more than it kills me.
Third, My goal was to win Cyprus Strongest Man. This contest was designed for "Locals ONLY" and when they decided to super secretly sneak in a Weightlifting World Champion from Russia who has since switched to Strongman...my goal had nothing to do with him. This contest was about my country, Cyprus, and us coming together as athletes.
Fourth, there are some seriously amazing athletes here in Cyprus and the future of Strongman in Cyprus is HUGE! I can not express how impressed that I was with their performance, their attitude, and the fact that Strongman brings EVERYONE together. Each and every one of these athletes have a future in the sport IF THEY WANT IT! I could walk away from the sport and know that they can pick up where I've left off and they can take it very far if they choose.
Fifth, I can not thank everyone enough who never gave up on me through my last many years of health issues. Nobody...NOBODY has been there for me each and every single day like my wife has. Not a single soul. She never questioned my sanity, she never told me to quit, she never told me it was too dangerous even when she knew that it was. This is the woman that even on my worst days of Chemotherapy would drive me to the gym, leave me there alone where I would only have enough energy to change into my gym clothes and just "smell the gym and get chalk on my hands" then she would help me change back into my normal clothes when she returned to pick me up at the gym 2 hours later and drive me home as I would puke out of the car window from chemotherapy.
Sixth, my son, Steven, deserves a lot of credit. He has never fully understood all that I've gone through but he has always know WHEN to give his Dad a hug.
Seventh, if you have helped me along my way, YOU KNOW IT and you know that I love and appreciate you. Yes, you. Very few people have been with me all the way. So if you were with me all of the way and you were a part of this, you don't need me to say THANK YOU, you know it.
I got really lucky and stumbled across a couple of new training partners at just the right time. They committed to making me better and sticking by me. Strangers that became friends. Lawrence and Ilya and myself were in constant contact about training, food, and everything that we as lifters talk about on a daily basis. The weeks leading up to the show we sent taunting photos non-stop to each other of the food that we ate, how much we slept and that each of us were working harder than the other to become better, FASTER. If you think that this doesn't help in becoming better, you are wrong. Chris and Kostas also traveled to train with me and pushed me when they didn't have to in order to make me stronger. My friend that everyone just knows as Assy (last name in Greek) made sure that I had every vitamin, protein powder, carb powder, amino acid, etc that I could possibly need.
All of that said...
The first event of the day was Super Yoke. I knew that this event would be a good one for me but I was concerned because they kept making it lighter. It was supposed to be 300 kg (660 lbs) for 20 meters. I would have preferred that it be in the 350/770 range so it would either slow everyone else down or they wouldn't move it at all but that does not make for a fun show to watch. I heard rumors that they lightened it even more just before we went out to make our runs but I'm not sure if they did or by how much. Either way, I took off like a speed demon and went about 15 feet past the finish line just to be sure. I got really lucky and got paired in a lane next to a new great friend George who was freaking lightning fast on The Yoke! Having someone fast next to you makes all of the difference on an event like this. I walked away with an event win on this.
Car Deadlift. They said that this event would be heavy and I had some bad hamstring cramping (it bruised the day after) after the super yoke. I knew that if I pushed hard on the car deadlift that I could win the event BUT I could also tear my hamstring off and this would put me in a position where I could not go into Day 2 and WSM-Masters would be over as well. I pulled 14 reps which I thought would give me enough points to still stay in the lead for Cyprus Strongest Man but on the score sheets I only got credit for 13 reps. The referee took away one of my reps. Yes, I complained to him just enough to make him nervous and then went on to explain to him that he had to stand up for his calls because HIS CALLS ARE THE ONLY CALLS THAT MATTER! I took 5th place on this event, needed 4th for the safety points, but I played the smart game.
I went home after Day 1 and 2 events with 2 events to go Tied for First for Cyprus Strongest Man and Tied for 2nd Overall. Yes, I was a little nervous so I spent the entire evening hydrating, eating, wrapping my hamstring, going through e-stim for hours, and it seemed that my body didn't enjoy me skipping chemo this past week so I ran my IV line at home and prayed for the best. I had began bruising all through my arms, elbows, and hips like a severe bruise so I had to put a stop to it quickly and take my health into concerns first.
Day 2 I woke up and the jitters were GONE! I was fired up and feeling pretty solid. My hamstring hurt but it was JUST LOG AND POWER STAIRS and I had a plan. I knew which athletes that I needed to keep an eye out for. I knew who could give me a run on log press and I knew who could give me a run on power stairs if they were light enough so I used my 17 years of experience in Strongman to play the smartest game that I could.
Log Press. Every athlete lined up in a straight line and we all started at 105 kg (230 lbs). If you make it, you move on. If you miss it, you get out of line. I was the first lifter to make the weight. Next up was 115/254 and several of us made this weight as well. I hoped that the next weight 125/275 would change all of that and it did. My buddy Voudas came really REALLY close to nailing it (he will soon) after I did it and then I passed on any further attempts. No reason to risk any injury with one event to go and placing as high as I needed to place.
The final event, Power Stairs. This event had some people troubled because they had to use normal giant sized bumper plates for the weights and not smaller more narrow plates like we had practiced. For the shorter athletes this was nearly an impossibility BUT they also barely had to break the deadlift frame off of the floor to get a rep where I had to pull it a doggone mile! I watched the others go before me as I was in the final run and I knew that all that I had to do to win was to load both implements (140/308 and 160/362) and the win was mine. I took my time, no rushing, slow and methodical for 2nd place in Cyprus and 3rd overall in this event putting me well into the top spot for Cyprus Strongest Man.
At age 40, 12 years older than the other athletes, after 8 years of retirement and 3 years of chemotherapy, I'd finally come back! I'd done it in front of my friends, my family, and the country of Cyprus had represented itself with PRIDE!
As they announced the winners and everyone was making their ways down off of the top of the power stairs implement...I saw one little boy who had jumped the fence that held back the audience from the athletes and climbed up to the top of the stairs. It was my oldest son, Steven. He came to give his Dad a hug. His Dad needed a hug and he was proud enough to do it in front of several thousand people as tears rolled down our faces. I remember hugging him and saying "We did it, son. We did it." That same little boy that doesn't care when I bark in the gym or beat my head against a squat bar till blood runs down my face...later sat down at a coffee shop with me and ate most of my ice cream, asked to borrow my phone, then went to GOOGLE and I saw him searching "Who is Cyprus Strongest Man?".
It was an amazing day and I can't say enough about how proud that I am of my new friends.
Pictured here is me with Georgios. If he decides to be a great strongman, you will see big things from him in the future.
The man in the front here is someone that didn't get the credit that he deserved this past weekend. Simply known as "Voudas" he earned 3rd Place Cyprus Strongest Man and he should be proud!
So...Monday morning came and I did I wake up and become a super star? See myself on the news? Were reporters standing at my door to take my statement?
No. It was back to Trophy Husband duties. Life begins all over again it didn't take very long before I had a house filled with hungry boys that couldn't wait for Dad to sit down at the table before starting lunch. World's Strongest Man - Masters 2017 begins today.
You're a great man who deserves great things, so proud of you!!
Strength isnt about trophies, or where you stand on a podium, strength is what gets you out of bed, and picks up your boys and plays with them, takes you to the gym and runs round the beach, strength holds Nefi close, and strength takes another dose of chemo because those are the very best things in the world for you to be doing.
Strength is every you time you act, and build those actions regardless of how you feel inside and do that work anyway, and the friendship you give when you are emotionally burnt yourself.
Congratulations on your return to the Strongman Podium, to the showcase and the light "as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." (Marianne Williamson)
Thank you, and congratulations!