By Sarah McCaffrey
It was one of the hottest days on record for an Easter Sunday (22°C/71.6°F) and the stage was set for Chippenham’s Strongest 2019. Thirty-two male and female athletes competed in four categories over five events throughout the day with head referee Ryan England overseeing the proceedings. The competition was part of a larger family event taking place at a local sports club (Chippenham Sports Club) and I was lucky enough to not only watch the event but compete as guest lifter which gave me the opportunity to speak to not only spectators but other athletes as well.
The events included:
Image credits: Emma Kennedy, Joel Lee-Masey, Pippa Steans, others TBC
Event One: Farmers Walk into Duck Walk, 15 metres each implement.
Women U75’s: Farmers 50kg each hand Duck 80kg
Women Opens: Farmers 75kg each hand Duck 100kg
Men Open Novice : Farmers 100kg each hand Duck 130kg
Men Inters: Farmers 130kg each hand Duck 160kgEvent Two: Overhead Medley
Event Two: Overhead Medley. Log, Keg, Axle, Olympic Bar
Women U75’s: 40kg, 30kg, 35kg, 45kg
Women Opens: 50kg, 40kg, 45kg, 55kg
Men Open Novice: 70kg, 60kg, 80kg, 90kg
Men Inters: 120kg, 90kg, 110kg, 100kg
Event Three: Yoke, 20 metres straight run
Women U75’s: 140kg
Women Opens: 180kg
Men Open Novice: 250kg
Men Inters: 340kg
Event Four: Harnessed Vehicle Pull
Women U75’s: 10.2 tonne lorry with rope
Women Opens: 10.2 tonne lorry without rope
Men Open Novice: 10.2 tonne lorry with rope
Men Inters: 10.2 tonne lorry without rope
Event Five: Stone over 4ft bar for reps.
Women U75’s: 60kg
Women Opens: 70kg
Men Open Novice: 100kg
Men Inters: 125kg
Athlete, spectator and competiton overview
Parking: Yes but need to get there very early as spaces fill up very quickly
Athlete Specific Area: Yes. Two gazebos were erected to allow the athletes shelter from the sun and a place to go to get changed etc.
Strongman Equipment: One of the yoke frames was a little small but there were two so it meant that that event could go head to head.
Warm up area: No specific warm up area, kit that wasn’t being used for an event was available for competitors to warm up on.
Awards and Gear: T-shirt for all competitors. Trophies for top 3 placings in all categories and a trophy for stand out athlete of the day.
Toilets: They were in the sports club building a two minute walk away and I didn't have to queue.
Photographer: Yes. Image 5 Photography (Free fantastic quality images) *Please tag photographer in all images used to help promote his business)
Stalls and promotions: Active Potential Therapy was on site for most of the day. As this was part of a larger event other stalls including food and children’s rides were available a little further away from the competition arena
Spectators Info: FREE. Lots of room to view the events and space to bring seating
A chat with organiser
Kelly was one of the organisers and also competed in the Opens category on the day. She was very friendly and supportive of all the athletes throughout the competition and was nice enough to answer a few of my questions.
Why did you organise the event?
I started training with Dave Walsh and his gang before Wiltshire’s Strongest 2018 Dave is the organiser of Chippenham and Wiltshire’s Strongest, he suffers with MS and found the last comp to much so I offered to organise Chippenham’s for him and he did the scoring on the day. I got into this sport by chance, I got randomly beat up in a nightclub so went to a small personal gym to get my confidence back and I was introduced to it there. I then met Dave at some training events he held and this is where I found out he was one of the doorman at the time that actually pulled the women off me! I can’t thank those women enough now, I’m now part of this amazing sport and community. My husband is the chairman of the sports club so we combined it with their annual family day. I feel it was a massive success for both events and they both complimented each other.
How did the day go?
I had I think about 45 competitors sign up and some dropped out due to injury so on the day there was about 35. I tried to pick events that are exciting and a good crowd pleaser. I feel they all went down well especially the truck pull.
Is there anything you would change about the day?
I don’t think I would have changed anything about the day. I think it was all a learning curve and from the feedback I’ve had they want more! I would however change how things were leading up to the event! Take time off work!
The highlights of the day for you?
My personal highlight of the day was going head to head with Emma Kennedy, she is an amazingly strong and motivating lady. I’ve competed and trained with her and know how fast her feet go so to keep up with her was such a highlight although I reckon if it had been on a hard surface she would of left me for dust! The whole day was a massive high, seeing men and women competing for the first time, seeing them step up to the next category was amazing to watch, then seeing how supportive everyone one to each other again was fantastic and made it all worthwhile.
Is it hard to compete and run an event at the same time?
If I was to organise it again I would definitely take Emma’s advice and not compete as it’s so stressful. I had all the right people in the right places but there was still stresses on the day and my husband who was trying to organise and shout at the same time really could of done with me doing more that side. I competed because it was my home town and at the club where we spend most summers so wanted to show my friends what I do.
What was your favourite event?
All the events at Chippenham’s are my favourite apart from duck walk which is why I picked them, I’m a big fan of the atlas stones as for me they are a classic strongman/woman event.
How would you like to see the sport develop?
I would like more women to understand the massive benefits this sport has to your body and soul, it’s not about getting manly muscles. I feel it should be more accessible and I think the women at the top need more recognition. The women at top of this sport put so much into it and most are mums trying to train be a mum, wife, friend and work at the same time. More prize money would help make the sacrifice worthwhile.
What is you training background?
I have spent most of my life being overweight, I suffer with PCOS and when I was younger didn’t really understand it so made poor food choices and now suffer the consequences of the life long battle. I got into strongwoman about three years ago but only dipped my toe in as I was building up strength to do an obstacle race. Once that was over I needed a focus so booked my first comp. training wise I don’t really follow a plan but know I really need to if I want to get better. I’m trying to find the time to train at least three times a week but being a working mum and wife can be tricky. My youngest starts school in September so I’m planning on stepping up my training and start working to a plan so I can better myself for next year’s England qualifiers ( I came last this year). I am taking in so much information from people I’m meeting along the way and seeing what works best for me. I train with a good friend Katie Campbell who also fixes me when my body doesn’t like what I do. It’s so important to have someone like this in your life when doing this sport or any as she allows me to maintain my body to get the best out of it.
The organisation of the event was excellent and any issues on the day were resolved quickly with the helpers and loaders being brilliant, very efficient and encouraging to everyone. Ryan England was a great referee and extremely helpful to the athletes often giving tips during the events if you were struggling with a particular lift.
A few things stood out on the day with one thing in particular that the truck pull had caught peoples imagination. One spectator I spoke to mentioned that it had got a lot of people’s minds 'ticking over' with regards to inspiring others to give the sport a try. Watching ordinary men and women pull a truck is frickin awesome and if that doesn’t make you want to go out and hit the gym I don’t know what will. Truck pulls and events where spectators can easily relate the weight to a heavy object really helps to get them excited and promote the sport and Chippenham's Strongest 2019 managed to do this really well.
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