Friday, April 12, 2024

Scottish strongman Tom Stoltmann: 'Autism is a superpower' | Play


In unlike many other athletes this year strongest man in the world Competition, presented by two-time champion Tom Stoltmann as ineffective, almost indifferent, during the qualifying stages of the tournament. His rivals often seem eager to maximize their adrenaline in the lead-up to each event – ​​they punch the crowd, shout at the sky, have a training partner slap them on the back and so on. Stoltman, on the other hand, stares calmly into the middle distance, outwardly oblivious to the crowd and television cameras only a few feet away. Such measured behavior is a learned trait and in Stoltman’s view it is a competitive advantage.

“The first few years, I used to go crazy in qualifiers and jump up and down… I was showing more of my emotions, getting more aggressive, turning up to the crowd and stuff,” he says. This is no longer the case. “If I get really angry today, or if I get really overstimulated, it will drain me… [My] By the time the finals come, the tank will be empty… so I don’t really go out of first gear in the qualifiers.

Such acquired wisdom makes Stoltman the favorite to win this year’s competition, which began Wednesday and ends Sunday in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. If he does win, Stoltman will do more than just maintain the mantle of World’s Strongest Man – still young for his sport at 28 – he’ll put himself in rare company of the competition’s all-time Will take great. In the competition’s nearly 50-year history, only two other athletes have won three consecutive titles, and none in the past quarter century. Before such discussions could be taken seriously, however, Stoltmann first needed to qualify for this year’s finals and for a few hours during the group stages on Thursday, his bid for a three-peat was in jeopardy. I was in After the first five bouts, Stoltmann was on the verge of elimination … at least technically, It takes a moment to explain.

The World’s Strongest Man is a multi-discipline competition – picture something like a weightlifting decathlon. However, instead of using traditional weights, athletes pull large vehicles, carry 100 kg anvils, lift equally large logs, and perform many other unusual feats of strength. The first two days of the tournament serve as its qualifying stages, during which the initial field of 30 competitors is narrowed down to 10 finalists, who will compete in six events over the remaining two days of the tournament. In many ways, the process is comparable to “making the cut” in a golf tournament—it’s perhaps the only way in which Strongman is similar to golf.

The points system for the qualifying stages is too complex to explain here, but the key facts are: the tournament’s 30 competitors are divided into five groups and after the first handful of events, the top five individuals from each group automatically advance to the finals. reach in , However, the athletes who finish second and third in each group will compete head-to-head in a win-or-go-home challenge for one of the remaining five spots in the finals. Despite his status as defending champion, his group’s last-place finish at the final event meant that Stoltmann was forced to square off against American Bobby Thompson for a place in the final. Fortunately for Stoltmann, the deciding event is called the “Stone-Off” and one of Stoltmann’s nicknames is the King of Stones.

“I’ll put it this way – if Tom loses the stone-off, I’ll write a whole article about it Now He says Phil Blakeman, staff editor at BarBend, a website that regularly covers strongman events. “Really put Any of 29 other athletes against Tom [in a stone-off] And I will say the same.

The Stone-Off is one of Strongman’s more exciting events. The rules are simple: Competitors pass rapidly heavy boulders (known as ‘Atlas stones’) over a four-foot obstacle, until one of them is unable to do so. The first strongman to fail to lift the boulder over the hurdle is eliminated from the tournament, and the winner moves on to the finals. In her stonewalling against Johnson, it quickly becomes clear how Stoltman earned her nickname. It almost seems like he and Thompson are running two completely different shows. While Thompson skillfully, but with effort, heaves the stones barely above the barrier, Stoltmann lifts them with such ease that the stones appear to be in the air for a microsecond after each lift. Blakeman’s earlier confidence in Stoltman is understandable – it’s hard to imagine anyone would beat him in the event.

Tom Stoltmann competes in the Stone-Off. Photo: Channel 5

When speaking with The Guardian shortly after his victory over Thompson, Stoltman confirmed, “I’ve never lost a stone”. Dressed in a throwback Penny Hardaway basketball jersey and greeting acquaintances as he passes the hotel lobby, Stoltman looks relaxed after a long day of competition in the South Carolina sun.

“The group stage is, for me, the hardest part,” he says. “It was a very competitive field, which was cool to see. You know, you’re the strongest man in the world, you want the thirty best guys. You don’t want to just be able to get to the finals.

A native of Invergordon, Scotland, Stoltmann is many things, including one that is too big for a strongman. At 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m), 418 lbs (190 kg), if he had been born a thousand years earlier people might have assumed he was a true giant. So it is surprising to learn that Stoltman came to weightlifting relatively late in life.

“Going to the gym at 18, I was skinny… [I was] Never stronger than my teammates, Stoltman revealed. “I was just a normal guy. I played soccer, soccer—that’s what I wanted to be, a professional footballer… I hated the gym, I didn’t understand it.” Ten years later, the same skinny teen who once hated the gym is now the strongest man in the world. What happened?

Although he doesn’t say so explicitly, going to the gym seems to have saved Stoltman’s life. Stoltman is on the autism spectrum, which often made him feel isolated as a young man. “My teachers said you weren’t going to do anything with your life. I was being bullied… I couldn’t go to sleep at a friend’s house. I couldn’t get on the train 10 minutes from my house.” Will be able to go. I always have to have my mother everywhere. After leaving school, his troubles increased and started moving away from his friends.

“I was really depressed that I had autism … I was like ‘why is that? Me Who has it and my brothers and sisters don’t?’” Stoltman remembers. “I quit my soccer team because all my friends were gone and I had nowhere to go. I locked myself in my house, ‘well, I’m either going in [the social care system] Otherwise I will kill myself.’”

Stoltman credits going to the gym with changing his outlook on his condition, meaning that some characteristics of autism ultimately proved vital to his training. “Because I’m so visionary,” he says, “it’s a superpower”.

Stoltman’s transformation isn’t just the result of tunnel vision and reps, of course—it’s taken a decade of consistent training to transform his body. Stoltman consumed 10,000 calories a day and trained five days a week in the months leading up to World’s Strongest Man. (“Saturdays and Sundays are my downtime,” Stoltman says. “It took me a while to get that balance right.”) Still, Stoltman’s relationship with autism remains a key element in both his personal and professional life, and Worlds Since winning Strongest Man, he’s tried to make it an important feature of his public life as well.

“I’ve got this platform,” Stoltman says. “My biggest goal is to be an ambassador for people with autism and change the way people look at it. I’ve had five-year-olds, six-year-olds… even 40- or 50-year-olds telling me, ‘You have changed my life by calling me. [autism] As a superpower.’”

When asked how people unfamiliar with autism can best engage with the subject, Stoltman recommends empathic directness. “If you think somebody has autism, if you think somebody needs help, just [ask] Them. They’re not going to be offended by it, they’ll be grateful you asked that question…that’s all I’ve always wanted for myself.

It is tempting to compare Stoltman’s thoughtful advocacy with his impressive physical stature. To do so, however, is reductive – plus, the phrase “gentle giant” is too cliche to carry any real meaning. The truth is, it seems unlikely that Stoltman would be an obvious public face for those on the autism spectrum, regardless of his size.

Furthermore, speaking of his condition, Stoltmann also remains a battle-tested athlete to win his third consecutive World’s Strongest Man title on Sunday. “I am very, Very confident [heading into the finals]” he says. “It’s going to be a good fight, but I’m not giving up that title easily.”