What does it take to be a World's Strongest Man contender?

By Craig Anderson
BBC Scotland

Media caption,
Tom Stoltman says strongman training has helped him deal with autism

Tom Stoltman is one of the world's best junior Strongman event athletes and he has his sights set on winning the sport's coveted World's Strongest Man title. Achieving that dream involves dedication to a tough routine, and for Tom controlling autism.

Since he was a boy, 23-year-old Tom, from Invergordon in Easter Ross, has been sports daft.

"Growing up it was football, football, football," he says.

"I would miss school to play football, and a I love watching football."

His passion for the game, along with support from his parents, wider family and also from others while he was at school, have helped him overcome the effects of autism.

"I was diagnosed when I was four or five years old. When I was 13 or 14 I would not go outside the house by myself or travel by myself.

"People who have autism are really shy and don't talk.

"My parents used to think that I would be at home until I was 40 and never get a girlfriend and never get married."

But he adds: "Sport is one of thing that has given me confidence.

"Being an athlete has made me who I am today. I got married when I was 21, I went to Africa to compete in the World's Strongest Man and I can talk in front of cameras."

Five things on Tom Stoltman

Image caption,
Tom and BBC Scotland reporter Craig Anderson
  • Also known on the Strongman circuit by his nickname, The Albatross
  • 6ft 6in (198cm) tall
  • Weighs 155kg (342lbs)
  • Requires size 18 shoes
  • He says his build means he is best suited to the Atlas Stones event. It involves lifting and carrying over a distance five stones which increase in weight from 100kg to 160kg

Tom was encouraged to take up weight training by his older brother and Scotland's Strongest Man title holder, Luke, aka The Highland Oak.

"Luke took me to the gym at 17 for a wee play," says Tom. "I was not really interested because of my interest in football.

"But then I went to my first competition at 18, a Scotland's Strongest Man qualifier, and I came fifth. I got the bug then.

"I thought 'this is the sport for me' and since then I have been training and stepping up my game.

"It is like an addiction. You step into the gym and it is like a playground and you are like a wee kid."

Tom has gone on to compete and also win places at Scottish and UK championships.

In September, he hopes to leave the junior ranks on a high by winning the World Juniors in Canada.

He says: "If I win that I would be the first Scottish guy to win a world title in strength sports in something like 40 years."

Earlier this year, Tom was at the World Strongest Man contest in Botswana.

"Being in Africa and standing beside my idols, people I had watched on TV, I was like a kid in a candy shop. I was just in awe," he says.

"Within the next five years I want to be on top of that podium."

But what does it take to have a chance of winning the world's most prized Strongman title?

"Gym, gym, gym," says Tom.

"I don't really have a social life. Seven days a week I am in the gym. I could go out and party all weekend but it would cost my potential."

"Also, mentally you have to be strong," says Tom, who credits a strict diet, advice from Luke and also a coach with helping him to prepare for competitions.

"You can be as physically strong as you want, but it is not having the mental side of the gym and the recovery that costs a lot of young guys."

Tom adds that he also finds it important to have fun.

"It is not just about lifting dumbbells. The Strongman is an all-round game.

"Your body has to adapt to flipping tyres and pulling lorries and pulling planes and being able to lift weights that people think would never be imaginable.

"I go to competitions to have fun."

All images by BBC Scotland.

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