Britain’s Strongest Disabled Man 2021: Biggleswade strong man who was told he might never walk again takes the crown
'I would say never give up!'
Tony Butcher, 42, competed at the games in Chard, Somerset, and was declared the winner after four tough challenges.
The strong man suffered a broken neck when he was the victim of an assault in 2008, which means that he can move the right side of his body, but can't feel it, while he has partial paralysis on his left side.
He now wants to inspire other disabled residents to achieve their dreams and for people to 'think positive' if an obstacle comes their way.
Tony, who trains in Elite Physique, Sandy, said: "I was quite excited; it's the third time that I've won it.
"During the games, I'm collating where I'm at, but I convince myself that I'm not doing well. If you think you're winning, you start to sit back a bit, but if you go 'I'm losing', then you try even more.
"I put my story on Facebook, and someone else said he had a spinal injury, and that I had given him a little bit of hope. I want to help inspire people with disabilities."
The games were founded in 1991 by Magnus Magnusson and Arnar Mar Jonsson, and originally held in Iceland.
There are now both individual country and international games, with Tony having come second in Norway (2018), second in Iceland (2017) and third in Germany (2017).
He was also the champion of England's Strongest Disabled Man in 2018, and claimed the 'Britain's Strongest' title in 2018 and 2019.
This year, to win the trophy, determined Tony had to lift dumbbells, logs, and natural stones, as well as lift a 280kilo weight whilst sat on a bench - which he managed 16 times!
Tony laughed: "It's not my favourite event, I'm just good at it!"
However, the sportsman has travelled down a long road to reach his goals, after suffering two accidents when he was younger.
In 2003 he nearly lost his life in a car accident and just five years later he was assaulted and left with a broken neck.
After being transferred from Southend Hospital to Queen's Hospital, Essex (where he was living at the time), Tony was sent to Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, which specialises in spinal injuries.
Tony said: "I was told the chances of me walking again were slim and that I needed to come to terms with that.
"But I'm a very stubborn person, and I said 'I'm not going to stand down, you know that, right?'"
He added: "For years I had so much anger for the person [who attacked me]. For about six or seven years it had built up in me. But I thought, I can't carry all this negative energy around inside, no one wants to be around me.
"In my heart I forgave him and decided to take all the positives. There are a hell of a lot more positives in my life than then.
"Until you hit rock bottom, you don't realise how fortunate you are."
Tony has since gone from strength to strength - (or should we say to international titles!) and discharged himself from Stoke Mandeville after six months.
He'd regularly been receiving physio and also acquired a love from the gym, describing it as a way of life.
The sportsman went on to compete as the Paralympic powerlifter from 2012 - 2014, before retiring and turning his head to the strongman games.
Tony, who now lives in the Biggleswade area, is also a proud father to a little boy, aged one year and seven months old.
Tony added: "I would say never give up! It took me 13 years to get where I am. It didn't happen overnight, so never give up.
"You're not the person you used to be but you don't know what's round the corner. There's a reason in life for everything."
He is now hoping to compete in the Arnold Sports Festival UK this weekend at the NEC, Birmingham, which celebrates health fitness and nutrition.
Tony would like to say a special thank you to Magnus Magnusson and Arnar Mar Jonsson, as well as to Eddie Hall, Martin Tye, and Beckie Ingram for organising this year’s Arnold’s Sports Festival.