A disabled mother of two believes her dead son was watching over her as she won a prestigious bodybuilding competition.
Alana Clark, 51, from Bristol, was born with cerebral palsy and has always had health problems. After a severe stroke at 36 she was left in a wheelchair and unable to speak.
Luckily she recovered her ability to walk and talk but she still needs a cane to get around.
Despite her physical disadvantages Alana has taken the bodybuilding world by storm after dedicating her training to her late son.
Tom, 19, died four years ago in a car crash and Alana threw herself into exercise to help her overcome her grief.
He is never far from Alana’s mind and she believes he was there as she was crowned the winner in a world championship bodybuilding competition.
‘He’s always in my eyes. He always says to me “Go on, Mum, you can do it.”
‘When I was on stage I couldn’t see the people in the audience but I could just see him in my mind,’ says Alana.
Alana, who has a second son Jack, 24, has been in and out of hospital since she was a baby because of her condition, which affects movement and coordination.
She’s unable to feel sensation in her left side and finds it difficult to walk.
Doctors advised her to take up swimming and do basic exercises to build up her strength but they were unable to bring the feeling back into her left side.
Tom was obsessed with exercise and wouldn’t hesitate to show off his six-pack in front of his parents.
The day he passed away in 2012 in a car accident, was the day he passed his bricklaying exam.
‘It was very foggy that night. When the police came I didn’t believe them and I hit the policeman,’ recalls Alana. ‘I didn’t believe him – he’d only gone out for 20 minutes.’
Alana was devastated and spent hours exercising to take her mind off her tragic loss.
Soon she became a permanent fixture at her local gym and six months ago her friends suggested she become a bodybuilder.
‘I’ve done bodybuilding for me and Tom,’ she explains.
‘When you lose a child, that’s the worst thing. People say to me I have to get on with life and I think they haven’t got a clue. When you lose a child I feel like part of me has gone now.’
With the help of her personal trainer, Alana embarked on a strict diet of chicken, fish, steak, spinach and eggs and woke up at 4.30 in the morning for her first meal.
And she even swore off alcohol and treats for six months, swapping her favourite glass of wine for a protein shake.
Unbelievably Alana didn’t stray from her meal plan once and has vowed to continue the restrictive regime.
And her trainer had to devise exercises to suit her disability, as her left arm and leg are shorter than her right side.
She went down to a size 6 and even developed a six-pack.
In September Alana won the disabled category in her first competition, and in November won first place for her class against amateurs drawn from 17 countries around the world.
While Alana was ecstatic at her win, her thoughts were fixed on Tom.
‘Tom wouldn’t want me to be sad all the time, that’s why I’m doing it for him. I hope I give fellow disabled people inspiration. If I can do it, they can too.
‘Becoming a bodybuilder at 51, well I think that’s pretty amazing.’