Wheelchair bodybuilders have spoken of their joy at finally competing on the stage made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Ten muscular men rolled into the Columbus Convention Center in March to flex their pecs at the inaugural 2016 Arnold Classic Pro Wheelchair competition.
The prestigious event was the culmination of years of hard work by former champion bodybuilder Nick Scott, 34.
‘To make this happen is truly the dream. We are following the same process that Arnold Schwarzenegger did.
‘A champion’s mindset is to not let anything get in the way of your dream – it’s about finding a way.
‘That’s what I did – I found a way to make this happen.’
The 2016 event – with a prize fund of $3,000 – was won by number one contender Harold Kelley, 44, who has won seven of the eight previous contests.
Mr Kelley from Grand Prairie, Texas, grew up on a farm and had always been athletic until a car accident in 2007 left him wheelchair-bound.
The father-of-three, whose wife and daughter were also severely injured, swerved to avoid deer and crashed into a tree. The seatbelt saved his life but tore his lower spine.
Mr Kelley, 44, credits bodybuilding with giving his life focus.
‘My biggest motto is walking is overrated. I can get from point A to B fast or slow just the same as everybody else.
‘Bodybuilding gave me a whole new avenue of life. The more I got into it, the more I loved it.
‘I love competing and challenging myself to the next level.
‘The sport is like a big family, we all help each other. It’s small but it is growing.’
Other competitors included Johnny Quinn, 38, who survived a motorcycle accident despite being given only a 10 per cent chance of survival.
Frenchman Ludovic Marchand, 52, who was paralysed after being thrown from a car during a road accident in 1983, in, Nimes, France, won the first ever wheelchair bodybuilding event back in 1994 and came out of retirement especially to compete at the Arnold Classic.
Event organiser Nick Scott, who founded WheelchairBodyBuilding.com in 2005, was himself paralysed in a car crash aged just 16.
He had planned to become a professional football player and found it hard when doctors told him he would never walk again.
‘I realised I couldn’t do the things I used to anymore. I hated who I was,’ he says.
‘But going back into the gym, I realised that what I could do was bench press. That was a turning point in my life.
‘If I could do that one thing then I was going to make myself the strongest at it – that became my one outlet.’
Nick was a champion powerlifter for many years before discovering wheelchair bodybuilding in 2005.
Now, with nine pro-events under his belt, he is planning to take the burgeoning sport even further onto the Olympia Stage in Las Vegas.
‘I always look at what I can do, not what I can’t do,’ he says.
‘This is about giving hope, inspiration and motivation. It’s the never-give-up mindset. These men are true warriors of the sport.’
The Arnold Sports Festival began in Columbus, Ohio, in 1989 as the Arnold Classic.
It was started by Arnold Schwarzenegger to showcase bodybuilding and has evolved into one of the premiere bodybuilding events in the world.
For more information about wheelchair bodybuilding, visit http://wheelchairbodybuilding.com/