Ten years ago Martin Tye’s life changed forever when a suicide bomber drove into his vehicle in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Martin, who was a Lance Corporal in the British Army, was left paralysed.
Fast forward to Monday 6 May 2019, and he was all set to attempt the heaviest seated deadlift, a challenge which involving picking up a whopping 505 kg (1,113 lb 5 oz). That’s 5 kg more than Eddie Hall (World’s Strongest Man 2017) lifted when he achieved the heaviest Strongman deadlift.
Martin's story is one of strength and determination.
He joined the army when he was 21 and completed tours of Iraq, Lebanon and Cyprus. In August 2009 he was in Afghanistan.
"It was a war zone, we knew what we were going into and it was the day before the elections so we were preempting something anyway. The day before we had a suicide bomber on the front gate."
"Then we went out on a pretty routine patrol, we were in a convoy – I was commander of my vehicle. We drove around the corner and a suicide bomber drove into the back of my vehicle and detonated."
The blast has left Martin paralysed. He now has metalwork in both knees, as well as his shoulder, no sensation from the knees down and also sustained a blast injury to his lungs. On his left knee alone he has undergone 20 operations, and he now has arthritis in both knees.
Subsequently he was diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), but things started to change when he got back into sport and entered the world of strongman competitions.
"Before that I wasn’t really engaging with anything, I didn’t want to know, sat in the house all day. Since I found sport and particularly disabled strongman, the confidence has come back."
His partner Beckie Ingram agreed, adding: "Mentally when I first met him he was pretty withdrawn and had no confidence whatsoever, so I had to build that up through taking him to meet other military personnel. He didn’t do crowds so I took him to Army v Navy (rugby match at Twickenham stadium), you can’t get bigger than that crowd.
Beckie has played a key role in Martin's sporting career, she signed him up to the Invictus Games. While watching it one night on TV, she heard him "giving it the big one" about how he could do that, so she got him to find out for real.
"He explained he would be interested in it but I knew he’d never apply himself. So I sat in work one day, sent an email and applied for him to be a part of the team.
"I told him on the phone because I was too scared to go home and tell him. I rang him on my lunch break and just explained. It started off with 'don't be mad, I've done this and got the best intentions, but…', and I think he thought a lot worse than what I was going to say. There was a bit of a silence but he was more than happy with what I’d done."
Since then Martin has taken part in two games, Toronto 2017 and last year's event in Sydney, where he’s picked up 11 medals across the likes of powerlifting, indoor rowing, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball.
Martin has been competing in disabled strongman events for just over three years now, and Beckie has seen the change from the "skinny little boy" she first met to someone who is now more focused and driven.
Now he wants to attempt records, to push his body to the extreme and find out what's possible.
"I want to show the world what disabled people can do. Okay we do it in a different way but that doesn’t mean we’re weaker."
So, a 505 kg deadlift.
Eddie Hall described his 500 kg heaviest Strongman deadlift as "one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever done", while Martin himself had lifted 501 kg earlier in the year at the Arnold Sports Festival.
While the technique is different in the seated variant - there's a lot of pressure going through the back to lift such a weight - one thing that is similar is the diet.
"Currently I’m on an 8,000 calorie-a-day diet. People will think it sounds really good but it really is a lot of food, sometimes you have to force feed. But as a strongman I get to eat nice meals than bodybuilders. One of my meals is half a (family) cheesecake. Breakfast sometimes will be fry ups, a lot of porridge and then your nutritional value, protein shakes and full fat cream, stuff like that."
The attempt took place at North Somerset’s Strongest Man event at the North Somerset Show in Wraxall, UK, where a large crowd watched on with anticipation.
The lift only lasted a few seconds; you can only hold such a weight for a short period of time. But that was enough.
After some deliberation, the record was confirmed to cheers from the watching spectators.
"People said it looked easy, believe me it wasn't. My back's sore, emotionally I'm a bit drained but I'm over the moon with the outcome." Unsurprisingly, Beckie was also bursting with pride.
When asked what was going through his head in the moments before the attempt, Martin explained: "Some people like to get really angry and use aggression, I don’t do that in my prep.
"I go to my own little place in my head, I visualize the lift, how I'm going to do it. I tell myself 'it's light, you've got this, I know I’ve got this,' and just go. You're still very nervous about it but once I had my hands on the bar I knew it was going up.
"The crowd helps a massive amount. They lift you up so high, especially the size there was here."
Afterwards Martin was treating himself to a day off before going back to the gym in preparation for the World's Strongest Disabled Man competition in Canada in June, but was already thinking about future records to attempt.
"I would like to do an Atlas stone record. I know I've not hit my potential yet, there’s still more in there and hopefully when I unlock that I'll go on to lift an even bigger weight."
A legacy of Martin's strongman achievements is the inspirational role he's taken on, which he admitted he didn't aim for when he entered the sport.
"I don't feel I'm an inspiration, but if I can get more people out of their seats doing sport I know it’s going to help them physically and mentally.
"It's taking that first step, that's the hardest you'll ever take but once you have you won't look back. It only gets better. It was quite hard for me to go into competition for the first time but afterwards I was on such a high, and I didn't even win. It was being there with the guys and being part of this community."
And if you want to attempt a record yourself, Martin has some succinct advice: "Do it. Train hard, don't look back, believe in what you can do and go and do it."