Burnley strongman on the road to recovery after breaking both legs in freak accident
A Burnley strongman is having to lift himself back up after a freak accident left his dream of reaching Britain's Strongest Man in tatters.
Matt Heys (37) was out walking last month when he fell down a ditch and broke both his legs.
He had been training for the UK North of England qualifiers early next year with the goal of reaching the national strongman finals in May.
However, the father-of-six is now bedbound awaiting doctor's orders to see when he will be able to walk again.
"These injuries have been painful and have set me back somewhat. I was well into my training when it happened and had been feeling the strongest I ever had. I was extremely confident of getting to the finals, which I last competed at in 2015. My goal now is to get back into training as soon as possible and make sure I'm there in 2021."
Matt, who trains at the Muscle Factory in Burnley and at Seddons in Atherton, said one of the hardest aspects about competing as a strongman was raising funds.
"It's incredibly difficult to get funding and I'm always looking for sponsorship," said Matt who is known as 'White Rhino'. "I'm a qualified tree surgeon but obviously at the minute I'm getting paid statutory sick so things are even more tight financially. It is difficult but I'm staying positive and my fiance Julie has been an absolute trojan; I wouldn't have been able to cope without her.
"I've had really nice messages of support from Tariq and Buddy at Muscle Factory, too, and the lads at Seddons have actually started a "White Rhino" fundraising challenge where people have to attempt to lift the equivalent weight of a white rhino - 2,300kg - in a day. I didn't even know they were doing this but that goes to show what the gym community is about.
"I can't move about at the minute but I am doing upper body workouts. I've actually been trying to complete the 'White Rhino' challenge myself, pressing a 20kg dumbbell for 120 reps. It's going to be hard but I'm confident I will get back to where I was."
Matt's accident came just days after he had been given the devastating news his strongman mentor and friend, Lee Bowyers, had died at the age of 52.
"If it wasn't for Lee, I wouldn't be competing," said Matt, who is coached by multiple World's Strongest Man competitor Terry Hollands. "I used to work out in Intershape in Colne and one day Lee came up to me and asked if I had ever done strongman. I was actually in the gym rehabbing because of an injury I had picked up playing cricket. When I told him I hadn't he took me under his wing. I finished last in the first event I competed in - Blackburn and Darwen Strongman 2013 - but then went on to win my next four events, under his guidance. He was a fantastic guy."
Matt knows it is going to be a long road to recovery but he now has his eyes firmly set on Britain's Strongest Man 2021.
"I am seeking sponsors to assist me on my strongman journey, and I am fully intent on giving it everything to get there.
"I know I find myself in negative situation but I want to turn it into a positive by inspiring others that no matter what your going through you can turn it around into a positive situation.
"I hope my story and situation does inspire people and give people hope to realise that they can do it to, watch this space for progress on my journey as I rebuild and go again.
"Never give up."