An inspirational personal trainer who lost a leg after a horrific crash at a motorcycle sidecar race is celebrating victory at his first ever strongman competition.
Rick Long, 54, who works at Bourne Leisure Centre, was crowned Strongest Disabled Man at the Spring Strongman Sanctuary event in Dartford, Kent.
Over five gruelling events, Rick fought off the challenge of six other competitors - including Lee Small, current holder of the British and world strongest disabled man titles.
He is now training for British Championships due to be held on May 28 and, if he secures a top-three finish, Rick will qualify for the World Championships in Iceland.
It has been an amazing journey for Rick, who lives in Baston with wife Jenny, because he only started working out last year when training to be a physical trainer.
Rick said: “I lost my leg at Hockenheim, Germany, back in 2008 and it totally changed everything.
“My team-mate was killed. I crashed into a concrete wall feet first at 146 miles per hour and suffered very serious injuries.
“It was a horrific experience, but I was determined to make the best of things.”
At the time of the crash, Rick was employed as an operating theatre practitioner in anaesthetics.
But losing his left leg and having his right ankle fused in place made carrying on with this work difficult - as did the requirement to keep his qualifications up to date during his recovery.
Rick later decided to persue a career in physical training after seeing an advert for InstructAbility – an award-winning project to help disabled people to become qualified fitness professionals.
A work placement last year lead to an offer of employment at Bourne Leisure Centre.
Rick said: “When I was doing the InstructAbility training in Peterborough last year I met a guy from Bedford called Tony Butcher, who is tetraplegic but competes in powerlifting competitions.
“He inspired me to have a go and, after some training and a trial event a few months ago, I decided to enter my first proper competition.”
The Spring Strongman Sanctuary saw Rick and his fellow competitors lift five Atlas stones weighing between 50 and 90kg onto oil drums; pull a four-tonne truck across a 20-metre course; do multiple 160kg deadlifts and 75kg Viking presses against the clock; and finally carry four 60kg bags over a 20-metre course in the load race.
Rick wears a prosthetic leg, but the weights involved are so large it could not take the pressure. He therefore competes while sitting down.
“I’m looking forward to the British Championships, but I’m not putting too much pressure on myself,” added Rick, who has two grown-up children.
“Qualifying for the World Championships in Iceland would be a dream come true, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”
Away from the gym, Rick has also returned to sidecar racing.
His memories of the Hockenheim crash, which killed team-mate Steve Norbury, 37, are still very raw, but he is happy to be back competiting in a sport which he loves.