THUNDER BAY – When Ben Thompson first contemplated taking up weight lifting, he was 160 pounds and scrawny.
Fast forward 13 years and the student support person at Westgate Collegiate and Vocational Institute has hit the 300-pound mark, can lift hundreds of pounds and is headed Down Under to the Static Monsters World Championship starting June 15 on Australia’s Gold Coast.
It’s been a life-changing experience, said Thompson, who pounds down 6,000 calories a day and spends two-and-a-half hours training, four times a week, in his garage gym, which he affectionately calls his office.
“I’m just an average guy. I started at the bottom of the sport at the true rookie shows. Then over the years I’ve been getting better and better. To go into a higher level show and actually have a chance at winning, it means a lot,” said Thompson, who finished third in his category at a worldwide qualifier last October, setting a world record at a 975 pounds that lasted all of about half an hour.
Along the way, he’s battled back injuries and recently partially tore the triceps muscle in his right arm, which has tempered his expectations in Australia.
It’s all been worth it, he said, explaining why he took on such a gruelling sport as a teenager.
“When I was younger I was always watching the World’s Strongest Man. I was always fascinated with super strong guys. And I met a few of those guys and thought that’s what I want to do,” Thompson said. “Then, when I was competing in my first show when I was 17, I thought, man, this is it. I have to be one of the best at this and I won’t stop until I do it.”
Thompson said there are a variety of strength, conditioning and skill events, at strongman shows around the world.
The Static Monsters World Championships are a little different.
“This is just a true power event. There’s the overhead press, so the most you can lift for one rep, and then the dead-lift event, for the most you can lift for one. Whatever your best lift is on each, they put them together for a total,” he said.
Thompson said he hopes to lift about 350 pounds in the overhead press.
“Then in the dead-lift event, I’m hoping at minimum 1,000 pounds,” said Thompson, whose second child, son Bennett, was born last month. “Maybe a bit more, but we’ll see how the day goes. You get three attempts to hit the most weight you can and my final attempt will be about 1,000 pounds.”
Asked if his 16-year-old self would have believed he’d be competing for a world title less than a decade-and-a-half later, Thompson shook his head.
“I’ve come a lot farther than I thought I was going to be able to,” he said. “Also, the sport has gotten a lot better. When I started, the numbers the top guys were hitting are nothing compared to what the top guys are doing now. So I kind of had to get better along with a sport that was dramatically improving. It really took a lot more than I thought it was going to.”
The competition runs on June 15 and June 16.