EASTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – When you’re competing for the title of World’s Strongest Man, spending up to eight hours in the gym is not out of the ordinary—and neither is consuming up to 8,000 calories in one day.
Rob Kearney, or the ‘World’s Strongest Gay’, is about four weeks out from his third World’s Strongest Man competition. This time around, it’s all about making a strong comeback.
“I ended up getting hurt last year. I had a 275 pound atlas stone fall on my chest during a contest,” Kearney recalled. “I broke three ribs, tore a muscle in my back, and that was kind of like my ‘Aha! moment’ to look at what I was doing and reevaluate.”
At 5’10” and 285 pounds, Kearney competes against men like 6’9”- tall afþór Júlíus Björnsson, also known as ‘The Mountain’ on the Game of Thrones.
The Springfield College graduate has momentum heading into World’s Strongest Man 2019, after breaking the American log press record in April.
“I’m more athletic, stronger than I’ve ever been and I’m just more confident,” Kearney said.
That type of self-confidence, however, didn’t always come so easy.
“I came out later in life than most,” Kearney said. “I lived my life as a straight man for a really long time and essentially got to this point where I was just exhausted for putting on this façade every day, pretending to be someone I wasn’t.”
As the first openly gay professional strongman, Kearney and his husband Joey Aleixo strive to break stereotypes and advocate for LGBTQ athletes.
“Our goal is to show everybody that gay doesn’t look one certain way,” Kearney explained. “I think there is a really big stereotype and stigma around gay men that they have to be this feminine kind of out-there, eccentric people.”
Aleixo said if it wasn’t for his husband, he may have never tried weight lifting.
“I’m a perfect example, I was too scared to go to the gym,” Aleixo said. “A gym like this is so intimidating for a gay man, you know, everyone here is supposed to be macho.”
Now he trains for competitions of his own.
“We’re just showing everybody that you can be gay and be a strongman or be gay and be whatever the heck you want to be,” Kearney said.