A skiing accident could have derailed Chad Macklin’s life for good, but after a chance encounter with a legend he is now a world champion
By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
VISALIA – There was a point in Chad Macklin’s life that he believed that his athletic competition days were over. Now, after winning the World’s Strongest Disabled Man competition in London on Sept. 4, he can call himself a World Champion.
Macklin had lain in a hospital bed with a grim decision was either try and continue to save the portion of his right leg below his knee which had been shattered, or amputate it.
Macklin had taken the day off of work to go skiing with some friends. Not new to the sport, Macklin decided to push himself a little bit harder than normal. On the first run, Macklin tried to keep up with his brother and friends who were on snowboards. That was when the ski on his right foot slid off and Macklin went crashing to the snow, shattering a portion of his right leg below the knee in 22 different places.
“That was it for the skiing for me,” said Macklin.
After a number of extensive surgeries intended to repair his leg failed due to complications with infections and bones that had died, Macklin made the decision on July 28, 2016 to have his leg amputated.
“My quality of life would be better with a prosthetic,” said Macklin.
Macklin initially feared that he might grow resentful over time, collecting disability checks and feeling sorry for himself for what had happened for the rest of his life.
“It took me a couple days to realize that is not going to happen to me,” said Macklin.
Then some lessons he learned on the football field began to creep back to his mind.
A three-year starter on the Golden West Trailblazer team, Macklin was a part of two West Yosemite League titles, three city championships and earned a full ride to play for the Huskies of the University of Washington, where he played for three years.
While at the University of Washington, he was faced with some serious hurdles and learned the valuable lesson of putting things behind him. In Macklin’s freshman year, the Huskies were named as one of the favorites to win the National Championship in 2003, but only won six games.
“If you dwell on what happened you are living in the past,” said Macklin. “You’ve got to be able to turn the page and move on.”
So he did just that, and readjusted his mindset to do something productive. First, it was simply going around the block in his wheelchair. From there, Macklin developed more and more.
A trip to the FitExpo and a run in with World Strongman legend Nick Best gave Macklin the hope to compete again.
At 6-feet-8 and 315 pounds, Macklin had all the physical tools he needed to compete. That is what Best saw, and when he confronted him as to why he wasn’t competing, Macklin pointed to his prosthetic leg.
Best’s response according to Macklin was “What does that have to do with anything?”
That response started a 40-minute conversation, and even though Macklin didn’t know who he was talking to at the time, he was intrigued — even to the point that he began to look up strong man competitions for amputees. “I had to prove to myself first and foremost that this is not going to hold me back.”
However, there was one major issue: Macklin had to make sure that he had a prosthetic that could hold up to the extreme weight. Having already been lifting for a couple of months before the accident he already had adequate form so he began to push himself. The first prosthetic cracked when he tried to do a 500-pound dead lift.
Now he has a specially made runner’s prosthetic capable of holding up under the heavy weights. Most leg prosthetics do not have the flexibility needed to pick up heavy weights and move. Thanks to a split in the foot area, Macklin has a much more stable stance.
Macklin is now a world champion, but he is not done yet. He has already signed up for competitions here in the States, and has his eyes set on the Arnold Strongest Man Competition.
Macklin would like to one day become an advocate for strongman competitions here in Tulare County. Today, he is trying to open up his own gym, like Valley’s Gym where he currently trains.