Sean Hayes performs the yoke walk — carrying 800 pounds as fast as he can over 60 feet. He will be carrying 940 pounds at the Arnold Amateur Strongman World Championship. Scott Stanfield photo

Courtenay strongman prepares for ultimate strength competition

The Hayes’ Garage Gym in East Courtenay is producing some of the strongest people in Canada.

There’s Sean Hayes, a world powerlifting champion who is training for the 2020 Arnold Schwarzenegger Amateur Strongman World Championship in Ohio. There’s Julianna Tracey, B.C.’s strongest woman who placed second among middleweight women at the last Canadian championships. And Julianna’s husband, Andrew Tracey, B.C.’s strongest man among lightweights who placed fifth at the CAASA nationals.

All three are among the 24 members of Team Canada who will compete at the Arnold Sports Festival, March 5-8 in Columbus. Strongman is one of the highlight sports.

Hayes’ garage is packed with weights, bars, logs and other equipment. Training takes place each weekend on his driveway, which is sandwiched between giant tires on one side of the front lawn, and beer kegs and heavy stones on the other.

“I’ve got the biggest tire (1,120 pounds) ever to be flipped in B.C. here,” said Hayes, 29, who stands 6’2″ and weighs 140 kilograms (308 pounds). “I flipped it a few times.”

Another strongman event at the annual Arnold festival is the yoke walk, which Hayes and other members perform on the street. At a recent training session, he carried 800 pounds on a rack as fast as he could over a distance of 60 feet. The weight will be 940 pounds at Arnolds.

“So hopefully do 940 in about the same time,” Hayes said. “I think I’m the only guy in B.C. to do 1,000 so far.”

Hayes will also attempt to clean and jerk a 340-pound log at the Arnold expo — which is expected to draw about 22,000 athletes for strongman, bodybuilding, armwrestling and other sports. Julianna refers to it as the “Olympics of strongmen.”

Hayes is coming off a double gold medal performance at the world powerlifting championships in Limerick, Ireland in October. He won the overall and the deadlift-only portion in the 140kg class of the open age division.

“It was different. I had never flown internationally for a meet before,” said Hayes, who works in the City of Courtenay engineering department.

After the competition, he trekked to the Scottish Highlands to compete in the Dinnie Stones, a lifting challenge dating back to 1860 when strongman Donald Dinnie carried two stones, with a combined weight of 733 pounds, across a bridge. Hayes completed the challenge — about the 120th person to do so since 1860. He also came close to setting world records in the suitcase hold and the farmer’s walk, which he calls “high-intensity groceries.”

Hayes runs the provincial strongman association from home. He narrowly missed turning professional at his last event, but has a “good feeling” about turning pro in the foreseeable future. He will do so if he places in the top 10 at the Arnold Amateurs. A professional credential would also come with a win at Western Canadians, or a top finish at the national strongman event.

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