In early December 2023, nearly 400 athletes gathered in Charleston, WV to compete in the 2023 Official Strongman Games, the single biggest strongman event in the world. 11 of the 12 divisions were world championship events, with the winners earning the title of “World’s Strongest.” The Men’s Open division was a qualifier where the top three finishers were offered opportunities to compete in bigger contests in 2024 that may lead them to the World’s Strongest Man contest.
As entertaining and inspirational as the athletes competing were, the fans were also watching the teams setting up and changing weights for these events with just as much interest. That’s because one of those volunteers was different than the rest. Among those assistants was the 2023 World’s Strongest Man, Mitchell Hooper. While fans and athletes alike were pleasantly surprised to see him helping out, he felt he should have been.
“I think it’s just what we should be doing as human beings. If I’m a person sitting there with no role, no responsibility, I’m the strongest person in the place and I’m watching people move equipment, I don’t see why I shouldn’t be doing that.”
Hooper didn’t feel that he deserved all the attention he was getting. Aa a matter of fact, he wanted the spotlight to be on others who were helping because they were just as committed to growing the sport as he was.
“I think it’s been over celebrated a bit, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be the standard in the sport,” said Hooper. “There was a guy who was helping me move (equipment), and we were doing it as a team. The guy who was helping with me was from Africa, and he’s looking to grow the sport there. He’s here to learn how to run a strongman competition. That guy should be just as celebrated as me.”
Mitchell Hooper has had a memorable 2023 to say the least. He won the 2023 Arnold Strongman Classic, the 2023 World’s Strongest Man contest, and the 2023 Rogue Invitational strongman contest. He also finished second to Brian Shaw in the 2023 Shaw Classic. In the eyes or many, Hooper is the number one man in his sport right now, and he takes great pride in being a part of the sport. The former football player, marathon runner, golfer, and CrossFit athlete feels that his current sport fits him so well because he fits so well in the community that makes up the sport. Knowing many people will see him as a representative of that community, he wants to bring a positive spotlight to it, whether it’s through his actions as a volunteer, his efforts in competition, or through his Lift Heavy, Be Kind brand.
“I want to try to make it as welcoming as possible. The vast majority of people here want to better themselves. They are here to support other people.”
Hooper is well aware that being in his position is about more than picking things up and putting them down. He considers himself an advocate for fitness and wants to help not only increase awareness of his sport but show off the benefits that focusing on strength can have on one’s overall health. As renowned powerlifter Mark Bell once said, “strength is never a weakness.” The physical therapist has helped people improve themselves professionally for a long time, but now he has a bigger platform to spread that message.
Mitchell Hooper advised, “This sport is objective, and it’s about objectively improving yourself. If you can do that, then that is what we should be really excited about.”
It can be overwhelming to see an athlete deadlift weights in the rnage of 500 to 700 pounds in a matter of seconds and feel intimidated, but the great thing about strength is that everyone can get better and stronger. That is what Hooper hopes newcomers to his sport focus on because it can lead to so many other benefits.
“We’re not only creating a positive community around the sport, but we’re also solving one of the biggest problems in North America and across the world,” he stated. “The fact of the matter is if you can get strong, that prevents every single chronic disease just like getting fit. You can celebrate your strength rather than your HPA1C levels or your average blood pressure. Also, you’re a badass because you can lift a 200-pound log over your head. Good!”
As the calendar turns to 2024, the Canadian strongman now has another year of competitions to look forward to. As of this writing, he’s preparing to defend his Arnold Strongman Classic title in Columbus, OH at the 2024 Arnold Sports Festival. He will be facing several of the world’s best strongmen as challengers, including the returning legend, Hafthor Bjornsson.
Hooper will also be defending his World’s Strongest Man crown later in the year. Most importantly for him, he will add a new name to his list of credentials – father. He and his wife are expecting their first child in February, and as one can imagine, he’s excited about everything that comes with fatherhood. Ultimately, he hopes that his daughter will be proud of her dad for what he did for his sport and the world and not the trophies on his mantle.
“In the end, when my daughter looks back at me and my competition days, if her first thought is about how I won these titles, I probably didn’t do the job I wanted. I hope she looks back and sees the changes we try to make, the donations we give back to the community, and she sees me trying to do something good in the world. That should be what inspires her.”
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