The ‘Strong(est)’ man in Charles County over­com­ing the odds

Wal­dorf res­i­dent be­comes body­build­ing am­putee cham­pion

Maryland Independent - - News - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Tif­fIndyNews

De­spite a tragic car acci- dent that claimed the lives of his wife and un­born child and for­ever al­tered his own, Daniel Strong re­fuses to let his dis­abil- ity limit his suc­cess. The Wal­dorf man, an am­putee, has ac­com­plished his goal of be­com­ing a body­build­ing cham­pion and con­tin­ues to in­spire oth­ers.

Strong, founder and owner of Strong Fit­ness, was born and raised in Wal­dorf. While play­ing foot­ball at Thomas Stone High School, he de­vel- oped a love for weight train­ing which led to be­com­ing a per­sonal trainer at a lo­cal gym. From there he went on to com­pete in sev­eral body­build­ing com­pe­ti­tions both lo­cally and na­tion­ally — go­ing from novice to pro.

“I was able to com­pete against able-bod­ied indi- vid­u­als in open cat­e­gories. Last Oc­to­ber I placed sec­ond in the 2016 NPC Bal­ti­more Clas­sic (open di­vi­sion) and first place in the 2016 NPC Bal­ti­more Clas­sic (open di­vi­sion for 40 and over),” Strong said.

He was the first physi- cally chal­lenged com­pet- itor in the 2014 INBA/ PNBA Nat­u­ral Uni­verse (12th place) and INBA/ PNBA Nat­u­ral Olympia (11th place) con­tests. Strong pre­vi­ously won third place in the 2012 NPC Mary­land State Body­build­ing Cham­pi­onship. In 2014, he won first place over­all in the INBA/ PNBA Philip Ri­cardo Leg- ends over­all and went pro.

“To­day we are see­ing more am­putees than ever be­fore around the world. I feel like my mes­sage is for any­one who has had any hard­ship, loss or ail­ment in their body — my story will help them push for­ward,” he said.

As Strong ex­pe­ri­enced many gains in life, he also ex­pe­ri­enced loss. He and his late wife, San­dra, opened Strong Fit­ness on Feb. 6, 2006. One month later, a tragic ac­ci­dent in­volv­ing Daniel, his preg­nant wife and their 2-yearold daugh­ter, Danielle, changed his life for­ever.

“On the way to visit my god­mother in North Carolina we got into a tragic ac­ci­dent with a trac­tor trailer hit­ting our ve­hi­cle. Wak­ing up at the hos­pi­tal I was most con­cerned about what hap­pened to my wife and daugh­ter. I lost my wife, we lost our un­born baby and I was in- ju­red. I had frac­tures (in- clud­ing a pelvis frac­ture), bro­ken ribs, a lac­er­ated spleen, and I still have a ti­ta­nium rod in­side of my good leg.”

He is grate­ful 2-yearold Danielle walked away with no in­juries, but the loss of his wife and baby were dev­as­tat­ing.

“The gym had only been open for one month and I didn’t know what I was go­ing to do,” Strong said. “Body­build­ing was a chal- lenge for me to con­tinue be­cause I wasn’t sure if I could do it as an am­putee.”

Daniel said the sup­port of his fam­ily helped him fight his way back day by day.

“The doc­tors were un­able to save his leg [be­low the knee] and af­ter it was am­pu­tated he had to gain strength in his leg while in the hos­pi­tal [through phys­i­cal ther- apy],” said his mother, Frances Strong. “Soon af­ter he had got­ten sev­eral in­fec­tions so I took him back and forth to the hos­pi­tal, but I was glad I was still here to do that for him ... I had to tell him to be strong, be­lieve in God and that the Lord would see him through it.”

His sis­ter, Te­wana Strong, said af­ter so many years it still hurts to talk about the tragic car acci- dent. She said it was un- be­liev­able to see what he went through.

“We had to help bathe him, wash him, turn him and help him heal. He has a lot of faith and that’s what got him through be­cause he is in pain ev­ery day, whether he says it or not ... But in or­der to deal with tragedy, you have to be ready to fight and he fought ev­ery day,” Tewa- na said.

His fam­ily de­scribes him as strong-willed and lov­ing. They sim­ply ad­mire how he never lets hav­ing a pros­thetic leg em­bar­rass him dur­ing any body­build­ing com­pe­ti­tions and how he does every­thing that other able-bod­ied in­di­vid­u­als can do.

Daugh­ter Danielle, now 13, loves see­ing her dad com­pete.

“I think it’s pretty cool that my dad is an am­putee body­builder and all of my friends thinks it’s pretty cool too,” she said. “He’s very kind, he mo­ti­vates a lot of peo­ple and I think he’s an in­spi­ra­tion to lots of peo­ple ... He al­most died and then he lost one of his legs, but now he does stuff that nor­mal peo­ple do on a reg­u­lar ba- sis and even wins com­pe­ti­tions.”

Sev­eral years af­ter the ac­ci­dent, Daniel learned to walk with a pros­thet- ic leg. He then be­gan train­ing and help­ing in­di­vid­u­als with var­i­ous men­tal and phys­i­cal chal- lenges, in­clud­ing fel­low am­putees. He went back to play­ing the drums and rid­ing mo­tor­cy­cles and also con­quered his fear of com­pet­ing against peo­ple with­out dis­abil­i­ties.

“My very first com- pe­ti­tion was filled was so much hap­pi­ness. I worked so hard to ob­tain that con­di­tion and I re­mem­bered where I started from. I re­mem­ber just cry­ing as I re­ceived my award. It was over­whelm­ing ... I had be­come a pro­fes­sional body­builder,” Daniel said.

Daniel has a big com­pe­ti­tion com­ing up in July at the 2017 NPC Mas­ters Na­tional Cham­pi­onship. His spon­sors are Metro Pros­thet­ics in White Marsh and P4P (Pound 4 Pound) mus­cle supplement com­pany. He is also cur­rently writ­ing a book about his life, which he be­lieves will mo­ti­vate oth­ers through telling his story.

“My pros­thetic leg opened me up to so many things. It made me work harder,” Daniel said.

STAFF PHOTO BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

Wal­dorf res­i­dent Daniel Strong dur­ing a weight train­ing ses­sion at his lo­cal gym last Wed­nes­day.

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