Co­coa man rises to champ af­ter fall

Wins first event decade af­ter spill from roof caused se­ri­ous in­juries

Orlando Sentinel - - WEATHER - By Stephen Ruiz sruiz@or­lan­dosen­tinel.com or 407-420-5008 Staff Writer

As happy as Mark Martin was to win the first bodybuilding com­pe­ti­tion he ever en­tered, that feel­ing could not com­pare to the day his left leg moved a quar­ter of an inch.

First place val­i­dated his hard work. An in­cre­men­tal move­ment of his lower body showed how much the Co­coa res­i­dent could over­come, that a fall off a roof in 2008 might not al­ter his fu­ture per­ma­nently.

“I cried, and my [phys­i­cal] ther­a­pist was like, ‘Why are you cry­ing?’ ” Martin said. “‘No, th­ese are tears of joy be­cause that’s the sign of hope.’ Once I got that lit­tle bit of hope, I drove with it ever since then.”

Martin, 50, pre­vailed at the Na­tional Physique Com­mit­tee Flor­ida State Cham­pi­onships in Au­gust at Rosen Shin­gle Creek in Or­lando.

The fa­ther of two was raised to be strong and dis­ci­plined. When his fam­ily lived in Ja­pan, he earned his black belt in karate as a teenager.

His fa­ther was a master sergeant in the Air Force, and it was not un­com­mon for Martin, his mother and sis­ter to join him for train­ing ex­er­cises.

Noth­ing tested him, though, like the crash land­ing on a con­crete drive­way he en­dured af­ter help­ing a friend hang lights on her house on Christ­mas Eve nearly a decade ago.

A shat­tered pelvis and se­verely dam­aged wrists were the most se­verely im­pacted body parts af­ter the fall.

“I tried to get up, and I re­al­ized this hand was bro­ken, and this one just dan­gled,’’ Martin said. “I still wanted to get up. I used my el­bow to stand up, and once I got up on one leg, I went to use my left leg and it wasn’t there. I fell back down. At that point, I got scared.’’

Said Priscilla Martin, Mark’s mother: “I didn’t think he was go­ing to make it.’’

Martin could not walk for months. The gym, Martin’s sec­ond home for most of his life, seemed so far away.

“I was de­pressed,’’ he said. “I was just giv­ing up, but I be­lieve that’s just hu­man na­ture. Had to be helped to the bath­room. Had to be helped to be bathed. You feel like you’re help­less.’’

A slight change in his leg’s po­si­tion changed ev­ery­thing. In that mo­ment, Martin prayed that if he were to walk again, he even­tu­ally would en­ter a bodybuilding show, a long­time goal. It re­quired years and a not-so-gen­tle push from his coach af­ter Martin ques­tioned him­self.

“I ba­si­cally signed him up for the show and told him he was go­ing to do it,’’ said So­nia Franklin, a for­mer body­builder who over­came a bro­ken back. “… I said, ‘Well, you’ve got to do this to men­tally get over the fact that you can’t.’ Can’t doesn’t work for me.’’

Martin brought home two tro­phies from the state cham­pi­onships on Uni­ver­sal Boule­vard, one for win­ning his age group and an­other as the most in­spi­ra­tional body­builder.

“To lift what he does af­ter a wrist that has been bro­ken in so many pieces says an aw­ful lot,’’ said Dr. Dean Cole, an ortho­pe­dic sur­geon at Flor­ida Hospi­tal who op­er­ated on Martin.

Martin’s vic­tory might have sur­prised some.

Want to hear some­thing more shock­ing?

“If I could change life again, I’d fall off the roof, this time on pur­pose,’’ Martin said. “Prior to this in­jury, I don’t want to sound vain or shal­low, but I was all about me. Not my neigh­bor. Not the per­son bro­ken down on the side of the road. I didn’t care about any­body but my­self.

“I be­came more there for oth­ers. I put my­self last.’’

And ul­ti­mately fin­ished first.

"If I could change life again, I’d fall off the roof, this time on pur­pose. Prior to this in­jury, I don’t want to sound vain or shal­low, but I was all about me. Not my neigh­bor. Not the per­son bro­ken down on the side of the road. I didn’t care about any­body but my­self.” Mark Martin, bodybuilding champ

COURTESY FLOR­IDA HOSPI­TAL

Mark Martin won his first bodybuilding com­pe­ti­tion in Au­gust, nearly a decade af­ter a fall shat­tered his body.

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