Cocoa man rises to champ after fall
Wins first event decade after spill from roof caused serious injuries
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
Mark Martin won his first bodybuilding competition in August, nearly a decade after a fall shattered his body.