Brandon Chaner has been working out for a couple of years and hopes to earn a personal trainer certificate someday despite being confined to a wheelchair. And that’s one reason he showed up at the 2019 Wheelchair Nationals bodybuilding competition in West Palm Beach on Saturday.
“My chiropractor thought it would be an inspiration for me to get back in the gym and get stronger,” said the 22-year-old from Sunrise.
There was no shortage of inspiration at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, where the reigning Mr. Olympia was among those promoting the sport, but Harold Kelley said he’s not trying to inspire.
“Inspiration isn’t something you shoot for,” said the 48-year-old Dallas-area resident. “Inspiration is the aftereffect of someone seeing what you’re doing.”
Kelley was a bodybuilder years before a 2007 car crash put him in a wheelchair, but he says that made him a better athlete.
“It allowed me to catapult myself from one level to an even higher level,” he said. “I wasn’t as conditioned, size-wise, before my car accident as I [am now].”
Bob Biron, 51, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., used to run, play ball, golf and hit the gym until a degenerative genetic affliction gradually weakened his legs, but that didn’t stop him.
“There’s no reason I can’t do the things I love, and I love working out,” he said. “The competing part came after people said, ‘Bob you should get up on stage.’”
His first competition was at the Wheelchair Nationals last year where he placed second in the men’s physique category, so he returned Saturday to see if he could improve his amateur standing.
Winning amateur competitions can help participants rise through the ranks, turn pro, and compete in major events around the world, such as the Arnold [Schwarzenegger] Classic annual bodybuilding competition and the Mr. Olympia, said Nick Scott, founder and CEO of Wheelchair Bodybuilding Inc.
“There’s been 19 [International Federation of Body Builders] pro league wheelchair bodybuilder competitions around the world and Harold [Kelley] has won 16 of them,” he said.
That includes five Arnolds and the first Mr. Olympia.
“Before the car accident, I couldn’t see me as a Mr. Olympia. I just wanted to look good, work out, go to the gym and compete in a minor way,” Kelley said. “But, in the wheelchair class I was able to achieve the highest level.”
And he was encouraging Chaner to do the same.
“It’s my true passion,” Chaner said. “It feels great to pump the weights.”