Being a hands-on father to three young children and an aspiring strongman, Dave Walsh’s life was turned upside down overnight. Dave went from climbing mountains in the British Army to being unable to climb the stairs when he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Although his journey to find his ‘new normal’ has not been an easy one, he is now a full-time wheelchair users but also Britain’s Strongest Disabled Man 2021 and the World’s Strongest Disabled Man 2022.
Dave demonstrates and promotes the power of positivity to overcome challenges and reach your full potential and dreams – whatever the setback.
Contact Great British Speakers today to book Britain’s Strongest Disabled Man and Mental Health and Disability Speaker Dave Walsh for your next event.
When Dave Walsh was 16, he joined the British Army. He loved being active and being outdoors so much that on his last posting, he became an adventure training instructor and would lead soldiers and officers on mountain expeditions.
When he left the army in 2010, he struggled to adapt to civilian life and meet new people. This is when he found a love for the gym, in particular, the sport of Strongman. Dave took part in his first contest in 2012; he came in the bottom five but this did not deter him, in fact it only made his love for the sport grow.
Over the years, Dave competed in many competitions around the country and even qualified for a national championships. He built his whole identity around being a strongman and became known as ‘big Dave’. He had a real passion for lifting heavy and loved being down the dusty side of the dumbbell rack. But it was in 2014, whilst training for a national contest, that something just didn’t feel right to Dave – his body had become numb and he was struggling on his feet. Dave brushed it off as stress or not resting enough, as by this point he was working up to 90 hours a week while supporting his wife through University. But after a couple of months with the symptoms not shifting, Dave went to get checked up and was immediately sent for tests. It wasn’t long before consultants officially diagnosed him with Multiple Sclerosis.
This was the point Dave’s life would change forever.
Over the next year, he was forced to quit Strongman due to MS taking away his ability to use his legs properly and having excruciating pain. The pain was so bad that Dave even asked medical professionals to cut his legs off. When they said no, he concocted a plan to cut them off himself; luckily Dave as a really strong wife who was there to support him and realise that the plan wouldn’t end well.
MS didn’t just take away Dave’s ability to walk and use his body the way he used to, it also caused him to have a range of mental health issues, causing him to be a shell of his former self.
After seeking help for his mental health, Dave slowly realised that he needed a passion in his life, to get him back on track. So he started back at the gym – which became a source of both mental and physical freedom for him. He learnt new ways to train and build his confidence, showing that anyone with determination can set and reach a goal. And not long after, Dave discovered disabled Strongman and got back into competitions, winning the first competition he entered. His achievements include pulling two 10-ton lorries in his wheelchair, being the first seated person to deadlift 960lbs – which he soon increased to over 1,100lbs – and lifted 110kg sandbags. These achievements and more have earnt him the nickname ‘Sitting Bull’.
Through these competitions, he built his identity back and is now Britain’s and the World’s Strongest Disabled Man – achieving the latter in June 2022.
Today, Dave is a motivational speaker, with an incredibly inspirational story to tell.
– Mental Resilience and Mindset
– Multiple Sclerosis
– Disability in Sport
– Disability Awareness
– Confidence Building
He has appeared on a number of podcasts including The MS Show, where he discussed how training helped his mental health following diagnosis, MS Understood where Dave talked about how he rediscovered his identity with MS and Thriving Over Surviving Multiple Sclerosis, where he discussed being a sportsman in a wheelchair.
He has also hosted his own podcast which raises awareness of disabled sports and athletes so they can showcase their skills, promote their stories and share how they overcame life-changing events.
Dave is now hugely passionate about raising awareness for disabled sports and disabled sportspeople.
“What’s my learning from this experience? Now, if I must stop what I’m doing, I’ll know I reached a real high and I won’t regret any of it. If I must take some downtime, I’ll be aware there’s a way out of it and you will always find something to bring you back to a positive place. So, you can catch me somewhere in my wheelchair lifting atlas stones, pulling trucks, or still down the dusty side of the dumbbell rack!
I used to be a standing Strongman. I am now a sitting Strongman. Still a Strongman.”
Dave delivered the most heart-warming and inspiring session to our Disability Employee Network and Veteran’s Network.
The session was packed out and we received wonderful feedback from our delegates: “Super inspirational” “Totally absorbing” “What an incredible journey” “So helpful”. We particularly appreciated Dave’s warmth and candour about his highs and lows, and he shared many insights we could take away and apply to our own lives from managing mental health challenges, navigating the working environment through various shocks, dealing with illness and connecting with others. Thank you, Dave, I can genuinely say I won’t ever forget this event and how it made us feel as a group.
Kirsten Maslen, Director, Market Development Thomson Reuters.