Yorkshire mum told 'you'll never walk again' makes world's strongest woman bid

-Credit: (Image: Nikki Ellerington/SWNS)
-Credit: (Image: Nikki Ellerington/SWNS)

A Yorkshire mum, who was told she would never walk again following a horrific rugby accident, is now competing for the title of world's strongest woman.

Nikki Ellerington, 45, believed her sporting dreams were shattered when she suffered a severe ankle break while playing rugby, with medics informing her that she might never walk again. However, after six to eight months of intensive rehabilitation, Nikki defied all expectations by taking her first steps post-accident and even managed to run a distance of 10km within three years.

Refusing to give up, determined Nikki started cross-fit and began training to regain her fitness. In October 2023, she was chosen to compete in the over 40s category at the World Finals of the Official Strongman Games in Charleston, West Virginia, US, through an online qualifier.

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Over the course of three days, the mother-of-four lifted enormous weighted stones, sandbags, backpacks and 70kg metal blocks, finishing 21st out of 28 competitors in her category.

Nikki has since competed at the Official Strongman Games in England and is soon set to participate in a competition in Finland. Speaking about her journey, Nikki, a personal trainer from Hull, said: "I'd been to Strongman expos over the years so it had always been an interest but I thought I wouldn't be able to do it."

"I wanted to start training with stones, logs and cars for example. It was quite daunting at first but your perspective changes when injuries happen and you just don't care. It was great out there in America." With little to support her trip, Nikki turned to fundraising to raise around £1,800 to allow her to live out her dream.

She said: "I wasn't out there long so I didn't see much of it, but sitting with my idols from a young age was amazing. You're sat sharing jokes and having a laugh with them, it was crazy."

Nikki Ellerington, 45, competes in the Official Strongman Games -Credit:Nikki Ellerington/SWNS
Nikki Ellerington, 45, competes in the Official Strongman Games -Credit:Nikki Ellerington/SWNS

"Doing the walkout with the national flags was really emotional too. I was the first out on stage so that was quite daunting. I came 21st overall. I was expecting to come last so I wasn't disappointed at all. I was really happy."

Nikki - who is mum to Callum, 21, Lena, 19, Darcy, 16 and Neil, 13 - says if she hadn't done well or enjoyed her first-ever competition, she might not have continued. She said: "The gym I did the first competition at now sponsors me. But I've always said that if it had been a horrible experience I probably wouldn't have done it again."

"It was quite hard for me to accept the changes to my body and that I was going to get bigger when I started lifting weights. My upper body has really changed."

An avid Strongman fan, having attended Strongman expos across the country, Nikki decided she wanted to give it a go in February 2023. After some intense training, she entered her first competition - coming fourth.

Soon she was winning competitions, but at the same time, another problem with her other ankle arose in April 2023. Doctors told Nikki she had sprained her ankle and she continued to train, but in August it was revealed that she had in fact broken it.

Despite her concerns, when she reached out to the organisers of the Official Strongman Games, they assured her that she could still participate.

She expressed: "I was worried that that was going to be another setback until I was signed off from the clinic about two weeks before I flew to America. It was around six to eight weeks between the time it started hurting and the actual diagnosis."

Nikki Ellerington, 45, competes in the Official Strongman Games -Credit:Nikki Ellerington/SWNS
Nikki Ellerington, 45, competes in the Official Strongman Games -Credit:Nikki Ellerington/SWNS

"It then healed itself. I've been so lucky. I found out at the last minute I had my place. I asked them to take into account I'd been injured and they told me I'd qualified anyway, which was great."

With limited resources to support her journey, Nikki resorted to fundraising, managing to raise approximately £1,800 to make her dream a reality. She shared: "I had no money to get there so we did fundraising events at work, the gym, with family and friends and everyone was so supportive."

"I had to fuel up properly. I brought in a nutritionist and she helps me with my food, my mental health and she's kept me grounded - she's a genius. I've also got a coach for the training side of things."

"The first challenge was an overhead medley - which was an axle press, a dumbbell press and a yoke press which is like a big frame and lastly a block press that weighed 70kg. The next was a frame carry with the frames shipped over from Australia."

"No one had seen or used them before. I struggled with that, a lot of us did. The final day was a deadlift with a weighted backpack and carrying a sandbag whilst pulling a sled."

Nikki has not only competed in England's Strongest Woman, landing an impressive 8th place, but she's also secured her spot in the Official Strongman Games Europe. She explained: "Only the top 10 per category qualify for Europe and it's hard work to qualify."