Hidden heartache of world's strongest brothers who can carry 7 washing machines

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Luke (left) and Tom (Image: Peter Jolly Northpix)
Luke (left) and Tom (Image: Peter Jolly Northpix)

As young children, Luke and Tom Stoltman would watch the World’s Strongest Man competition on TV, marvelling as competitors pulled cars and aeroplanes, and promised their mum: “One day we’ll be the world’s strongest brothers.”

They said it “as a joke”, says Luke, but now it is true. Sadly their mum Sheila died from cancer in 2016, aged 56, before her sons achieved their dream. Luke says: “It was always a family tradition for us to sit down and watch World’s Strongest Man. I remember watching these monsters lift these weights and it seemed so unattainable, you couldn’t fathom it in your head how these guys were pulling aeroplanes and cars.”

Luke and Tom now know first hand what that takes. They can both lift up to 45 stone, the equivalent of seven washing machines. They each pulled a 25-tonne bus for 25 metres in just 32 seconds at the World’s Strongest Man competition in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in April.

Their physical and mental strength was also tested in the Car Walk, when competitors climb inside a hollowed-out car, stick their head through the sunroof and run it down a 25-metre course. Then there is the Fridge Walk, where the strongmen compete to carry two fridges weighing up to 64st 7lb, stabilised by a yoke and crossbar, along a 30-metre course in one minute.

Hidden heartache of world's strongest brothers who can carry 7 washing machines rriddqixxiqezinvMirror's Jackie gets a lift from the brothers (Peter Jolly Northpix)

Tom, 29, who is 6ft 8in and weighs 29st, has won the World’s Strongest Man title twice, in 2021 and 2022, while Luke, 38, 6ft 3in and 25st, was Europe’s Strongest Man in 2021 and is a four-time World’s Strongest Man finalist. Their achievements have made Invergordon, their home town on the coast eight miles north of Inverness, incredibly proud.

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The sign as you enter the town reads: “Welcome to Invergordon Hometown of the Stoltman Brothers World, European & UK Strongest Men.” Being the strongest brothers in the world does not come easy.

They train for around three hours every weekday, lifting overhead presses, doing repetitive deadlifts and practising Strongman events such as shield carrying and bus pulling. On weekends, they use cold water therapy, physio and sports massage to aid their recovery.

Hidden heartache of world's strongest brothers who can carry 7 washing machinesTom building up his strength (Peter Jolly Northpix)

Despite the dangers that come with lifting huge weights, the brothers have stayed relatively injury free. Tom says: “Touch wood, we have been quite fortunate on that front, though Luke has had a couple of issues with his shoulder.”

Luke started entering competitions in 2012, when he won his first ever contest, “Highlands Strongest Man”, held in a gym car park in Inverness. He went on to win the European Strongest Man title in 2021. Luke says: “Winning Europe’s Strongest Man was one of the most emotional times in my life. I’d been competing for a long time and I went through quite a lot of years of self-doubt. Being on that podium was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Seeing my wife Kushi sobbing tears of joy was so emotional.”

Luke is really proud of his brother’s achievements, too. As well as picking up the title of World’s Strongest Man in 2021 and 2022, Tom holds the record for lifting the heaviest Atlas Stone over a 48-inch bar at 280kg. Atlas Stones are five heavy, spherical stones which increase in weight from 100kg to 160kg that need to be placed on top of five platforms on a 16ft to 33ft-long course.

Hidden heartache of world's strongest brothers who can carry 7 washing machinesThe boys as children with their mum and sister (Peter Jolly Northpix)

Luke says: “I remember holding Tom as a baby when I was only 10. Of course, there’s sibling rivalry. When I see Tom lifting the stones I want to push myself more, I want to beat him. “There are a lot of people who have won World’s Strongest Man, but there’s no one like Tom who can genuinely inspire so many people.

“Tom was diagnosed with autism when he was younger and I was kicked out of school. I’m pretty proud of what we’ve achieved and I hope others can take some inspiration from it.”

Tom says his success is down to being mentally as well as physically strong. He says: “You can have all the genetics in the world, but that will only get you so far. If you want to win you have to be mentally stronger than the other competitors. I visualise winning way in advance. The mind is so powerful. It’s amazing what you’re capable of if you have a champion’s mind set. I now use autism as my superpower.”

Hidden heartache of world's strongest brothers who can carry 7 washing machinesLuke holds a baby Tom (Peter Jolly Northpix)
Hidden heartache of world's strongest brothers who can carry 7 washing machinesLuke and Tom - the world's strongest brothers (Daily Record)

Luke spent 17 years working on the oil rigs, so these days he likes nothing more than shutting up their gym, the Stoltman Strength Centre in Invergordon, after a long day and going home to his wife. He says: “Every time I get to go home and sleep in my own bed, it still feels like a novelty. I get to spend time with my beautiful wife, with Tom and my family. I don’t have to be stuck on an oil rig on a single bunk bed with some random guy snoring.”

Tom is the only Scot to ever win World’s Strongest Man and says although it was an amazing experience to win in 2021 it did not feel real. He says: “It was during Covid so my wife Sinead couldn’t be there to celebrate with me. I knew I could only be truly happy if I could win it a second year, this time with Sinead cheering me on.”

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And that is what he did. Family is everything to the brothers. Their dad Ben lives next door to them in Invergordon and their three siblings Jodie, Nikki and Harry live nearby. In their new book, titled Lifting, the brothers talk fondly about their mum Sheila, and their grandad, or Opa, who came to Scotland from Poland during the Second World War.

Luke says: “Opa must have also been very mentally strong to go through what he went through coming here. Being a good person, like dad and grandad, has moulded us into who we are. I like to think he’d be very proud.”

* Lifting by the Stoltman Brothers, out now, and available in audio format.

Jackie Annett

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