A Roscommon woman will be bidding to win the title of ‘England’s Strongest Disabled Woman’ at Fitxpo in Manchester on May 13th and 14th.
Erin Harris (28) who hails from Roscommon town and attended Roscommon Community College and Athlone IT before moving to England in 2016, was inspired to enter the competition by three-time World’s Strongest Disabled Man, Mark Tonner.
Speaking to the Roscommon People this week, Erin explained how that she was born with a condition called Type 4 Congenital Ulnar Dysplacia.
“I am missing my ulnar bone, half my wrist bones, and two fingers. My bones are also deformed. The best way to describe my arm is that it looks like a T-Rex arm,” she said.
“I didn’t grow up a sporty person at all, quite the opposite actually. But I never let me little arm get in the way of anything I wanted to do”.
Erin’s parents Monica and Paul still live in Roscommon with her three sisters, Mackenzie, Tamzin and Jorja, while aunt Jacqueline McCormack organises the Roscommon Community Challenge each year, and aunt Bernie won a bronze medal in the 2007 Special Olympics. She has received plenty of encouragement from her family, and husband Jack in particular.
“I moved to England in 2016 when I met my husband Jack at a car show. He also shares a strong passion for the gym and is very supportive of my strongwoman dreams!
“My gym story began in April 2021, as we were coming out of the last lockdown here in the UK. I was ten months away from my wedding and joined the gym as a plus-size girl with the goal of getting as skinny as possible,” Erin said.
“In May of that year, my husband joined the gym and that gave me the confidence to try the weights section. It didn’t take me long to realise that I was pretty strong. Following a polycystic ovary syndrome diagnosis I soon found that it would be harder for me to lose fat so I channeled my energy into lifting heavier weights instead.
“I started thinking about entering some sort of ‘strongman’ competition the following year and then when I attended the Arnolds sports event last September I was inspired by the disabled strongmen taking part”.
Erin started to put herself out there by uploading videos and clips on social media platforms such as TikTok. It wasn’t long before she came to the attention of world-renowned disabled strongman, Mark Tonner, who lost the use of his own right arm while serving in Afghanistan.
“Mark has been coaching me since last November and teaching me all about the life of a strongman, and now I am a GB Disabled Strongman athlete and in less than five weeks I will compete for the title of ‘England’s Strongest Disabled Woman. I will then move on to Britain’s Strongest and hopefully then World’s Strongest!”
Erin’s biggest personal bests include a 175kg deadlift (with a strap to replace her disabled arm), a 155kg squat, and a 37.5kg dumbbell overhead press. Impressive numbers to say the least.
“I’m very humble when it comes to my lifting, but I do want to inspire others, whether it’s to compete in a sport or just in life in general. I really want to inspire others with similar conditions to never hold back on anything,” she said.
Erin will write another chapter in her inspirational story next month in Manchester when she competes against other strong women in events such as 80kg Atlas Stones, squats for reps, and giant dumbbell over head press. You can keep up to date with her training by following her on Instagram and TikTok @erinxharriss.