by Jake Meeus-Jones

A mum told she would never walk again after a freak rugby accident is competing to be crowned the world’s strongest woman.

Nikki Ellerington, 45, says her sporting dreams were in tatters when she suffered a bad ankle break while playing rugby – with doctors telling her she’d likely never walk again.

After six to eight months of rehabilitation, Nikki defied the odds to take her first steps since her accident and even went on to be able to run 10km within three years.



Determined Nikki wasn’t prepared to give up and soon began taking up cross-fit and training to get fit.

In October 2023, she was selected to compete in the over 40s category in the World Finals of the Official Strongman Games in Charleston, West Virginia, US, through an online qualifier.

The mum-of-four spent three days lifting huge weighted stones, sandbags, backpacks and 70kg metal blocks – and finished 21st out of 28 in her category.

Nikki has also gone on to compete at the Official Strongman Games in England and will soon be heading off to compete in Finland.

Nikki, a personal trainer, from Hull, East Yorkshire, 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.

“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.

“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.

Thankfully, when she contacted the organisers of the Official Strongman Games, she was told she could still compete.

She said: “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.

“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 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 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 since gone on to compete in England’s Strongest Woman competition, finishing in 8th place and has qualified for Official Strongman Games Europe.

She said: “Only the top 10 per category qualify for Europe and it’s hard work to qualify.”

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