by Thom Van Vleck
When I was a kid I was fascinated by giants. Fictional ones like the Irish Giant Finn MacCool and the Scottish Giand Benandonner (The Red Man) and real ones like my favorite Angus MacAskill. I’ll have to admit, I wanted to be a Giant myself and if anyone could “will” themselves to be taller (actually, John Grimek claimed to have done just that using stretching exercises) then I did it.
I recently had the privilege to do a story in another real, modern day giant. His name was Mike Jenkins (MILO September 2012 Vol 20 No 2). Mike was 6’6″ tall and weighed over 400lbs at his competitive best. He did not carry much fat, he was relatively lean. He was just a big human being! Mike had told me he was 225lbs when he was 10 years old and by the time he was 15 he was 300lbs!
Mike had been a football player at James Madison University where he won a National Championship. He briefly played Pro football but soon found himself in Strongman. He won the inaugural Amateur Arnold Strongman Classic in 2010 and quickly turned pro. He shocked many in his first 2011 World’s Strongest Man when he made it to the finals and then won the first two events! However, a back injury took him out and we were left to wonder “what it”. He came back in 2012 to get 5th dealing with injuries. He won the “Giant’s Live” in 2012 in Australia against top competition and he also won the Arnold Pro Strongman Classic in 2012. I have always thought the Arnold Strongman contest was a much better measure of strength than the WSM as many of the events were more static, pure strength events in my opinion. At that time I knew it was only a matter of time before Mike was the World’s Strongest Man officially!
Alas, it was not to be. Thanksgiving morning he was found dead. His wife said he died in his sleep and while I’m sure there will be much said about it but today I just want to honor the man and a friend taken much too soon. When I did the article on him I interviewed him by phone and email. Since then, I had kept in touch but I had never got to meet him face to face. I try not to have regrets but I have to admit, I have a few. One I have was that I missed my chance to meet him in person earlier this year I was at the Arnold Fit Expo where Mike was acting as the color commentator as he was recovering from an injury. At the time, I thought, “Well, there will be another chance”.
I know that often people will say nice things about someone after they have died. Here’s the thing, when I say Mike was a good man, a good husband, son, brother, and friend…..a truly nice guy….it’s TRUE. He always answered my emails, he always asked about my training and how my competitions were going. He was always posting on his facebook page the accomplishments of others, especially those he trained in his gym and his wife Keri. He treated everyone as an equal when clearly, most of us were not his equal in the strength world! I once asked him who he respected most in the strength world and his reply was “EVERYONE” because to him you deserved respect if you had the guts to get out there and put yourself on the line!
Mike will be missed greatly and I know his wife Keri is heartbroken. I hope you will join me in sending a prayer their way and remembering Mike Jenkins….a true giant of a man.