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Remarkable story behind Mickey’s Classic debut

Posted: 10am 20 Oct 2020

Mickey Clarke has been inspired by Hollywood superstar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on his remarkable journey from Anytime Fitness Clontarf to the ICN Brisbane Classic.

Four years ago, Mickey hated physical activity … any physical activity. He was even told running and sport were out of the question without surgery. But how that has changed.

Now the 19-year-old from Clontarf loves working out in a gym, wants to be a fitness model, ambassador, physical trainer - and is about to start a new sporting career.

Classic move

Mickey plans to make his competitive bodybuilding debut this weekend in the ICN Brisbane Classic at Sleeman Sports Complex, Chandler (October 24-25).

It has been a long, remarkable, challenging and rewarding journey for the former Redcliffe Special School vice-captain who has autism, seizures and growth issues through Global Developmental Delay and Generalised Hypotonia.

Mum Natalie says her son also had trouble coping when angry …. until she spoke with Jonathan “Jono” Bannister, the owner of Off Tap Fitness.

“I decided to try some private physical training with Jono. Mickey wasn’t given a choice (in this),” recalls Natalie, “at that stage he was too young to join the gym.”

In the beginning

The sessions started at Anytime Fitness Clontarf, where Jono was based. At that time, Mickey did not talk with anyone. But how that has changed!

Now he loves all things fitness, wants to be an ambassador for autism and has a special bond with his ‘Fitfam’ at the gym, where he shouts ‘Yeah Boy!’ when completing a big lift.

And, to date, Mickey has also not had hip surgery, which was seen as essential and would have involved inserting plates.

Mickey’s Rock

Natalie says her son is inspired by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and ‘idolises’ Jono. In fact, after three powerlifting events Mickey decided to follow his mentor into bodybuilding.

“Mickey loves to make people proud of him, so will give anything a go and succeed,” says Natalie, “he will persevere until he gets it right.”

Jono says his “little brother” just needed to understand he was as “able as everyone else, but sometimes needed longer to learn.

“I made sure he was constantly pushing to do things out of his comfort zone,” says Jono, who now runs a Transformational and Personal Training Service at Anytime Fitness Lawnton.

“There is not much this kid can’t do, from being the most sociable one in the group, powerlifting and now making a third attempt at a bodybuilding show.”

Third time lucky

A broken arm forced Mickey out of his first bodybuilding competition and COVID-19 forced the cancellation of his planned second event.

However, Natalie says Mickey is now “super pumped” counting down to the Brisbane Classic. “He talks about getting up on stage incessantly,” she says.

When he does, it will show again the huge strides he has made since joining the Jono at the gym, including overcoming the issue of nutrition.

“The wrong food choices definitely affect his body and his mental state,” says Natalie, “when he first started eating broccoli it was covered in tomato sauce. Now he eats it like a champ.

“He still has a long way to go and is still in other therapies, but the difference a supportive community gym has made, proves it takes a village to raise a child.”

Volunteer role

The ‘village’ includes the Starkey Motor Group Redcliffe which offered Mickey a volunteer role helping clean cars and in the service centre at a time when he had severe depression.

“Mickey began a downward spiral after leaving school because he needs routine,” says Natalie, “he struggled with a lack of activities while I was at work.

“Starkey Motors offered him the role and this has helped him hugely.”

Mickey also volunteers at Anytime Fitness Clontarf, where he completed a school-based traineeship and Certificate 2 in Sport and Recreation.

“There is not a single person who can take credit for Mickey’s achievements. Not even me. Mickey has been shown the way and has run with it,” says Natalie.

“To say I am one proud mother is an understatement. He has achieved so much when specialists said he wouldn’t.”

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