Geoff Capes, ENG – Strongman & Highland Games Legend

geoff capes

Geoffrey Lewis Humberg Capes (born 23 August 1949) is a British former athlete, strongman and professional Highland Gamescompetitor.

As an athlete he represented both England and Great Britain in field athletics, specialising in the shot put an event in which he was twice Commonwealth champion, twice European champion, and three time Olympian.

As a strongman, he twice won the title of World’s Strongest Man,was World Muscle Power champion on two occasions, and also had numerous other titles including Europe’s Strongest Man and Britain’s Strongest Man.

As a Highland Games competitor he was six times world champion, first winning the title in Lagos in 1981and held world records in numerous events.Following retirement from competitive sport he continued to be involved in strength athletics as a referee, event promoter and coach. He also ran a sportswear retail shopand became renowned as a world-class breeder of birds. Capes stood 6 feet 5.5 inches (196.9 cm) and weighed 23 stone (320 lb; 150 kg) at his peak condition.

 

Early life

Capes was born in 1949 in Holbeach, Lincolnshire, the seventh of nine children. He was the seventh child of Eileen Capes, though the eldest of her three children by her third husband Bill Capes. Of his older siblings, the elder two were Braithwaites and the middle four Cannons.He grew up in the town and went to the local secondary school, George Farmer. He became a member of Holbeach Athletic Club where he was coached by Stuart Storey. He was a gifted sportsman, and represented Lincolnshire at basketball,football and cross-country. In addition he was a decent sprinter, running 23.7sec for the 200m.Growing up on the Lincolnshire fens he had an early fascination with the natural world and cared for injured birds and animals from when he was a young boy.After school he worked as a coalman and an agricultural labourer, being able to load twenty tons of potatoes in twenty minutes, with a catapult. He joined Cambridgeshire Constabulary in 1970, and remained in the police for ten years.

Athletics

First and foremost, Capes was a shot putter and represented his country over a span of 11 years, winning two Commonwealth Games and two Indoor European Championship titles. His first major games were the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, where he finished fourth. In the next two games in 1974 and 1978 he took the gold medal. In this period he also became the European Indoor Champion in both 1974 and 1976.His first Olympic experience was in 1972 when he competed in Munich.The 21-year-old Capes did not make it past the qualifying round, but improved on this considerably four years later. Having thrown his personal best on 28 May 1976 at Gateshead of 21.55m.Capes went into the 1976 Montreal Olympics as one of the favourites for the gold medal. He came second in his qualifying group but went on to come sixth overall in the final, the winner being Udo Beyer of East Germany.1980 was the year that saw Capes put the best distance of his career and increased the British record to 21.68m (71 ft. 3.5 in.) inCwmbran on 18 May 1980 being a new Commonwealth and British record. He went into the Olympics as the athlete with the best distance of the year so far and was once again a favourite for the title. However, he eventually placed fifth, the winner being Vladimir Kiselyov who although putting an Olympic Record of 21.35m was well short of Capes’ distance prior to the Olympics. Capes said of his performance at the 1980 Moscow Olympics that the result that left him “numbed with disappointment”.

Capes is the most capped British male athlete of all time, receiving 67 International caps, and returning 35 wins, not including a further 35 caps for England. He is a winner of 17 national titles including being 7 times a winner of the AAA championship and three times UK champion,In 1983 he was voted Britain’s best ever field athlete and his 1980 British shot-put record stood until 2003, when Carl Myerscough took the mantle.

Professional sport

Strongman

As a strongman, Capes became a household name in Britain and many parts of the world. He was particularly known for his incredible hand and arm strength, easily tearing London telephone directories in half and bending rolled steel bars measuring over 1 inch in diameter, and three feet in length. Capes turned fully professional in 1980, the Olympics in Moscow being his last event as an amateur athlete. He had already begun to make a name as a strongman having won the inaugural Britain’s Strongest Man in 1979. In that competition he beat Bill Anderson, the World Highland Games champion into second place. Bill went on to the 1979 World’s Strongest Man, the first Briton to compete in this tournament, whilst Capes concentrated on his athletic career. In 1980 the Olympics dominated the year and Capes did not compete in Britain’s Strongest Man, but he did compete later in the Europe’s Strongest Man competition and won that. This ensured his invitation to the 1980 World’s Strongest Man and on his first entry he came third behind the by then more experienced Bill Kazmaier and Lars Hedlund. In 1981 he returned and improved to second place, again behind Kazmaier, and in 1982 he came fourth. The 1983 contest was the first held outside the United States and in Christchurch, New Zealand he held off the challenge of a world class field including the young Jon Pall Sigmarsson and to take the first of two World’s Strongest Man titles. The Christchurch hosted tournament also had the Canadian world powerlifting champion, Tom Magee, and the European powerlifting champion, Siem Wulfse, competing. But it was the duel between Sigmarsson and Capes that heralded the beginning of a great rivalry. The following year in Mora, Sweden, Sigmarsson, eleven years Capes’ junior, took the title proclaiming “The King has lost his crown!”.Capes retorted “I’ll be back”and the following year won the title in Cascais, his closing remark being “The King has not lost his crown”. Sigmarsson won once again in 1986 with Capes coming second.Aside from the World’s Strongest Man, Capes also won Europe’s Strongest Man on three occasions, in London (1980), Amsterdam (1982) and Marken (1984). He regained his Britain’s Strongest Man title in 1981 and again in 1983. He won the World Muscle Power championship in 1987, and has been ascribed two World Muscle Power championships by the creator of the event, David Webster, although other sources suggest the 1987 victory was the only one. In 1987 his win in the World Muscle Power was accompanied by a win in the World Strongman Challenge and he is one of only three athletes to have won all three titles. There was no World’s Strongest Man that year, but an event was held designed specifically to pit the three most successful strongmen against one another. Called the Pure Strength, the Ultimate Challenge, it featured Bill Kazmaier, Jon Pall Sigmarsson and Geoff Capes. The event was held at Huntly Castle and Capes entered despite having been in hospital the previous weekend with strained trapeziums. Strong performances in the first few rounds belied his condition but he eventually pulled out during the log-lift and ended the contest in third place. Capes, the oldest of the three, was close to strongman retirement at this stage and the next year, the World Muscle Power where he finished second, proved to be his last major outing as a strongman.

Highland Games

As a professional, Capes’ mainstay was in fact Highland Games. He competed at many gatherings in Scotland and across the world and became a hugely popular and respected figure. He won the World Heavy Events title in Lagos in 1981, in a year when there were two world championships, the second won in Melbourne by Bill Anders

Geoffrey Lewis Humberg Capes (born 23 August 1949) is a British former athlete, strongman and professional Highland Gamescompetitor.

As an athlete he represented both England and Great Britain in field athletics, specialising in the shot put an event in which he was twice Commonwealth champion, twice European champion, and three time Olympian.

As a strongman, he twice won the title of World’s Strongest Man, was World Muscle Power champion on two occasions, and also had numerous other titles including Europe’s Strongest Man and Britain’s Strongest Man

As a Highland Games competitor he was six times world champion,first winning the title in Lagos in 1981 and held world records in numerous events. Following retirement from competitive sport he continued to be involved in strength athletics as a referee, event promoter and coach. He also ran a sportswear retail shop and became renowned as a world-class breeder of birds. Capes stood 6 feet 5.5 inches (196.9 cm) and weighed 23 stone (320 lb; 150 kg) at his peak condition.

 

       

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