Wheelchair Bodybuilding Champion Harold Kelly: Finding Purpose In Pain

Harold Kelly is a champion in more ways than one. He was in a life-altering accident that left him without the use of his legs. But instead of wallow in sorrow like many of us would, Kelley has gone on to win four straight pro wheelchair contests and eight of the nine professional wheelchair contests held since the division was awarded pro status by the IFBB Pro League in 2011. He is the winner of the 2015 Toronto Pro, 2015 Birmingham England Pro, and a 2015 and 2016 Dallas Professional Bodybuilding champion, 2018 Mr. Olympian Wheelchair and 3-time (2016, 2017 and 2018) Arnold Classic champion. Whew!

He is a beast!

But the road to get Harold here was a bumpy one.

“I had a car accident in ’07 trying to avoid hitting some deer in Oklahoma and hit a tree, pinched my T11, T12 vertebrae.”

(Pre-accident Harold Kelly)

But instead of dwelling on what happened, he looked forward at what will be.

“Actually, a lot of people look at it [as a setback], but I don’t. I mean, ever since it happened I was like: Alright, on to the next deal, lets keep rolling,’confesses Kelly. “I guess I allways had an optimistic mindset my whole life. I still can do everything I want, except for walking.”

When someone if faced with this hardship, Kelly says they have two choices: either to depressed or move forward.  To that end, Kelly has one thing to say: “I aint got time to be depressed”

harold kelly

Photo by Dan Ray


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Getting back into the gym after the accident didn’t take him long.  Just about 2 months.  For most people, an accident of that magnitude takes a person about 4 – 6 months to deal with the mental aspect of it all. But Kelly was itching to get back to the gym.

“I had to see what I could do and couldn’t do. See legs was my biggest thing, I loved doing legs. So it was like: ‘What’s my next point of interest?’ Now back is my biggest point of interest. And overall symmetry, looking symmetrical that’s my biggest thing.

By being an inspiration to so many, Kelly offers up his advice for anyone trying to compete in his wheelchair division or with any disability.

“When you get big enough (as a division) you can get strategic and do what you want to do. But in this infant stage it’s not about that. It’s about getting on stage to show them we are part of this arena also,” explains Kelly. “So go ahead and just do it and don’t worry about…

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