For the third time in less than a year, Middletown’s star strongman has powered his way to a top medal finish in international competition.
Former local fireman Mike Diehl just returned from Perth, Canada sporting a silver medal – losing out on the gold by a matter of inches – in the Jakabol Strongfit World’s Strongest Disabled Man (WSDM) event.
Diehl won silver in an international match in Iceland late in 2021 and a gold medal in a Great Britain championship a few months earlier.
For Diehl, who lost an arm crushed by a firetruck while a firefighter, last week’s second-place win against some of the most powerful disabled men from around the globe was important for reasons far beyond himself.
“I came literally inches away from winning the world title,” said the Middletown man and former assistant football coach for Madison High Schools’ varsity squad.
“But we (disabled strong men) all want to win but we also want to send a message out there to maybe somebody who just lost a limb or a disabled child – or a veteran who went through some kind of trauma.”
“They are going to see what we do and because of that they are not going to give up. It’s not just about us,” said Diehl of himself and fellow competitors from around the world.
In 2015, the now 6-foot-2, 300-pound father of two the then-Franklin firefighter lost his right arm in a fire truck accident.
Diehl, who is 41 years old, is a U.S. Navy veteran and former truancy officer with Middletown Schools.
He has previously shared with the Journal-News that post-accident he drifted in life until he discovered training and competing in disabled strongman competitions that strengthened both his body and rejuvenated his spirit.
One of his favorite mottos shared with his growing fan-base on social media: “You never lose. You either win or you learn.”
Up next in September is defense of his 2021 title in Britain at “The Arnold” – named after famed body builder, Hollywood star and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Among the joys of traveling internationally to compete is letting everyone know he hails from Middletown.
“It’s really important for the people who come from Middletown that when you represent them you represent them well.”
Diehl was recently surprised when a local stranger recognized him and asked for his autograph.
“It’s a hard-nosed, blue-collar town and when you represent them well and you are about hard work and perseverance, they get behind you like nobody else.”