Hunt wins bodybuilding championship

Photo by Dave Boyd Jeremy Hunt with the trophy and sword he won as overall bodybuilding champion for wheel-chair bound athletes at a competition in New Orleans last month.
By Thomas Wilson
Jeremy Hunt of Elizabethton won his first overall bodybuilding championship for wheelchair-bound athletes at a competition in New Orleans last month.
"I didn't think I'd win this one at all," said Hunt, who defeated three competitors in his weight class and in the overall competition. The Kentucky native won the heavyweight and overall championship among wheelchair-bound bodybuilders at the Greater Gulf States NPC National competition held in New Orleans July 18-19. He faced off against competitors from across the United States.
Not bad for a guy who was told he'd never walk again.
Hunt was paralyzed in an automobile accident when he was 18. He spent over two years undergoing grueling rehabilitation just to learn to walk. After moving to Elizabethton four years ago to complete his associate's degree, he took a fitness challenge at Franklin Health and Fitness Center and turned getting fit into getting ripped. Now 26, Hunt won the heavyweight division and finished second overall in the NPC National Championships held in Orlando, Fla., in May.
With arms the size of a two-year-old child, Hunt is easy to spot at the Franklin Health and Fitness Center where he trained religiously for the competition. After weeks of pumping iron and a Spartan diet, Hunt took the stage at 178 pounds with 4 percent body fat.
The event featured a men's and women's open competition and wheelchair-bound athletes competition. Hunt defeated three competitors in the heavyweight division and overall judging. With a championship on the line, Hunt said his trip did not include indulging in adventures around the French Quarter.
"I rested and stayed in my hotel room until the competition," he says. "Competing means bringing an intensity and mental discipline that borders on the furious. Hours of water fasting and mental preparation keep competitors on edge.
"Before the competition, nobody wants to look at each other," Hunt says with a laugh. "When you get that first sip of water or eat something, everybody is happy and hugging."
Hunt is the first heavyweight to win an overall championship in a wheelchair competition. By winning an NPC event, he automatically becomes eligible to apply for status as a professional bodybuilder. However, he notes that since there is no professional tour for disabled competitors, being granted professional status is unlikely. The trick, says Hunt, is the bodybuilding governing body -- the NPC, or National Physique Committee -- granting competition winners provisional status as professionals qualified to compete once a professional tour is established.
"There are enough people out there to grant pro status," he says.
Hunt says he and fellow disabled bodybuilders were actively petitioning bodybuilding guru Joe Weider to establish a professional tour for disabled competitors. The tour could become a reality if sponsors are ready to support disabled athletes.
"It has come really far," says Hunt of competitions for disabled bodybuilders. "When they first started, three people, total, showed up for a competition. Now it's 18 to 20 people down there."
Hunt also weighs in on the prospect of the world's most famous bodybuilder -- Arnold Schwarzenegger -- and his chances at becoming the next governor of California.
"He's set a lot of standards," says Hunt. "He'd be just as good as anyone else they'd put in there."
Hunt says he plans to train moderately during the next 18 months and enter his next competition in the 2005 National competition. He says improving his overall physical health was paramount to entering his next event.
"I'm going to take the rest of the year off and refresh my whole body," Hunt says. "Hopefully by then, they will have a professional league and those who have won the overalls will be able to compete as professionals."