As strongman Tom Stoltman lifted that final Atlas Stone and was crowned the World’s Strongest Man, by this point plenty of Rangers fans had begun to tune into Tom’s journey.
The 27-year-old from Invergordon is a local boy who’s conquered the world and overcome his own personal challenges to do so.
— SBD World's Strongest Man (@WorldsStrongest) June 21, 2021
Nicknamed “The Albatross”, Tom is a diehard bluenose, something which has Rangers supporters flying the Stoltman flag no matter where this likeable guy goes.
Speaking to Rangers News, Stoltman opened up to us about his journey in the world of strongmen, how autism – far from hinder him – helped to drive him to success, and, of course, his love of the Famous Glasgow Rangers.
But first Tom told us how it felt the moment he lifted that final Atlas Stone and was crowned the World’s Strongest Man.
“I did my last stone and looked over my shoulder and seen Brian Shaw was still doing his and just dropped to my knees,” said Tom.
“It was emotional. I did silver last year so to go one better and be crowned the World’s Strongest Man and lift that gold above my head it was a special moment.
“It feels good, but I’ve not had a second to myself since I’ve been home! I set out to win World’s Strongest Man in 2021 and to take it back to Scotland, it feels unbelievable.”
Tom might’ve been the victor of the competition – the first time someone from Scotland has lifted the title – but in order to be crowned the World’s Strongest Man Tom had to overcome his brother Luke.
Luke Stoltman is the other half of the Stoltman Brothers partnership and what success these two have, they share.
Two best friends and brothers taking on the World’s Strongest Man together, both are outstandingly talented in this discipline in their own right.
Luke even came seventh at the competition, proving his strongman prowess by achieving the highest lift (215kg) on the Max Log Lift event.
Sharing a stage with his big brother is special to Tom and it was Luke – who at 36 years old is nine years Tom’s senior – who first inspired him to become a strongman.
“We come as a pair and that gives us a big advantage” said Tom. “We know each other inside out, we thrive off each other’s energy when we’re at competitions.
“First event of the competition we were against each other, we just get motivated and pumped up when we have to go against each other, but it’s a friendly rivalry.
“When I won Luke was probably the most buzzing for me out of all of us, he was crying, the lot.
“But yeah having Luke as a training partner and as someone I can travel the world with and do this with is amazing, he knows me inside out.
Blessed and grateful for everything in my life 🙏 pic.twitter.com/QUHuEZ9kSn
— Tom Stoltman (@stoltman_tom) June 27, 2021
“I was mad for football when I was younger, then when my mates all left at 18 I didn’t have so many people to hang around with so Luke was like ‘come with me to the gym’.
“Usually you just want the t-shirt muscles for the girls but he pushed me in a different direction and encouraged me to focus and helped me to have a routine.
“I think that’s how I got into it so quickly, because Luke guided me, and then it just kind of stuck to me and this is just life now.”
In the past Tom has been very open about a childhood diagnosis with autism which he kept back from friends until his late teens.
The broad-ranging condition can affect people very differently and is largely characterised by challenges with social skills, speech and nonverbal communication amongst many other things.
But far from see the condition as an obstacle to his success, Tom believes that his autism and success as a strongman is linked, turning the condition into an advantage.
“The gym has probably saved my life,” explains Tom.
“I could have went down different paths, gone to foster homes, I could’ve been that guy, not really a functioning adult.
“When I found the gym – it’s just mental – it gave me something to focus on, I knew I was so comfortable there.
“In the gym you’re doing the same routine kind of every day, and that’s a big thing for people with autism, it’s routine and having that discipline.
“With strongman you eat, sleep and lift every day, so the autism I think has a massive advantage for me in that sense.
“People with autism will always give 1000% and always want to be the best, even if they can’t be, they always have it in their head and I think that mindset has helped.”
'Autism and Strong Man go together' says Tom Stoltman – the first Scot to win the World's Strongest Man title! 🏆 💪
— BBC Scotland News (@BBCScotlandNews) June 25, 2021
Rangers is next on the agenda for us to discuss and similarly to Tom’s journey in strongman, it was Luke’s interest in the Gers that first inspired the younger brother to take the club up.
First following Rangers during the early 2000s, Tom’s adoration of the Gers had him dreaming – like plenty of us – of turning out at Ibrox as a player.
Things certainly turned out differently for Tom but one thing has never changed – his love of all things Rangers – and he’s praised the “unbelievable” reaction from the club and the fans.
“I’ve been a Rangers fans since I could walk,” said Tom.
“My big brother followed Rangers so Luke bought me a Rangers top when I was younger and I never took it off.
“They stole my heart from a young age and my love grew for the club watching the likes of Fernando Ricksen, Ronald de Boer and Michael Mols.
“My love just grew and grew and I wanted to play for them when I was younger and yeah, Rangers have been in my life for a long, long time.
“The reaction from the Rangers support has been unbelievable.
“But the club too have always been great with me and kept to their word Tweeting me after I won it and a few of the backroom staff have messaged me saying they’ll get me down to meet the team and maybe on to the pitch.
“It’s my boyhood club and it’s kind of jawdropping when you get messages from old players and the likes of Allan McGregor follows you; these are the fanboy moments I get.
“I have had so much support, especially from the Rangers fans, and I’m so buzzing to see how buzzing they are for me.”
Whilst it was great to get some insight into Tom’s back story and his personal relationship with Rangers, we also couldn’t resist talking shop ahead of next season.
Like us all, Tom had plenty to celebrate when 55 was secured – although the timing ahead of the WSM wasn’t ideal – and suffice to say had a big, sore head the morning after the night before.
But looking ahead to next season what are the big man’s views on how the Gers will fare under Steven Gerrard in 21/22?
“We ended the year as Champions by 25 points and really made a statement,” said Tom.
“Gerrard really turned the team around and stamped his foot on it and now we’re the kings of Scottish football again.
“They’ve got a new manager, so they’re going to have restart, and I can really see Rangers dominating for the next few years.
“I don’t see us slowing down soon – Gerrard’s got a lot of contacts and loads of people want to play for him and play for Rangers.”
So what next for Tom Stoltman? Well, that’s easy.
“I want two-in-a-row – I want 56 for Rangers and I want another World’s Strongest Man title!”
At 27, this Champion is still young enough to dominate his discipline; for example, second place at this year’s comp and legendary American strongman Brian Shaw is 39.
With the future bright for both Rangers and Tom, everyone at Ibrox will be hoping both share great success for years to come.
Please visit Rangers News to read more news, views and opinions on all things Rangers as we head into yet another season at Ibrox.