By: Flynn Bush
Tony McInerney is well known in our community. He is the president of the Cayman Islands Powerlifting Association, organizer of many events, and inspiring mentor to many youths, and adults, among us. His contributions have not been lauded enough but he is not one to seek out that recognition. Therefore, he spends his time thinking of ways to reach out to those among us that might need a word of inspiration or whisper of hope. He says, “Basically, our goal is to encourage young people to use physical strength and to help them mental strength. We know that through weight training and sharing advice we can help build their self-confidence and their inner strength and help them to realize that anything you set your mind to, can happen, with hard work.” One of the ways that he does this is by engaging his long list of contacts in the powerlifting and strongman circles to engage special guest speakers. This year is the third annual Strongman competition on our island and Tony has again picked a top-notch guest.
Travis Ortmayer is an individual who has risen to the top of the ranks in the Strongman community. As a two-time American Strongest Man, world record holder, and world championships competitor, he has “been there, done that.” To get to the top, and the amount of work and dedication it takes to get there is plenty of fodder for inspiration. However, Travis’s story is not as straightforward as that.
As part of his visit, Travis had a few occasions where he had the chance to share his story. Tony had specifically arranged to have two special assemblies at the public high schools on-island. At John Gray High School in the morning, and Clifton Hunter High School in the afternoon, Travis stood in front of at least four hundred students each time.
As he walked into the meeting hall, Travis drew immense attention but, when he took the microphone was when the inspiration flowed. Travis simply told his story about his journey to the top. Then… he shared about his fall from the mountaintop. Mr. Ortmayer spoke of how his need to remain on top led to an addiction to painkillers and then to his use of crystal meth, and how it all led to him losing his family, his career, and becoming homeless. It was a clear shakeup in his life. If he had stopped there, Travis’ story could have been enough to do some good for others hearing it by admonishing them to avoid the bad decisions that he has made. However, that is not the end.
Travis was also there to talk about the flip side of the equation. He was there, in front of these students, to speak of his revival. You see, Travis made it through struggles and obstacles to reach the top of his profession in the strongman world. That is one thing, but then he fell far below where he had begun in the first place. So, he had to dig himself out and crawl up to the surface to even start from ground zero. The climb back to the top was arduous and difficult, beginning with addressing his addiction. It would take every fiber of his being, and lots of prayers and help along the way to make that climb.
Finally, Travis made it back to the top. When he got there, what he knew in his heart was that he was a different person than he was the first time around; a much wiser, humbler, and more appreciative person. Not only had he become the best at his profession, but he had climbed that mountain twice; the second time on his hands and knees and through broken glass and around molten lava, so to speak. When asked what the best part is about the success that he has had, he replied, “The best part is that I have the opportunity to help other people. If I can help just one person to avoid the mistakes I made, it is worth it.”
Travis Ortmayer is indeed a giant of a man but the biggest thing about him is his heart. His care for his fellow human beings, and his willingness to contribute positivity to his world speaks volumes about that fact. Tony McInerney could not have chosen a better ambassador and inspirational special guest.