Passion for gym frees 'locked in' wheelchair body builder

Nick Chisholm works  while communicating with trainer Shane Waldron through an alphabet grid....
Nick Chisholm works while communicating with trainer Shane Waldron through an alphabet grid. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Nick Chisholm is more nervous about unveiling his muscled new body than his wedding.

Fourteen years ago, the Kenmure man became unable to walk or talk after a rugby injury.

His life took a turn for the better when, in January at Larnach Castle, he kissed his new bride, Nicole, whom he had met on Facebook.

Now, at 41, he may become the first person with ''locked-in syndrome'' to compete as a bodybuilder.

''This is more nerve-racking than getting married, because there's lots more preparation involved,'' Chisholm said.

In 2000, Chisholm was diagnosed with the condition where his brain functioned normally but his body did not respond.

Paralysed, Chisholm was told he would not live but with regular gym sessions he regained some minor movement.

''I'm not a quadriplegic anymore,'' he said during a gym session at Sky Fitness last week, communicating by looking directly at letters on a grid on a clear plastic board to spell words.

Trainer Shane Waldron (34) agreed Chisholm was calmer before his wedding.

''You looked quite relaxed going into the wedding compared to this,'' he said, laughing.

Chisholm said the motivation of a ''full recovery'' was all he needed to train for the competition.

The road to recovery was long but Chisholm was progressing every day.

''He's one in a million, this kid,'' Waldron said.

''He's fallen in love with the gym and his training.

''This is where he is free and can move his body. When he's in the wheelchair he can't move his arms.''

Waldron reassured the ODT Chisholm was in great physical condition.

The big reveal of his ''shredded'' body will wait until his first competition - the New Zealand wheelchair Body Building Federation - in August.

His trainer said Chisholm would become the first person in the world with ''locked-in syndrome'' to pose in a bodybuilding competition.

The online competition will have bodybuilders in wheelchairs enter photos of compulsory poses for judging.

A month later, he will pose in front of a live Dunedin audience for the South Island Body Building Championships at the University of Otago College of Education auditorium.

Chisholm said the preparation included training for more than 12 hours a week, a strict diet and plenty of recovery rest. He was in bed by 7pm most days. He was also growing a ''winter coat'' on his trademark red mohawk for the competition.

The training was similar to his past rehabilitation work but more intense.

Waldron said the training was about packing on muscle and removing body fat.

''As long as the body weight is coming off - and it is - we're happy.''

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