HAMPTON, Va. (WVEC) -- An audience of hundreds packed The American Theatre in Phoebus to cheer on friends and loved ones in the Body Sculpting Open.
The historic venue hosted the Organized Competitive Bodies (OCB) competition which drew 40 ripped bodybuilders, all of whom hoped to take home a trophy.
They spent months preparing for the few seconds they would get to show off their bodies and their work.
If you took a moment to look beyond the spotlights, the stage, and the spray tans, you would have seen the competition was about much more than awards and titles.
We often forget that sometimes the strongest people aren’t the ones who can flex the hardest. Instead, they are people who have overcome obstacles and who have defied the odds.
They are people like Steve Alexy who was born with Cerebral Palsy.
“We were told the best thing to do was to put him in an institution because he wouldn’t be a viable human being," said Steve's mother, Shirley Story, recalling early conversations with doctors. "I said, 'Well, you just stand back, and watch. This is my son.'"
Surely those doctors would be amazed to see the person whose viability they questioned become a vital, thriving human being, participating in his now sixth bodybuilding competition.
“I just wish they could see me out here. I hope if they’re still alive that they will see my videos and say we messed up,” said Alexy, who shares much of his work and competitive ventures on line.
Alexy trains with Chris Lovelette every single day at Anytime Fitness in Suffolk.
“You can’t let anything hold you back,” said Alexy.
With the number "33" pinned to his Speedo at The American Theatre, Alexy took home the first place trophy, competing in the challenged category for people with disabilities.
For the first time, Alexy competed against someone else in his category, Number 32 Jon Atkins. Atkins was born with Down Syndrome.
“He’s just a positive kid. Every time he comes in he’s just ready to go,” said his trainer Joe Hartfelder.
Hartfelder owns Straight Edge Fitness and trains in Houze of Champions gym in Virginia Beach.
Life often hasn’t been easy for Atkins. The visibly shy kid still struggles with motor skills that many of us take for granted.
“There are some things that hold us back a little, but he’s overcome all of them with the posing. He’s just a natural,” Hartfelder told 13News Now.
At the end of the competition, Atkins took home second place, joining Alexy as a winner at the event.
“He’s telling people I was dealt kind of a rough hand when I was born, but other than that I’m not letting anything stop me. I’m just Steve,” said Story.
Both Atkins and Alexy serve as examples that true strength comes from beyond what the eye can see.
OCB has offered the challenged category for a few years, but Alexy always competed alone until this last competition. The organizers want to continue to get the word out to other people with disabilities to get involved and compete.