Following his accident, John Stitt had just two questions for his doctors: “When can I walk again?” and “When can I lift weights again?”
Stitt, a criminal justice major at the University of Mississippi, began training for strongman competitions in 2012. A year later, he competed in his first event and came in dead last. But he still loved it.
In November 2013, his training came to an abrupt halt. Just two days after his 23rd birthday, Stitt was in a life-changing motorcycle accident. He broke his left femur and left arm, fractured his pelvis, and his left leg was amputated immediately below the knee.
Even while lying in a hospital bed, all Stitt could think about was training again. In spring 2014, he received a prosthetic foot and began standing. A month later, he started weightlifting again.
“Originally, they said I’d never be able to lift weights again,” Stitt said. “Now, it’s a year-and-a-half later, and I’ve done two strongman competitions as a disabled athlete.”
Earlier this month, Stitt traveled to Iceland to compete in the World’s Strongest Disabled Man Competition. He left with two first place event finishes in the Hercules Hold and Arm over Arm Car Pull, and finished fourth in the world overall. By the end of the competition, he earned the nickname “John Vice Grip.”
A native of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Stitt has lived in Oxford for the past six years while pursuing his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
He does most of his training for competitions at the Turner Center, where he has become an inspiration for many others.
“When people see him work out, they are compelled to ask him about his training and to comment on how impressive his accomplishments are,” said Charles Allen, coordinator of fitness for campus recreation. “In turn, this allows John the opportunity to share his story and training expertise with lots of people. His pursuit of fitness is a compelling example to us all that there really is no reason or obstacle that should prevent us from pursuing our own fitness, health and wellness-related goals.”
Stitt said his passion for the sport is what kept him pushing through his recovery.
“If I can inspire people doing this, it’s great,” he said. “But for me, I just love the sport so much, and I didn’t want anything to stop me from getting back to it.”
Stitt plans to compete in another competition this August in the United Kingdom.