CAPE GIRARDEAU — What started as an accident, has since led Chelsea Pullen to becoming one of the strongest women in the world.
Pullen — a Pendleton native who now calls Cape Girardeau, Missouri, home — began competing in Strongman competitions in October 2020.
“It honestly kind of happened as an accident. I had some friends giving me a hard time because I was a bodybuilder at the time, and they were saying that there was no way I could do it,” Pullen said. “I had some online clients that were competing in Strongman too, and I was helping them with nutrition, so I wanted to better understand what I needed to do food-wise for them. I said I was one-and-done, but now here we are almost three years later, and I’m still going.”
A former softball standout and All-American at Pendleton Heights High School and Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Pullen found a new hobby later in life in both bodybuilding and weightlifting, but each were trumped by her passion for the world of Strongman.
“My food is a lot more flexible, which is nice. I don’t have to live off of just chicken and broccoli,” Pullen said. “And just the overall community and people. There’s a lot more of a sense of camaraderie than other sports seem to have. That’s just really nice, and different than most sports.”
That camaraderie and her background playing softball are why she believes she fell in love with Strongman so easily.
“Softball was all about that camaraderie, too. You’re a family and all on the same team,” Pullen said. “As I dove into more individualized sports, it [Strongman] allowed me to push myself, and find my own little family even though I’m just competing for myself. Figuring out my work ethic kind of transferred over from softball to my grown-up sports.”
Falling in love with the sports might have been Step 1, but proving that she could compete was the next step. She did just that very quickly, finishing first in her weight class at her very first competition, the 2020 Missouri Strongman Championship in Columbia, Missouri.
More recently, Pullen competed at the Official Strongman Games (OSG) World Championships on Nov. 12-13 of this year in Daytona Beach, Florida, and finished in ninth place in the under-82 kg weight class.
Complications resulting from Hurricane Nicole caused the competition to be shortened from three days to two.
Normally, what is two days of two events each, was combined into one day to kick off the competition. On Day 1, Pullen competed in the viking press (205 pounds), farmers carry (250 pounds each hand), axle deadlift (450 pounds), and sandbag medley (175, 200, 225 and 250 pounds). Day 2 concluded the competition with a 650-pound car walk, circus dumbbell (90, 100, 130 and 150 pounds), and atlas stones (175, 200, 225, 250, 275 and 300 pounds).
“It was a very humbling experience and very overwhelming,” Pullen said. “My goal was to just go in, have fun, come out with no injuries and finish top 10. I definitely achieved all of those things, so I was more than happy with my overall performance on the weekend.”
When she’s not out there competing, Pullen likes to help out and be involved in competitions in other ways by judging, commentating or just supporting her clients. This past weekend she was in Texas helping scribe — track and record results — for a competition.
“If I have clients competing, I try to be out there,” Pullen said. “I’ve commentated, scribed and judged competitions, and I host my own competition out in Missouri. I’m kind of in all aspects of it.”
Along with training clients at both the local gym and online, Pullen is also working to bring the sport of Strongman to Missouri. She ran her first competition in September, and has another lined up for April of 2023 in her hometown of Cape Girardeau.
“As a trainer, I primarily train lifestyle clients, and I love it,” Pullen said. “So I just want to continue helping people as they allow me to do so.”
For herself, Pullen plans to return to Daytona Beach to compete in next year’s OSG’s.
“I don’t really have an end goal. I just want to keep having fun and enjoying the sport overall,” Pullen said. “I have little goals along the way like finishing top 10 again at OSG’s next year, but I just want to keep enjoying the sport and moving within it and helping people along the way.”
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