Gorilla Jack Clothing

2013 Iron Will Award Winner:

John Dignazio

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John Dignazio's Submission:

"But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!"

On January 24, 2012 – in a brief moment, a year of training to reach the 2012 MABBA Novice ended. I have replayed that moment over and over in my mind to make sense of it. I still question whether it was fate, or a freak accident. I think it was both.

A normal leg training day turned into the end of a journey, the end of a dream. Completing a final set of machine supported squats, with over 400lbs, a latching mechanism let go unexpectedly, buckling my left leg with all of the weight. In that moment I knew that something major had happened, I hoped as I grabbed my knee that it wasn’t so, but as I stepped forward there was no more feeling in my leg and I toppled over onto the ground. My nephew Tony came over and I told him it wasn’t good. That moment was a blur, it was filled with the feeling of what had just happened, the shock of my leg bent with no movement, and the onset of pain throughout my body.

I called my wife, Carmen, and left a message that I was going to the Pan Am Clinic, I told her I was hurt. On the examination table with my family beside me, the Doctor confirmed the injury, a complete Quad Tendon Tear, my entire quad had rolled back up my leg, and surgery was required immediately. The feelings inside me were not centered on the pain of the injury, but were centered on the end of a journey, a dream to compete and if fortunate enough to join my wife Carmen on the MABBA provincial stage later that year in June.

I called my trainer, Darren Mehling of FREAK FITNESS and broke the news to him. He was shocked, but as my friend/coach for over a year, Darren told me something that as I look back to this past year, became the foundation to me coming back and hitting the stage on March 23rd. Darren said, “this ain’t over, we are not letting this stop you, together we will get you back on stage, you give me your 100% and I will give you mine”

Surgery occurred on January 27th, and the quad was repaired. The next 5 months were spent with a full leg brace and physiotherapy occurring on a weekly basis. The legs which were my strength as an athlete since childhood were now my constraint. I knew I had to move forward to use every day to my advantage and not let this setback stop me.

I knew that with less than 10 months till Novice 2013 I needed to get back to the gym. I began with a limited upper body regime and in September after 6 months on not working legs I attempted my first leg extension, my first leg press. It was then that the doubts resurfaced. Looking in the mirror my left leg was half the size of my other, full bending was not possible and to get the leg back to some equality with the other seemed remote.

But it was the encouragement of my wife Carmen, my children Gabriel and Julia, my coach Darren, my nephew Tony and great friends, that this was not me doing this alone but this was a family, a team. I have given every ounce of me to get to that stage on March 23rd, even when told by doctors it would be impossible. The injury which ended one dream on January 24, 2012 perhaps instilled something inside of me that shaped me as a person over this past year in ways that otherwise would not have occurred.

I will stand on that stage on March 23rd, which is my victory. Thank you for the time to read my story and your consideration for this award.

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