Strongman Rob Kearney: Coming Out Taught Me Strength

By: Rob Kearney

My name is Rob Kearney, and as a professional Strongman, I’m one of the strongest men in the world. It wasn’t until I publicly came out as gay that I realized how much strength I really had.

I began competing in the sport of Strongman when I was 17 years old, a senior in high school. Throughout high school, I was an outgoing, friendly and extremely active kid. I was an offensive lineman on the football team, class president, lead singer in a band, and a cheerleader. I began finding solitude in the weight room, and that’s where I could finally be who I truly was. I found confidence in myself and translated that to everyday life. While I was not out to myself, using this newfound love of weightlifting to bring confidence into my everyday life eventually helped me realize my true fabulousness.

At the age of 21, I won the 2013 NAS National Championship to become a professional strongman. Since turning pro, I have taken 2nd place at 105kg America’s Strongest Man in 2014 and 2015. In 2014, I was completely exhausted after putting on a façade for so many years and pretending to fit the heterosexual stereotype I thought I needed to fulfill. I was in a relationship with a girl and realized that I was not really happy. I had thought men were attractive and finally came to my senses one day. I asked myself, “Why am I doing this, when I feel something else?” I ended that relationship and came to the self realization that I am gay.

rob kearney

After meeting my boyfriend Joey, now fiancé, I was motivated to come out because I felt it wasn’t fair to be in “in the closet” while dating someone who has been out since high school. Coming out pegged me as the first openly gay professional strongman in the world, which encouraged me to become a stronger and better version of myself. Coming out is usually never easy for anyone. I compete in arguably the most hyper-masculine sport in the world, yet I was not fearful of coming out—I was excited. Not because I would be the “first” of something, but because I could take all of this energy I was using by pretending to be something I wasn’t and use that in my pursuit of becoming the strongest version of myself possible.

After coming out, I received so many comments of support and love from the strongman community. It really was overwhelming. From the outside looking in, strongman can be a scary thing. But this is one of the most amazing, supportive and loving communities I have ever been a part of. My friends accepted me with open arms, strangers congratulated me, and of course there were some negative comments. Those comments, however pushed me to be even stronger, compete more, and be even more open about my relationship/sexuality to show the world that strongman is for everyone!

After coming out, I have gone on to achieve some pretty amazing things. I currently hold the 105kg Pro American and World Record in the log clean and press at 410lbs, and won the 2016 Log Lift World Championships at a bodyweight of 246lbs with a lift of 445.5lbs. I also won the 2017 Giants Live North American Championships. While I am mostly known for overhead pressing, I also hold the 105kg Pro American Record in the Yoke Walk. In 2017, I became the first openly gay man to ever compete at The World’s Strongest Man competition (as seen on TV), and have since competed there in 2018 as well and continue to compete all over the world.

rob kearney
While not competing in Strongman, I am the Head Athletic Trainer/Director of Sports Medicine at a boarding school in Massachusetts where I work with all athletic programs in injury rehabilitation and prevention. I also serve as a Dorm Parent where I advise and act as a surrogate parent for 50 domestic and international high school boys. I have a bachelor’s Degree in Athletic Training from Springfield College and a master’s Degree in Advanced Athletic Training with a Concentration in Athletic Rehab from Springfield College. My main goal as a professional strongman is not only to excel in the sport, but to break the “gay stereotype” and help make strongman a sport for everyone, regardless of your sexual orientation!

I am so excited to begin working with Athlete Ally to bring more visibility to Strongman and all strength sports in the LGBTQ+ Community. The world of strength athletics is growing and the people are some of the most caring, loving and supportive individuals I have ever met. I hope to be a beacon of light to young LGBTQ+ athletes and show them that there is no “box” you must fit into. Be true to yourself and you will be amazed at the positive impact it will have on your life.

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