Though entered in his first strongman competition, out lifter Jake Briscoe believes he’s already won


BODY BY JAKE | Atlas Stones, balls of solid concrete, are part of the strongman training regimen. (Photo by Jonathan Williams)

RICH LOPEZ  | Contributing Writer
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Jake Briscoe is all about numbers these days. At 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds, he’s been training five days a week in two different gyms for months. He consumes up to 8,000 calories a day. And he has one thing in mind.

He’s doing all this to make his strongman debut Saturday at the Ronnie Coleman Classic in Fort Worth.

“Where I would really like to be is at 350 pounds,” the 28 year-old says.

See? Numbers.

Named after the winner of eight Mr. Olympia contests (the apex title in bodybuilding), the annual classic consists of competitions in weightlifting, arm wrestling, CrossFit, bodybuilding and strongman. Briscoe will be competing in the 275–355 weight class and yes, he’ll be doing the stuff people see on television’s World’s Strongest Man.

“It’s that on an amateur scale. This is a Level 2 event which is a starting point,” he says. “And I’ll be doing the Atlas Stones. That’s become the quintessential even most people identify strongman with.”

In escalating weights, Briscoe will have to lift each stone, carry it 15 feet and place it on a pedestal. But even those may weigh less than what’s he’s carried with him to this moment.

“I was a huge late bloomer. I had very low self-esteem and body dysmorphia,” he says. “I’ve always seen myself as fat and weak and even small. That carried well over into my adulthood.”

In many ways it turned Briscoe self-reliant and independent — almost. He hasn’t needed any external inspiration because of his self-motivation — but he changed his mind.

“You know, my dad inspires me. He got me into strength sports. He’s 60 and supposed to be in a wheelchair due to a degenerative disease in his lower back but he’s still actively competing in bodybuilding,” Briscoe says.

jjake-briscoeBriscoe also credits his boyfriend Robert Rowella. The two have been together for two years and in that time where Briscoe is consumed with training as well as his day job of hair stylist at Salon Aura and a virtually nonexistent social life, Rowella has actually bolstered him.

“I am much happier with myself because of him. He’s been nothing but supportive,” Briscoe says. “He’s supported my dream and loves being a part of it. He likes my ambition and drive and it’s nice to be with someone who shares my dream.”

The profile of gay athletes has grown over the past few years, of course. Michael Sam was out before he joined the NFL. Derrick Gordon was the first openly gay Division 1 NCAA basketball player. Strongman has even had pro Rob Kearney come out in 2014.

While he’s not working to be some kind of advocate for other gay athletes, Briscoe is glad to maybe help shatter clichéd images of gays in sports.

“This isn’t a statement I’m making,” he says. “I’d rather be significant than successful. If that is inspiring to someone, great. I just think that people’s perceptions have become a lot less two-dimensional and that any type of person can do anything.”

He has been working on a documentary about athletes defying stereotypes tentatively called Untitled.

“It still in the beginning stages, but the premise highlights LGBT people competing in different sports like strongman, he says. “We just want to show how diverse sports really are.”

The doc would follow Briscoe around as he prepares for future strongman contests. But for now, it’s all about the Coleman. So it’s back to 1 a.m. gym times, four-to-five-hour training sessions and a minimum of 10 eggs per his daily 2,600 calorie shake. And if the numbers add up, perhaps he’ll walk away with his first win at his first competition.

But Briscoe is keeping it simple.

“The fact that I’m doing this and have the balls to compete, I feel like I’ve won,” Briscoe says. “Hardly anyone takes first in their debut, but this is going to motivate me to work harder to get to a higher level. This gets my foot in the door and with that, I can’t lose.”

The Ronnie Coleman Classic, the Fort Worth Convention Center, 1201 Houston St., Fort Worth. April 30. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. $35.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 29, 2016.