The world's strongest disabled man can lift the weight of a Honda motorbike off the ground singlehandedly. But he had no power to stop the firetruck that took his arm in 2015.
You can find him today at Powerstation Gym in his hometown of Middletown, Ohio, where he pumps peck deck flyes and presses monstrous dumbbells over his head. By day he is a teacher's assistant.
The aim of his weight training? It’s to defend a title he recently claimed at a powerlifting competition in London, UK—called Static Monsters World Championships 2023—where his standing one-arm deadlift of 279.78 kilograms (approx. 616.8 pounds) shattered their record.
He has also claimed the world record for unassisted one-arm deadlift after raising a knee-wobbling 462-pound barbell off the floor.
Before breaking said records, Mr. Diehl was a firefighter in Franklin for four years, until that fateful day on March 21, 2015, when an accident forever changed the course of his career, and his life.
It was early morning at the fire station. He and his crew had just returned from putting out a small blaze, and Mr. Diehl was behind the fire truck, helping to back it up inside, when something went catastrophically wrong. The truck veered to one side pinning his arm against the wall. He heard it snap around the corner of the wall as it ripped off.
“I don't assign blame because it is what it is at this point,” Mr. Diehl told The Epoch Times. “When I first woke up in the hospital, I was really adamant about not wanting to lose my arm.”
What surgeons told him next—that they couldn't fix his arm, that it would just hang limp and lifeless, that he would be in constant pain if they did attach it—led Mr. Diehl to make a painful decision.
“I just told him, cut it off,” he said. “And that's what they did.”
What Mr. Diehl was powerless to control that day in 2015 would soon be offset by the one thing he could control.
“What I can control is how hard I work,” he said. “I'm not a very special, or talented, or gifted athlete, but what I do have is a sickening maniacal work ethic.”
At Powerstation Gym, Mr. Diehl is known as being “one tough SOB” and “one of the toughest men in the world” for having been a firefighter and losing his arm, for never slowing down, never feeling sorry for himself.
Even as staples held his residual limb in place, he was at the gym ten days after his accident, he told us. “I have a son that believes in me and I have a family that depends on me to be at least some semblance of the man that I've always been.”
And that man was one who never gave up.
There is a man behind the world's strongest disabled man—his father, a former Army Airborne Ranger and sniper who served in Vietnam. He was a really tough guy, Mr. Diehl said, and did things other soldiers would not. He lost his twin brother in Vietnam, and it took a toll.
He taught his son that pain is temporary, Mr. Diehl said. “He unequivocally told me, ‘You're allowed to bleed. You're allowed to puke. You're allowed to crawl. You're even allowed to cry. But you're never, under any circumstances, allowed to quit.’”
His advice impressed Mr. Diehl then, as he prepared to join the Navy around 2000. He was 23 when he left from the Navy after a few years, but his devotion to service never left him.
As there is the saying, "Every sailor is a firefighter," it was fitting that he became one after leaving the military. Returning home to Ohio, Mr. Diehl joined the Franklin Fire Department in 2011 and served for four years, until the accident took his arm in 2015.
Today, his dedication is coupled with an important lesson: Public servants must “look out for themselves.”
“How am I going to take care of somebody else on their worst day if I'm not in good physical shape?” he said. “So after my accident, I just extend that into taking care of myself again, and that's why I do what I do.”
All of Mr. Diehl’s training will be tested Sept. 15-17 at the Magnús Ver Magnússon Adaptive Strength World Championships in Orlando, where he aims to not only defend his title but surpass himself for a new world record.