BEST BETS: Australian strongman to attempt world record at Thunder Over Dover

From the flight deck, Master Sgt. Christine King, top left, and Tech. Sgt. Brinnae Wigley, top right, both 712th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chiefs, watch Cmdr. Grant Edwards, Australian Federal Police, reposition himself during a practice run at pulling a C-17 Globemaster III weighing approximately 418,898 pounds in June on Dover Air Force Base,. His wife Kate, left, and members of the 736th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron cheer him on. Cmdr Edwards is scheduled to attempt pulling the C-17 during the Thunder Over Dover weekend. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Although he will attempt to set a world record this weekend for the heaviest aircraft moved by a human, Commander Grant Edwards of the Australian Federal Police has faced a far weightier challenge in his life.

After years of police work and a tour of Afghanistan, Cmdr. Edwards has suffered the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, which spiraled into alcohol abuse and thoughts of suicide.

He will be at Dover Air Force Base’s Thunder Over Dover open house Saturday and Sunday, trying to pull a 418,898-pound C-17 Globemaster III — all in the name of mental health awareness for first responders.

In 2010 Cmdr. Edwards became the AFP’s manager for cybercrime, charged with protecting Australia’s digital infrastructure from malicious cyber attack as well as overseeing the online child protection operations, a unit established to protect children in the cyber environment from sexual predators. Dealing with that material put an emotional toll on him along with his year in Afghanistan, training police officers.

He wants to spread the message that although people can be strong physically, there are times that mentally, they may need some help — and it’s crucial to get that help.

“There are far too many policemen and first responders taking their own lives. We’re trying to break the stigma of mental trauma and trying to tell people to seek help,” said Cmdr. Edwards, who is now the head of the Australian Federal Police’s Americas Division, based in Washington.

Winner of the 1999 Australia’s Strongest Man competition and a competitor in the World’s Strongest Man contest later that year, Cmdr. Edwards entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 1996 for single-handedly pulling a then-record 201-metric ton (443,000-pound) steam locomotive a distance of 36.8 meters along a railroad track in Thirlmere, New South Wales, Australia

He outdid himself a year later by pulling a 220 metric-ton steam locomotive for charity in Canberra, Australia.

Technically his biggest pull is the HMS Bounty in Sydney Harbour in 1996. The replica ship, built for the 1984 Mel Gibson movie “The Bounty,” weighed 387 metric tons.

“But you can’t really count that. It was done on water and there’s displacement involved. It’s like apples and oranges,” Cmdr. Edwards said.

Away from the weight game for the last 20 years to focus on other pursuits, Cmdr. Edwards got the idea for this weekend’s pull during a somber trip to Dover Air Force Base last winter.

“I came out to Dover last year when there was a repatriation ceremony of fallen Australian law enforcement officers in Afghanistan, a branch where I served. I came out to pay my respects given the work I do,” said Cmdr. Edwards, who stands 6 feet, 4 inches and weighs almost 300 pounds.

“It was a rainy, chilly day and I mentioned to a colleague that we need to raise awareness of what’s going on with police, both with the military and in our communities. And I thought I could get that attention doing some crazy pull of a C-17 that I saw in the background.”

He’s been to Dover three times in the last couple of months to participate in trial runs in order to see if the whole thing would even be possible.

“One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that before you make a commitment, you have to make sure that all of your implements are in order and the elements are right. You have to do a bit of test to make sure it’s all going to work out. You don’t want it all to be a waste of time,” he said.

With that accomplished, Cmdr. Edwards has pulled off some smaller tasks to get ready for Dover.

He pulled a 14-metric ton (31,000-pound) police truck in Canberra in May and moved two police vehicles weighing a total of about 70,000 pounds in New York City earlier this month.

After two decades without exertion such as that, Cmdr. Edwards said it was quite a shock to get back in it.

“My mind thought it would be easy but my body has since rejected that notion,” he joked.

“I’ll be 55 years old next month and I think my body has been saying ‘Is this the smartest thing to do?’ With the help of my wife (Kate), who is my trainer, I’ve learned to go about this smarter, going very slowly and deliberately.”

In order to qualify for the record, he has to move the aircraft a minimum of 5 meters, or 16.4 feet. Cmdr. Edwards says ‘slowly and deliberately’ are definitely the keys.

“When you get to the real heavy weights, guys much stronger than me tend to bully the implement. But I find it’s best to caress it and build up the pace slowly. It’s like when you push a car from the back, you don’t want to go into it hard and heavy,” he said.

Cmdr. Grant Edwards hopes to bring attention to mental health among first responders during his weekend stay at Dover Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Cmdr. Edwards said his biggest injury doing one of these stunts is tearing an Achilles tendon when he was pulling the 201-metric ton locomotive.

“That put me out of action for about six months. It does happen when the exuberance of youth carries you away and you don’t listen to your body,” he said.

Cmdr. Edwards will attempt to pull the C-17 both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday, he will be out there at 12:38 p.m. and Sunday at 1:03 p.m.

“I’ve never done something like this two days in a row. But the folks at Dover have been so accommodating and wonderful. And with the significance and the celebratory nature of this event, this was my way of repaying them for the support they have given us,” he said.

Aside from participating in strongman events, Cmdr. Edwards has, over the years, excelled in track and field and football and was a member of the 1992 and 1994 Australian Winter Olympic bobsled teams.

His athletic pursuits were spurred on by a childhood where he was overweight and bullied because of it.

“I was always essentially frustrated and told I would never amount to anything. That gave me the instinct and drive to get into sports. Initially it was track and field,” said Cmdr. Edwards, who will compete in March in the USA Track and Field Indoor Masters competition in Landover, Maryland, participating in the hammer throw and shot put events. He holds a number of Australian Masters records.

He was also one of the first two Australians to secure an American football scholarship, attending the University of Hawaii starting in 1982.

He was recruited as a defensive tackle but was later switched to the offensive line.

“That was something I never experienced. I played rugby where you can tackle but with tackling forbidden as a lineman, it was a new way of learning,” he said.

He also ran his first marathon last October, participating in the Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, Virginia and Washington.

“I was lucky enough to tick off that box. I always say ‘I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none,’” he said with a laugh.

Gates open at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday for Thunder Over Dover. For more information, see the event program at DelawareStateNews.net.

‘Award Winners’ reception,

The “Award Winners XVII” reception and award ceremony will be held at the Biggs Museum of American Art, Dover on Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m.

The event will feature special performances by three of the 18 2017 Individual Artist Fellows. Attendees can experience the work of all artists in the “Award Winners XVII” exhibit on the third floor of the museum. The event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

The first part of the reception will feature piano selections by Emerging Fellow in Music, Daniel Carunchio and a presentation by A.T. Moffett, Established Fellow in Choreography, followed by the remarks and awards presentation. The second portion will end with a staged reading of work by Emerging Fellow in Playwriting, Aaron Wright.

The Biggs Museum is at 406 Federal St., Dover.

Horror Trailer Challenge

Budding filmmakers will have a chance to win $1,000 and their work screened at the historic Milton Theatre as Revival House launches the “7-Day Horror Trailer Challenge.”

Participants will have exactly one week to script, shoot and edit a trailer for their own horror film to be screened at the Revival House event during the weekend festivities of the “Milton Zombie Fest” at the Milton Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 19, at 6:30 p.m. titled “Oh! The Horror!”.

On Oct. 5, The Revival House will stream live on Facebook the qualifications for entering the film (to ensure the trailer was created specifically for the event and level the playing field).

On Oct. 12, all films will be required to be submitted to Revival House (either digitally through email at therevivalhouse@gmail.com or in person at the Milton Theatre by midnight.

All qualified horror trailers will be screened in front of a live audience Thursday, Oct. 19 at the Milton Theatre, beginning at 6:30 p.m. to be followed by the cult horror classic “Trick r’ Treat.”

Other contest details shall be provided via email at therevivalhouse@gmail.com.

Revival House’s “Oh! The Horror!” event and filmmaking competition is part of the weekend line-up of activities for the “Milton Zombie Fest” to be held on Oc. 19-21 in downtown Milton.

Paddlefest set for Saturday

The staff of Delaware Seashore State Park are continuing their 50th anniversary celebrations with a “Paddlefest,” a new event to the state park, taking place on Saturday, Aug. 26. This event could even be described as a paddling 5K, or a scavenger hunt via kayak.

Participants will launch at Savages Ditch Road, and paddle a four-mile course that ends at New Road. Along the way, park naturalists will be stationed throughout the course to share tidbits about marsh ecology, local maritime history, and to hand out snacks.

The first 50 people to complete the course will receive a Delaware State Parks water bottle. At the end, participants will receive a certificate of completion. There will also be a food-truck, photo ops and the 50th anniversary park history exhibit on display. Transportation back to the beginning of the course will be provided.

This “Paddlefest” event is free to enter, but pre-registration is required by calling (302) 227-6991. Due to the length of the event, previous paddling experience is required. Kayak rentals are available through Coastal Kayak, by calling (302) 539-7999. All participants must launch between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m.

For more information about this event or other state park programs, visit destateparks.com or call the Indian River Life-Saving Station at (302) 227-6991.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is the animated “Leap!”, the martial arts film “Birth of the Dragon” and the faith-based film “All Saints.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is “Baywatch.”

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