LAST week, Tom Stoltman made history.

The 26-year-old Highlander became the first Scot, and the first person with autism, to ever stand on the podium of the World’s Strongest Man (WSM) competition.

And Stoltman’s silver medal could easily have been gold. The strongman won more events than any other competitor in the finals, but narrowly lost out to Ukraine’s Oleksii Novikov on overall points because of a slip in the Giant’s Medley.

The event, which saw competitors walk 10 meters with a 125kg anvil, load it onto a tire, and then carry a 454kg yoke weighed down with motorcycles for 15 meters, ended up costing Stoltman the entire contest, but the strongman isn’t letting it get to him.

“It was my first event in the final,” he told The National, “and the anvil just slipped out of my hands.”

“If I didn’t drop that then yeah, I probably would have won the competition overall.

“If I had come fourth place after that I would be saying ‘that was really gutting’, but second place, first Scottish guy on the podium, made history, I’m not going to take any negatives away from that.”

Stoltman won three of the other five rounds, including the WSM’s most iconic event, the Atlas Stones, which sees competitors lift five spherical stones of increasing weight onto platforms of increasing height.

Just three men were able to lift all five, and Stoltman did it almost 10 seconds faster than his nearest challenger. The Scot lifted all five stones within 20 seconds, roughly the same time it took Novikov, the eventual champion, to lift four.

The Highlander has form, having used the coronavirus lockdown to break the world record for the heaviest Atlas stone ever lifted. Stoltman lifted a 286kg stone in his home gym in the town of Invergordon, near Alness, where he lives and trains with his brother Luke.

The National: The Cromarty Firth, near to the Highland town of Alness where Stoltman livesThe Cromarty Firth, near to the Highland town of Alness where Stoltman lives

Luke is also a strongman, and competed in the group stages of the WSM 2020, though he didn’t make the finals. At a time when Covid meant the usual crowds couldn’t attend, and athletes couldn’t take their families with them to Florida for the finals, having Luke with him gave Tom a significant boost.

“We had each other, we trained with each other, we flew with each other, we kept each other’s heads. It was a big advantage we had, and he gave me that extra 10% I needed," he says.

Family has always been a key support for Stoltman, who was able to rely on his mum and sister when he struggled growing up with autism, which he says he kept hidden from his peers until he was a teenager.

“When I started telling my close mates, they understood and really accepted who I was,” he said.

“It was the same when I started Strongman. I wanted to make it a bit more vocal, just to let people know I’m not shy, I’m not awkward, it’s just that this is what I’ve got and this is how I live with it.

“I still struggle with it sometimes, I take a lot more time than other people to get some things processed and I’m still kind of nervous about new things.

“I always wanted to be successful for the people that have additional needs. I’ve done a lot of talks on it and I want everyone to know that, just because we’ve got a label on our heads, it doesn’t mean that you are different from anyone else, we’ve just got that additional hurdle we have to get over.

“For me to [win silver] and I’ve got autism, you know, it’s a thing that I thought would never happen, and that’s what I want to let people know.

“Just because you’ve got additional needs, just because people have told you ‘you can’t do this’ or ‘you can’t do that’, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to do it.

“That’s what a lot of people said to me in school. I wanted to prove them wrong, and that’s what I’m doing.”

Stoltman won’t have to wait long to prove the naysayers wrong once again.

“I’ve got Britain’s Strongest Man [in Sheffield] in January, I want to win that,” he says. “I want to win Europe’s, and I want to win the World’s.”

“World’s are in the summer next year as well [after Covid delayed 2020’s until the winter], so whoever is world’s strongest man right now is only going to have it for six months anyway," he laughs.

“Seeing as I’ve come second I’ve got time to progress more and hit number one. That’s what it’s about for me.”