A FORMER strongman who competed against the world’s best lifters has died at the age of 52.

Lee Bowers had competed in the World’s Strongest Man in 1998 and 1999 after being successful in the British competitions.

The father-of-three, from Earby, started out in sports as a runner in school, where he competed on several occasions as a sprinter during his mid-teens and represented West Craven High School.

The former policeman took up bodybuilding into his late teens and took part in the Pendle Valley bodybuilding competitions when he was 17 and 18.

The former security man grew into strongman training after coming second in a bench press competition while in Benidorm with his friend, Gary Parkinson and the love for the sport developed from there.

The grandfather-of-five died on Saturday, October 5, the cause of his death has not yet been confirmed.

Speaking on behalf of Mr Bowers’ family, Mr Parkinson, who has been friends with Mr Bowers for more than 35 years, had spoken with him hours before his death.

He said: “We have lost a great man. Lee was a fantastic weightlifter and was extremely strong. He excelled in the shoulder press and the bench press.

“We spoke to each other at 7pm and agreed to go to the gym the following day, but overnight he died. It’s come as a shock to everyone as it has come so quickly.”

Mr Bowers also worked with BT in Accrington and trained at Rolls Royce Gym in Barnoldswick and at Stan's Gym in Great Harwood amd Intershape, in Colne. He had completed a degree in sports management at the University of Central Lancashire.

He was six feet tall and weighed around 23 to 24 stone in his hey-day, and could bench press in excess of 270 kilos. He held the British record for the most repetitions of a log press in one minute, which was 29, set in 1996.

He represented Lancashire in the English Schools' 100 metres competitions, coached by Barnoldswick man Harvey Grace, and ran for Blackburn Harriers.

The strongman also had a passion for Ju Jitsu, and trained at the Bushido Ju Jitsu Academy in his hometown.

On his strongman ability, Mr Parkinson said: “Lee was a general all-rounder. He was good at the atlas stones but he really did well in the big, main lifts, such as the bench press.

“He was a really good man. He was a great friend and great to his kids.”

A funeral service is to be held at Burnley Crematorium and afterwards at the Old Stone Trough, in Kelbrook.

Details from Windles Funeral Directors, Barnoldswick.