Philly Woman and Openly Gay Athlete Rob Kearney Competing in Rare Strongman Duos Competition This Weekend

By day University of the Arts grad Maya Camille Winters is a college art professor at West Chester University. But when she’s not guiding students through fundamental painting techniques she’s training like a mad woman to maintain her middle weight title of America’s Strongest Woman.

She earned that national champion status in a 2013 strongman competition, where she was also classified No. 2 in the world in her weight class. That’s quite a feat in itself, but this weekend she’s looking to break new barriers when she teams up with openly gay athlete Rob Kearney at a couples strongman competition in Connecticut. Why is this such an exceptional undertaking?

Rob is one of the first strongmen in the sport who has come out as gay,” says Winters. “What we’re doing is very rare: It’s rare that males and females team up in the competition, and it’s even more rare that they’re both gay.”

Winters and Kearney got together because they were trained by the same pro strongman coach, Mike Jenkins, who passed away last year in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.

If you don’t know, strongman is, as Winters explains, “essentially a sport of lifting heavy objects.” You’ve no doubt seen it on television: The beefy men and women lifting crazy huge logs and pulling trucks behind them by a rope. “That’s exactly what we’ll be doing this weekend,” she says. “We’ll be doing a dead lift with chains on either side, a log press, lifting stones and slinging 200-pound sandbags.”

The Couples Strong(wo)man Competition is taking place on December 6th at Lightning Fitness in South Windsor, Connecticut. Yes, it’s quite a far jaunt to go cheer them on, but you can keep track of their progress via social media. Find Winters on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. Kearney is also on Facebook.

Best of luck to the gay duo!