Born in Cheltenham on Christmas Day 1982, Laurence Shahlaei's first venture into the limelight came the following day when a local paper featured a photograph of baby Laurence with his his smiling mother and the headline read 'A Very Special Baby'
It was a good indication of things to come.
As a child, Laurence was always naturally big and strong. While other children his age would perhaps complain about the weight of a shopping bag, Laurence would carry large sacks of potatoes to and from the kitchen while helping his parents in their family run restaurant.
Like many young boys, Laurence loved sport and he loved to compete. His natural strength, athleticism and determination saw him excel in any sport he turned his hand to. By the age of 11 he was the British Kung Fu Champion. Later, he was playing rugby for the South West of England. Then, at 14 he started playing table tennis where he competed regionally and then turned to coaching.
It was while coaching table tennis that Laurence realised his love for teaching. He loved helping others reach their true potential and shared in their delight when they succeeded. However, the competitor in him was hungry for a new challenge.
At Christmas time in 2004, Laurence, like many other people, sat down with his family and watched The World's Strongest Man. Laurence admired the strength and athleticism of the competitors and said to his family 'This is cool, this is what I want to do!'
Having never actually stepped foot into a gym at the time, in January 2005 Laurence's dad paid for a gym membership so he could begin to train. A couple of months later, eager to compete, Laurence searched online for his first novice competition. Having done no Strongman training at all, instead sticking to a basic weight training programme, and with a deadlift personal best of 230KG, it was a good first test for Laurence. He was nervous when he learned that the competition involved doing a 220KG deadlift for reps, however, he went on to do 14 repetitions. He quickly realised he hadn't been pushing himself hard enough in the gym.
Over the next couple of years Laurence competed at every opportunity he got. Always looking to improve and learn from the best, he competed alongside the likes of Mark Felix and Ollie Thompson, athletes he'd watched and admired on TV just a year or two before. In 2007 he won the Midlands Strongest Man which qualified him for Britain's Strongest Man. Laurence made it into the final but unfortunately tore his bicep whilst competing, putting him out of competitions for the rest for the year.
In 2008, Laurence came back stronger and more determined than ever. He once again won The Midlands Strongest Man and placed 4th overall at Britain's Strongest Man. This qualified him for a place at The World's Strongest Man. Excited to be competing against the best in the world, and in an incredibly strong group with Mariusz Pudzianowski and Brian Shaw, Laurence just missed out on qualifying for the final by 2 points. He won the squat in his group and quickly established himself as having some of the strongest legs in the world. He has never been beaten at the squat while competing at World's Strongest Man.
Laurence Shahlaei has competed in The World's Strongest Man a further 9 times since his first appearance. His highest placing so far was in 2011 where he came 4th in the world. Since 2011, he has been a regular competitor in the Strongman Champions League, earning himself a podium finish in 12 different competitions and winning 2 of them. Laurence won England's Strongest Man in 2009 and went on to win Britain's Strongest Man in 2012 and 2013.
Laurence Shahlaei's biggest title win to date came in 2016 when against all odds, he dethroned the mountain and won Europe's Strongest Man. That same year, he also went on to win The Ultimate Strongman World Championships.
Laurence Shahlaei's ultimate goal is to win The World's Strongest Man.