Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

'I've even had to fight fires on a boat in the middle of Irish Sea' says Brian Coombes

Brian Coombes, the 37-year-old Watch Commander of Central Fire Station in Belfast, is also a world champion power lifter, and will compete in next week's World Police and Fire Games. Brian, from Templepatrick, and wife Jen (37) a sign language interpreter, have two girls, aged four and five

Brian Coombes
Brian Coombes

I was a design engineer for many years before I joined the fire service 10 years ago. I worked for Shorts and Airbus and was the flight test engineer for the Airbus A320.

I was bored sitting behind a desk in an office all day and wanted to change career. The only other thing I wanted to do was join the fire service. It was for the excitement and the challenge.

For me it was a career which would allow me to give something back to the community and challenge me both physically and mentally. I was very fortunate to get in first time. Every day is a challenge and you never know from one day to the next what the job will bring, which is exactly what I wanted.

We do deal with a lot of tragedy but our training is world class. I've been to some tragic car accidents and serious large industrial fires. I've done everything from attend boats on fire in the middle of the Irish Sea, a small aircraft on fire, trains and incidents where people are trapped. Lucky enough I've always come out without injury.

From the age of about 14 I have been weight lifting and going to the gym about three times a week but it wasn't until 2004 that I started to compete.

A colleague in the Fire Service told me about a power lifting competition in Liverpool. I entered and won and I've never looked back.

I've won the Northern Ireland Championships every year since 2008 and I am Irish Champion. I won the World Fire fighting Games in 2008 and the World Championships in 2009.

I also won the World Police and Fire Games in New York in 2011 and set a new record lifting 210kgs and dead lifting 295kg.

I was also the first person from Northern Ireland to win the British Championship in 2012.

I am now aiming for the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand this year which will be a really big one for me. Outside of my career and family life, I just live for power lifting.

I'm financial director of the Northern Ireland Power Lifting Federation and I run a power lifting club at the Valley Leisure Centre in Newtownabbey.

I think it is great for Northern Ireland that the World Police and Fire Games are taking place here.

I can't wait to get stuck in. I'm ready; I've been training for the past 10 weeks and will be competing on August 8. I know from taking part in the games in New York just how amazing they are. The camaradie and friendship is fantastic. Everyone I met in New York was there for the sport. I don't think people realise that they are all serious competitors and many, like myself, are national champions in their own right.

These people are elite athletes and the people of Northern Ireland are in for an absolute treat watching high level athletes who are at the top of their game from all over the world. And it's free of charge.

It is very special that it is happening in my home city. I'm delighted my family and friends will be able to see me compete in a high level competition.

Usually I am competing in America or Europe or even further afield and they have never been able to attend any of the events. Just to have my wife and my parents and my friends there will make it very special."

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