Emotional tributes have been paid after the passing of one of the best-known names in Northern Ireland bodybuilding — and the second shock death of a bodybuilder from Carrickfergus in just over a month.
Graeme McConkey, who was in his 40s, ran the Valhalla Gym in the town and now pals are planning to dedicate a forthcoming bodybuilding event in his memory.
Mr McConkey, affectionately known to family and friends as ‘Big G’, was married to Carol and was dad to Laura and elder brother of Darren.
He died on Friday after earlier revealing on social media he had suffered medical problems.
It was the second death of a bodybuilder from Carrick in recent months following the passing of Jim Henderson (54) who died suddenly in Malta less than 24 hours after competing in the World Championships.
At the time he was understood to have suffered a fatal heart attack in his hotel room.
Ahead of a bodybuilding event in Belfast’s Ulster Hall on August 8 Helen Cowden said on Facebook: “Let’s make this show the best ever... in memory and honour of the most influential bodybuilder we have had the privilege of knowing as a friend and mentor and true warrior. Graeme McConkey this one is for YOU with all our love and respect.”
Sharon Curry said: “I’ll never forget you, you to me are bodybuilding, I have no doubt you would have gone pro if you pursued it, but you had nothing to prove to no one, you were the BEST and always will be!!! Love u big man, hardcore to end.”
Another friend described Mr McConkey as “a true gentleman. He had time for everybody. We just can’t get our heads around this. Our thoughts are with his family”. On Thursday evening, Mr McConkey told on Facebook how he had been suffering from chest pains.
And he quoted from famous bodybuilder, film star Arnold Schwarzenegger when he had said: “Thanks for (the) kind messages really appreciate your concern. As Arnold says: ‘I’ll be back’.”
Mr McConkey previously said bodybuilding was his life when he told of fears his health would end his participation in the sport.
On Thursday evening, Mr McConkey posted on Facebook that he appreciated the kind messages of support for him following his health issues.