Geoff Capes (born 23 August 1949) is a British former shot putter, strongman and professional Highland Games competitor.
As an athlete he represented both England and Great Britain in field athletics, specialising in the shot put an event in which he was twice Commonwealth champion, twice European champion, and three time Olympian.
As a strongman, he twice won the title of World’s Strongest Man, also had numerous other titles including Europe’s Strongest Man and Britain’s Strongest Man.
As a Highland Games competitor he was six times world champion, first winning the title in Lagos in 1981, and held world records in numerous events.
Capes stood 197 cm (6 ft 5 1⁄2 in) and weighed 170 kilograms (370 lb) at his peak condition.
Following retirement from competitive sport he continued to be involved in strength athletics as a referee, event promoter and coach.
For his services to sport Geoff Capes was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee medal. Geoff’s achievements are further recognised on The World’s Strongest Man Hall of Fame and England Athletics Hall of Fame.
Geoff Capes was born in 1949 in Holbeach, Lincolnshire, the seventh of nine children. He grew up in the town and went to the local secondary school, George Farmer.
He became a member of Holbeach Athletic Club where he was coached by Stuart Storey. He was a gifted sportsman, and representedLincolnshire at basketball, football and cross-country. In addition he was a decent sprinter, running 23.7 s for the 200 m.
Growing up on the Lincolnshire fens he had an early fascination with the natural world and cared for injured birds and animals from when he was a young boy.
After school Geoff worked as a coalman and an agricultural labourer, being able to load twenty tons of potatoes in twenty minutes. He joined Cambridgeshire Constabulary in 1970, and remained in the police for ten years.
Geoff currently lives at Stoke Rochford, near Grantham, and has a daughter Emma who was English Schools’ shot put champion and Youth Olympics bronze medallist. His son Lewis played American football for the London Monarchs. He has four grandchildren.
Aside from sport, Geoff Capes’s childhood care and love for animals led to him becoming famed for breeding budgerigars and has had quite a lot of success. In 2008 he assumed the role of president of the Budgerigar Society, along with Mick Widdowson who is also a keen budgie breeder and friend. He frequently appears in the pages of Cage & Aviary Birds.
First and foremost, Geoff Capes was a shot putter and represented his country over a span of 11 years, winning two Commonwealth Games and two Indoor European Championship titles.
His first major games were the1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, where he finished fourth. In the next two games in 1974 and 1978 he took the gold medal. In this period he also became the European Indoor Champion in both 1974 and 1976.
Geoff’s first Olympic experience was in 1972 when he competed in Munich at the age of 21. Although he did not make it past the qualifying round, he improved on this considerably four years later.
Having thrown his personal best on 28 May 1976 at Gateshead of 21.55 m, Geoff went into the 1976 Montreal Olympics as one of the favourites for the gold medal. He came second in his qualifying group but went on to come sixth overall in the final, the winner being Udo Beyer of East Germany.
1980 was the year that saw Geoff put the best distance of his career and increased the British record to 21.68 m (71 ft. 3.5 in.) in Cwmbran on 18 May 1980 being a new Commonwealth and British record.
He went into the Olympics as the athlete with the best distance of the year so far and was once again a favourite for the title. However, he eventually placed fifth, the winner being Vladimir Kiselyov who although putting an Olympic Record of 21.35 m was well short of Capes’ distance prior to the Olympics. Geoff said of his performance at the 1980 Moscow Olympics that the result that left him “numbed with disappointment”.
Geoff is the most capped British male athlete of all time, receiving 67 International caps, and returning 35 wins, not including a further 35 caps for England. He is a winner of 17 national titles including being 7 times a winner of the AAA championship and three times UK champion. In 1983 he was voted Britain’s best ever field athlete and his 1980 British shot-put record stood until 2003, when Carl Myerscough took the mantle.
As a strongman, Geoff Capes became a household name in Britain and many parts of the world. He was particularly known for his incredible hand and arm strength, easily tearing London telephone directories in half and bending rolled steel bars measuring over 1 inch in diameter, and three feet in length.
He turned fully professional in 1980, the Olympics in Moscow being his last event as an amateur athlete. He had already begun to make a name as a strongman having won the inaugural Britain’s Strongest Man in 1979.
In 1980 the Olympics dominated the year and Geoff Capes did not compete in Britain’s Strongest Man, but he did compete later in the Europe’s Strongest Man competition and won that. This ensured his invitation to the 1980 World’s Strongest Man and on his first entry he came third behind the by then more experienced Bill Kazmaier and Lars Hedlund.
In 1981 he returned and improved to second place, again behind Kazmaier, and in 1982 he came fourth.
The 1983 contest was the first held outside the United States and in Christchurch, New Zealand, where Geoff Capes held off the challenge of a world class field including the young Jón Páll Sigmarsson and to take the first of two World’s Strongest Man titles.
But it was the duel between Sigmarsson and Geoff Capes that heralded the beginning of a great rivalry.
The following year in Mora, Sweden, Sigmarsson, eleven years Geoff’s junior, took the title proclaiming “The King has lost his crown!”. Geoff retorted “I’ll be back” and the following year won the title in Cascais, his closing remark being “The King has not lost his crown”. Sigmarsson won once again in 1986 with Geoff coming second. Geoff Capes regained his Britain’s Strongest Man title in 1981 and again in 1983.
Aside from the World’s Strongest Man, Geoff also won Europe’s Strongest Man on three occasions, in London (1980), Amsterdam (1982) and Marken (1984).
Geoff Capes competed at many gatherings in Scotland and across the world and became a hugely popular and respected figure. He won the World Heavy Events title in Lagos in 1981. He went on to win again in 1983 in Carmunnock and the next four consecutive titles, making Geoff the most successful competitor ever in terms of titles. He set world records in many disciplines, including the 56 lb weight over the bar and brick lifting.
Geoff Capes would go on to be a coach for many young athletes including World’s Strongest Man competitor Adrian Smith. He was also a mentor coach of the British Olympic shot put team. Impressively, in 2006 he competed in and won a fell race in Cumbria. He also co-ran a security company for a time and appeared on two British reality shows. It’s Geoff’s passion to take the best of all he has experienced to provide opportunities for disadvantaged children and young people to participate in sport and other recreational and leisure activities, enabling them to improve their lives.