To the victor, the spoils. Australian giant Damon Kelly may not have been able to defend his superheavyweight gold medal but leaves Glasgow with the title of the best beard in the Commonwealth Games.
Venerable website beardwatch.co.uk, which runs a fine tooth comb over the best facial hair in the sporting world, rated Kelly on top after his wild, generous beard helped him power to a bronze medal in the weightlifting, hoisting a total of 388kg into the air.
His beard has become a cult attraction in the Athlete’s Village and he has been stopped numerous times on the street for photos with visitors and impressed Glaswegians alike. It only seems fitting that it now has received official recognition, with beardwatch putting him at number one in their ‘Top 10 Beards of the Commonwealth Games’.
Kelly beat out luminaries such as cycling great Sir Bradley Wiggins, who has traded his signature burns for a neat and compact advanced stubble, Australian parasports icon Kurt Fearnley and Kiwi Rugby Sevens skipper DJ Forbes, who like Kelly combined a full beard with a shaved head.
But Kelly came out on top, an honour he would say rates highly in the pantheon of his sporting career, which included the Commonwealth gold in Delhi.
“It’s got to be up there. It’s been a hard seven or eight months of not shaving. There’s been lots of food in the beard but it’s been worth it to get all the comments,” Kelly said.
“There were some tough periods. It got itchy and I started getting a mouth full of beard with every meal. There were times when I was going to trim it but I stuck strong.”
And hasn’t it been worth the perserverance. The beard was in full flight at the Clyde Auditorium as he confronted the kind of weight that makes mortal men weak at the knees. The question is: Where to now?
“I think I’ll trim it. My wife (Sharon) wants it trimmed back. But I’ll ensure I have a good base there for my next assault, maybe Rio.”
Australian discus thrower Julian Wruck and English hipsterlete Martyn Rooney (400m) also featured strongly. But neither could come close to the man mountain from Brisbane, who powered through an uncomfortable Queensland summer to take top billing.
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