North Vancouver’s Clayton Faulconer is very blunt about his status in this world.
“I should be dead,” he says.
The North Vancouver resident has followed his passion for arm wrestling to multiple national titles and appearances at the World Armwrestling Federation world championships. That’s not what could have killed him though. It’s the car crashes that has him contemplating his very existence.
Faulconer has been involved in three serious car crashes in his life. The first happened in 1997, a head-on collision near Prince George (check the photo gallery above to see what his car looked like after that crash). The second was in 2006 when he was a passenger in a truck that smashed into a manure spreader near Mission B.C. Those crashes were bad. The third was worse.
In 2018 he suffered a traumatic brain injury after being struck by a driver while walking across Knight Street in Vancouver. According to Faulconer, the impact caused him three brain hemorrhages (bleeding in the brain), a hematoma (a stroke caused by bleeding in the brain), and several broken bones. He was in an induced coma for 10 days, and is missing nearly a month of memory.
“I was at Vancouver General Hospital for 29 or 30 days, and I don’t remember a friggin thing,” he says. “From the time of the accident to one month after, all I remember was getting transferred from the Vancouver General Hospital to Lions Gate Hospital.”
And yet, somehow, he’s still here.
“I’m not religious, but I’d like to thank God or a higher source for keeping me alive,” he says. “It is an absolute miracle.”
Faulconer says following the third crash the government classified him as having a permanent mental disability – in conversation now his speech is thoughtful yet halting and deliberate – but none of that has stopped him from chasing glory in the niche sport that still brings him immense joy.
Prior to the accident he won nine arm wrestling national titles. The North Shore News profiled him following a national championship win in 2018 as he was preparing for another crack at the world championships, mere months before the crash that changed the course of his life. But the thought of competing at the sport’s highest level seemed far-fetched in the days, weeks and months after his devastating 2018 crash.
Since then he’s been regularly seeing an occupational therapist, psychologist and speech therapist, fighting to get his mind and body back to what it was before the accident. Nothing came easy, except for one thing: arm wrestling.
“Whatever you’ve done long-term comes back a lot easier, even with a TBI [traumatic brain injury],” he says. “I struggle with a lot of things right now – memory, fatigue, muscle building – I struggle with everything. But because I arm wrestled for 25 years, it was like riding a bicycle. It came back to me a lot quicker.”
And that’s how, a little more than three years after the crash, Faulconer found his way to Romania to compete in the WAF world championships again. In December of 2021, Faulconer threw down in the masters (over 40) 198-pound division at the world championships. He didn’t win it, but he showed well, cracking the top-10 with a seventh-place finish with his left arm and an 11th-place finish with his right arm. It was more than he could have dreamed of following his catastrophic injuries.
“For me to go to Romania and place in the top 10, it’s nothing short of an absolute miracle,” he says. “None of them had any idea that I was hit by a car and then run over by it three and a half years ago.”
That performance gave him more fuel to continue his rehab and aim for bigger and better things in the sport and in life, he says.
“I’m very glad I went. It might have been hard, but it was a huge boost to my confidence and ego – even though some people don’t think my ego can get any bigger,” he says with a laugh. “For me to get back into arm wrestling and do well was a huge boost in confidence.”
Faulconer now has his sights set on the provincial championships in May, and he is hoping that telling his story will help promote the sport of arm wrestling – he now runs a website called armwrestlingchampions.com – and provide inspiration to people from all walks of life.
“Telling my story gives me motivation and drive,” he says, adding that he doesn’t make money from the sport, and in fact spends his own money to go to events, but his passion comes from a pure place. “Arm wrestling for me comes from the heart, not the pocketbook.”