Man against mountains: Layfield aims to climb seven highest peaks to raise funds for Family Centre

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Climbing some of the world highest peaks has been a lifelong dream of former world wrestling champion John Layfield.

Now, thanks to his involvement with some of the Island’s at-risk youngsters, the Bermuda resident will pursue that dream over the next two years as he attempts to climb the seven highest peaks on each continent to raise funds for the Family Centre.

He is determined that injuries from his days as a professional wrestler and football player won’t stop his quest to become the 348th person to climb the seven summits. Should he be successful, he plans to plant a Bermuda flag and a World Wrestling Entertainment flag on the top of the highest peak of every continent.

Raising funds and bringing awareness to his work of supporting young people who are trying to build positive lives are his main goals.

“Every kid has a mountain, we encourage them to climb them step by step,” said Mr Layfield, who is calling his quest the Seven Summits Bermuda Challenge.

He heads to Russia tomorrow for his first climb, Mt Elbrus. He was in New York last week where he officially launched his quest with Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert and Tourism director Billy Griffith. The former professional footballer and longest reigning WWE champion in Smackdown TV history, used his high profile to generate media interest, doing interviews and promoting the Island.

Edmund Hillary was the first person to climb Mount Everest in 1953. He famously stated: “It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

John Layfield knows he will need to use all his mental strength to achieve his goals. His plan is to climb three peaks by the end of this year, three more in 2013 and then the highest peak of all, the 8,848-metre Mount Everest in the spring of 2014.

“I’ve been training for six months and did an 18-mile hike last week,” he said. “The main thing I’m trying to do is get in shape to do endurance because the summit day is an eight-hour day with straight up climbing. It is really hard to prepare your body to climb uphill for eight hours with no break and with half the oxygen, which you can’t train for.

“I’m training for endurance and trying to do things I have to mentally get over, to mentally take you mind out of your body and just do it. It not as much physical as it is mental training. I have lost about 35 pounds and I feel good.”

Mr Layfield says he was prompted to do something for at risk children in Bermuda after hearing about the Family Centre’s plight. Because of his fame the US media has jumped on the story.

“Fox News is doing something about it, WWE is going to promote it and there are different media outlets who want to talk to me about it because of the different stuff I’ve done in the media in the past,” said Mr Layfield, who mentors youngsters at CedarBridge Academy and Dellwood Middle School and will donate every penny raised to the Family Centre.

“I’m hoping to leverage my celebrity status for the Bermuda kids and hopefully raise a lot of money for them.

“World Wrestling Entertainment is sponsoring this and giving me full access to their TV shows and social media to promote this to a worldwide audience of 500 million a week,”

“I have no idea what I can raise, my goal is to plug the Family Centre gap which is $200,000 a year. A few years ago when the Government pulled back funding the Family Centre never recovered that $200,000 annually. That’s really my goal.

“I don’t know if that’s realistic or not, I don’t know if it’s realistic that I make this first mountain to be honest with you. I’ve had four knee surgeries, a broken back and two herniated discs and I’m 45 years old and not exactly in optimal health to be climbing mountains. But we tell our kids they can do anything they want and I’m trying to do the same thing and lead by example.

“This is a learning tool for the kids but is also a way for me to raise money for them which is the biggest reason I’m doing it. This is a labour of love for me. Failure is not an option. It’s a long slog but that’s what I signed up for and that’s what I’m going to do.”

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Published Jun 11, 2012 at 8:08 am (Updated Jun 11, 2012 at 8:07 am)

Man against mountains: Layfield aims to climb seven highest peaks to raise funds for Family Centre

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