One of Western Australia's greatest ever Paralympic athletes has called time on a long and successful career, after Darren Gardiner, known as "The Bear" this week announced his retirement.
The famed roar that Gardiner produced before lifts to ready himself for competition will sound no more, as the 43 year-old and four-time Paralympian officially announced his retirement, ending a 15 year career, that saw him capture two Paralympic silver medals and countless World Championship, Oceania Paralympic Championship and National Championship medals.
Although in London he finished agonizingly short of a bronze medal when missing out by just one kilogram, Gardiner finishes as one of the best Paralympic athletes Western Australia has ever produced, having made his debut in Sydney 2000, and appearing in each edition since, and holding a personal best effort of 235kg.
Having decided that London would be his last Paralympic Games, Gardiner - a long term WAIS scholarship holder - leaves behind some big shoes to fill for Australia's future Paralympic powerlifters.
"Although he didn't win a medal in London, I don't think people appreciate just how good Darren is," said Australian Powerlifting Head Coach, Ray Epstein, who first met Gardiner in 1995.
"I don't think we'll see someone lifting in Australia what he was able to lift in a while. Anyone who has seen him compete knows that he's great to watch, he's excitable and focused and he pushes the big weights around. He's one of those athletes who is a bit like a machine."
Gardiner, who took up powerlifting after he lost his left leg to cancer at the age of 24, says he will miss the sport but is looking forward to starting life after powerlifting.
"While I look forward to enjoying my retirement, I will miss representing Australia in the sport of powerlifting. It has been a truly rewarding journey that started way back in 1995 when Ray encouraged me to try powerlifting - the rest is history," he said.
Australian Paralympic Committee Chief Executive, Jason Hellwig has paid tribute to a competitor who has been a staple of the Australian Paralympic powerlifting team for over a decade.
"Bear is one of those rare athletes who has the motivation and the focus to not only keep going with his sport, but excelling," said Hellwig.
"He is responsible for Australia's only Paralympic powerlifting medals since Athens in 2004. He has been an asset to the team and the program for over 15 years and we wish him well in his next stage of life."