Kevin Gray is no stranger to adversity.
Weighing in at 55 kilograms, the champion Bendigo powerlifter can squat almost five times his own body weight and smashed the 227.5 kilogram world record in April.
But despite the respect he commands in the sporting world, the 122 centimetre tall strongman says he is frequently subjected to obnoxious, harassing behaviour from ignorant gawkers.
And when two men followed Mr Gray and his fiancée, Ashleigh Hutchins, through the supermarket at the weekend, openly snapping pictures on their phones as if the couple were a “circus act”, the weight of their ignorance became too much to bear.
“He had his phone up as I looked behind me and and I heard a click and so obviously he’s taken a photo of me so I thought ‘enough is enough’, so I walked around the aisle and met them head on,” he said.
“They were laughing to one another obviously about that and so I walked up to them and said ‘You guys find it pretty funny, taking photos of other people so I’m going to take photos of you’.
“They were gobsmacked really that I stood up to them.”
Mr Gray said he experienced similar incidents “at least two or three times a week” but seeing the men target his fiancée as well was the last straw and he took to social media to call out their behaviour in the hope of sparing others the same treatment.
“It doesn’t really bring me down but when it involves someone I care about that’s a whole different story and I don’t want that to happen to my children one day,” he said.
It has since emerged the men were members of a gridiron team, in Bendigo for the weekend’s game against the Dragons, and their club, the Northern Raiders, issued an apology on Sunday.
“Our club has prided itself on being a diverse and inclusive club and we are deeply embarrassed by the actions of these two individuals,” it reads.
“We would like to apologise to the members of [the] public who were affected by this. We have issued apologies directly to the people involved from the Northern Raiders Gridiron Club. The players involved have also issued apologies. We have taken action internally and a discipline hearing will be convened this week.”
But Mr Gray said while representatives of the club had contacted him to apologise, he still had not heard directly from the players involved.
“All I got was a screen shot of a message that was sent to him from the guy that actually did it,” he said.
“I would have rathered have a message from the actual guys that actually did it, this third-party business is a bit of a cop out I feel.”
Mr Gray said the response to his Facebook post had been largely positive and he hoped the incident would help raise awareness about respecting people who are different.
“Basically think twice before you act and think how your actions are going to affect other people before you go through with something,” he said.
“The last thing I think of if I see someone different is to pull out my phone, it’s [about] respecting other people’s space.”
The Northern Raiders Gridiron Club was contacted for comment.