Mesa police officer Joel Anderson is considered one of the “toughest competitors alive.”
After a buddy convinced him to try out for the Western States Police and Fire Games in Reno three years ago, he won the over-200-pound division for toughest competitor.
Two years ago, he successfully defended his title at the games in San Diego.
Then in March, Anderson won again in the World Police and Fire Games in Adelaide, Australia.
“I felt really good about it,” said Anderson, 30, of Queen Creek. “All the guys were really nice, competitive, but nice.”
The events for the “toughest competitor alive” include a five-kilometer run, shot put, a 100-meter dash, a 100-meter swim, a 20-foot rope climb, bench presses, pull-ups and an obstacle course.
The wins are a hard-earned feat for a man who said he “sucked” at sports as a child. He said he felt like a loser, and set a goal to do better. He got involved in wrestling and cross country at Mountain View High School in Mesa, where he graduated, and excelled in both.
“I firmly believe that hard work can overcome anything,” he said. “I believe I can do anything with hard heart, determination and desire. If it comes easy for you, you don’t have to work at it. I have to work at it.”
Now, the 6-foot, 3-inch, 225-pound Anderson is training for the Western State Games in October, which will be held in Mesa this year. His extensive regimen includes swimming Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, running and jogging Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and lifting weights Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
“It’s a personal challenge,” he said. “I can always improve. There’s always going to be someone better.”
Shanda Riggs, a family friend and neighbor who went to high school with him, said there was always something a little different about Anderson.
“He’s kind of a quiet standout,” she said. “He’s a really great moral character and a strong leader. We look up to and admire the firemen and policemen for the sacrifices they give. Even among those he is a standout.”
Anderson has been a Mesa police officer eight years. He was a patrol officer for five and in the SWAT and K-9 unit the past three. He is one of three officers who work with the department’s two police dogs. Kino, a Belgian malinois, is a narcotics dog, and Rico, who is the same breed, a patrol dog.
When he’s not working he’s spending time with his family. Anderson and his wife of eight years, Nicole, have three kids: Kinley, 4, Brielle, 3, and Rigdon, 20 months.
Nicole Anderson said she thinks her husband’s wins are “super exciting.”
“I know how hard he tries,” she said. “It was just good to see all his hard work and training pay off.”
Joel Anderson is looking for sponsors who can offer goods and services for his training. Interested sponsors can call (480) 226-8124 or e-mail him at