An Andover man is set to face off against 19 others as he competes to be “the fittest on Earth” at an international competition.

Former soldier Spencer Whiteley has gone from “not being able to walk properly” a decade ago to being in contention for the CrossFit Games, where he will face off against international athletes to see who will come out on top.

“It’s unbelievable,” he told the Advertiser. “It’s always felt like a dream that was one step too far. Doing my fulltime job for Thames Water, coaching at the Blockhouse and being an elite level athlete felt too hard at times, but I persevered and the dream has come true.

“It just shows you should never give up on your dreams and you can achieve anything.”

CrossFit is an exercise programme that was developed in America, and provides strength and conditioning training by incorporating a variety of different exercises into its workouts, including weightlifting, gymnastics, running and aerobics. As well as the exercise regimen, there is also the sport of CrossFit held at an annual games.

Spencer was first introduced to CrossFit after serving in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Corps of the British Army until 10 years ago, when he received a medical discharge. The 43-year-old said that he had difficulty walking normally at the time, with CrossFit his road to recovery.

“It started nine years ago as rehabilitation programme, but over the past six to seven years, I’ve been getting more and more into the sport,” he said. “For the past five years I have taken it really seriously, and tried to make it to the games.”

Spencer and his wife Toni run the Crossfit Blockhouse in Andover, where he has been in training for the games. His campaign to reach this year’s games began in February, when he was one of over 30,000 competitors entering the 40-44 category, for which he needed to complete four workouts.

He then made it to the next round, of around 4,000 competitors, vying for just 20 places in the final. For this, he had to complete five recorded workouts over a weekend; recordings of which were then sent to judges for analysis.

At the start of the month, he received word that he would be in the final of the games, needing to fly out to Maddison, Wisconsin, for the contest, which begins on July 27. While Spencer is the British No.1 for his age class, and in the top three in Europe, he acknowledges it will be a tough challenge, having qualified in 20th.

“Four out of five of the workouts would have been top 10, but there’s one bad workout,” he said. “I’m not going to be too pessimistic, but it is a sport of five events, so I’m hoping to improve my qualifying position and see if I can take some decent placements.”

He will face off against competitors from around the world, including Australia, France, Canada, South Africa and the USA. Though he may have qualified in 20th, he says he’s going to bring the fight to the games.

“I’m not going to be a whipping boy,” he said. “I’m going to thoroughly enjoy the experience and take some places.”

He is due to fly to Wisconsin on Saturday, July 17, where he will acclimatise before competing. The contest begins on July 27, and runs until August 1.