A powerlifter with dwarfism has defied the odds to win a world title for ABLE-BODIED athletes – despite standing just 3ft 8ins tall.
Strongman Rich Willis, 48, managed to bench press twice his body weight to break a world record in his category with a final lift of 97.5kg.
The amazing feat comes after Rich was told by doctors in 2004 that he may lose both his legs because of extreme arthritis.
He was born with diastrophic dwarfism and for years underwent several surgeries on his hips, femurs, knees, shoulders and ankles.
Rich, who took medical retirement from a local government position in 2006, also says double scoliosis of his spine caused by his condition altered his walking position.
But life has been made easier by his six-year-old daughter, Cherry, and wife, Charlotte Willis.
Cherry, who did not inherit her father’s condition, has a ‘unique’ relationship with her dad – even though she is now taller than him.
The youngster ties his shoelaces, washes the dishes, puts his socks on, climbs up on him to reach the top shelf and helps pour his protein shake.
Rich, from Driffield, east Yorks., took up powerlifting in a bid to make her ‘proud of him’ and be a strong role model especially since she has now started primary school.
After not lifting a single weight until 12 months ago, he scooped first place in his weight class while representing Great Britain at the WPC world powerlifting championships in Moscow on Nov 5.
Rich is now aiming to compete at Tokyo 2020 with the British Powerlifting Paralympic team and his strength coach Nick Hewick is helping to guide him.
His average workout involves bench press, pause bench press, seated rows, shrugs, cables, flyers and straight arm pulldowns.
He said: “I got inspired to do powerlifting by my daughter Cherry because we were watching the Paralympics in 2016 in Rio.
“She saw a lady with dwarfism doing powerlifting and she says, ‘you could do that daddy’.
“She has really only ever seen me go in and out of hospital and I wanted to do something that makes her proud.
“I also needed to do something for myself to give me something to work towards.
“I was on heavy painkillers to help with my condition but if you are competing you can’t have them in our system so I went cold turkey, which was dangerous.
“My average workout involves a lot of pain, a lot of sweat and a lot of tears.
“In January 2017 I entered my first parapowerlifting competition and came 6th.
“In May I entered an able-bodied competition and won my first competition in an independent event in Birmingham.
“The following week I competed with the British Powerlifting Union at the NEC bodypower event and this qualified me to enter the ABPU /BPU British championship in Bristol in September.
“I was then invited to represent Great Britain at the AWPC /WPC world powerlifting championships in Moscow.
“At a bodyweight of 50.6kg I took the Masters 2 World Title and set a new world record with a final lift of 97.5kg.
“It has been a whirlwind year and my daughter is stoked by what I’ve achieved which is all I wanted.
“The message I want to get out there is no matter your limitations you should give things a go – who knows what someone can achieve and there is no shame in trying.”
He added: “The new Driffield Health Hub sports facility and coach Rob Murray have taken me on by providing free training and it’s working.
“I’m aiming to go to Tokyo 2020 paralympics but at the minute am funding all competing personally so am hoping to gain sponsorship.”