They called him “Little Hercules.” He was the pint-size powerhouse with mini-muscles that took the world by storm. In fact, he was more shredded than a julienne salad and gave even top pro bodybuilders a run for their money. At 8 years old, Richard Sandrak was all about fitness coming from parents who themselves were competitive athletes. 16 years later, Richard looks a little different.
Born in the Ukraine, Richard’s journey to the United States started in Pennsylvania when his father Pavel moved the family to the U.S. for a better life.
In 1992, at the age of two, Richard’s father Pavel introduced him to weight training for the first time. His father was a martial arts world champion and his mother an aerobics competitor. Physical fitness was already in Richard’s genes and he started developing immediately under Pavel’s coaching.
Seeing a potential future in the world of fitness for his young son, Pavel moved the family to California. Known for bronzed bodies on Venice Beach, California had also been home to star bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Pavel Sandrak hoped his son could follow the same path to success.
Pavel worked his son very hard. He even employed a personal trainer to oversee Richard’s fitness program. Richard spent most of his time in the gym completing feats such as 600 press-ups and 300 squats every day.
On top of the strenuous exercise regimen, Pavel watched his son’s diet meticulously. Richard wasn’t allowed to indulge in sweets and snacks like other kids his age. Instead, the diet was a strict combination to ensure his muscles would grow big and he would stay lean and cut in the process. He would usually eat items like a head of lettuce.
At just 8 years old, Richard’s shredded physique started to garner him attention just as his father Pavel wanted. The papers and media started calling him “Little Hercules” and they dubbed him “the strongest boy in the world.”
With all the attention he was getting from different media outlets, it wasn’t long before Richard began competing in nationwide weightlifting events. He would also attend media photoshoots and promoted dozens of products. His famous physique also landed him a string of TV and radio appearances.
In 2002 he appeared on an episode of The Howard Stern show. Richard posed and karate kicked the air while his father bragged in the background.
Richard was featured in a documentary film titled “The World’s Strongest Boy.” Along with showcasing his incredible strength, flexibility, and dedication to staying fit, the film also revealed that Richard’s bodyfat was at a potentially dangerous level.
There were many in the fitness industry who were concerned about the intensity of the training schedule Pavel had his son under. Richard’s former trainer even quit, citing that Pavel’s parenting skills bordered on child abuse.
To this day, Richard Sandrak has said he was never pressured or forced into working out. But at such a young age, one has to wonder if that method of parenting was best in this instance.
With his dedication to weight lifting, did Richard Sandrak continue on the path of the bodybuilder lifestyle? Has “Little Hercules” become just “Hercules?”
These days, Richard is a 24-year-old man who left weight lifting behind to explore new passions and pursuits in his life. The ripped physique and fitness lifestyle are in his past.
Things changed for Richard when he was 11-years old and his father, Pavel, was arrested for assaulting his wife, Richard’s mother. In fact, it was Richard himself who called the police after his father broke his mother’s nose and wrist. Pavel was then sent to prison for domestic violence.
Without the pressure from his father to continue with bodybuilding, Richard opted to give it up and decided to go in a different direction. After an unusual childhood experience, Richard’s life took an unexpected turn.
In 2005, during an interview with television entertainment news program Inside Edition, Richard revealed he had become a stunt man. As part of a job with Universal Studios, Richard says he sets himself on fire about five times a day and he enjoys every minute of it.
Richard got involved in stunt work after lifting weights grew too “boring” for him. He says the excitement of hurling his body off of 50-foot-high platforms into the water below is much more exciting. He also spends his days pretending to get shot and setting himself on fire, for thousands of tourists at Universal Studios.
When asked if his controversial past was a source of pain or shame, Richard has said “I’m very proud of my past. It’s not something I don’t want people to know, it’s just that I’m not going to be stuck living in it.”
Even though Richard is no longer a bodybuilder, he remains athletic. Now at six-feet, Richard no longer has the chiseled physique he used to, but he remains in shape for his stuntwork. He also enjoys skateboarding regularly.
Happy in his stunt job at Universal Studios, Richard still has higher ambitions for his future. His career choice is a far cry from the fitness world as it is a lot more mental than physical.
During the same interview on Inside Edition, Richard said he was interested in becoming either a quantum scientist or an engineer for NASA. When ask how likely he thought that pursuit was, Richard said: “Absolutely, I see no reason why I can’t.” So it seems the motivation and dedication from his childhood training remains to this day.
Richard also has high hopes to make more movies. And he has devoted a lot of his time raising awareness for childhood obesity. With his future firmly in his own hands now, Richard is leading a fulfilling life.