|— Bodybuilder —|
15 April 1992 |
Richard Sandrak (born 15 April 1992), also known as Little Hercules, is a Ukrainian-born, American bodybuilder, martial artist and actor, known for his muscular physique at an extremely young age, and for his appearance in the documentary The World's Strongest Boy.
Richard Sandrak was born April 15, 1992, in a small village in Ukraine, to Pavel Sandrak, a martial arts world champion, and his mother, Lena Sandrak, an aerobics competitor. In 1994, Sandrak, aged 2, moved with his family to Pennsylvania, where his parents believed he would have a better life. Sandrak began his training soon after they arrived in the states, when Sandrak was still an infant. His father, who had trained in Taekwondo, introduced him to various stretches and light weight training. The family subsequently moved to California, with the intention to break into show business. The family met trainer Frank Giardina, while touring one of Giardina's gyms, and hired him to help gain publicity for their son.
His parents started him out with light exercises and martial arts techniques which soon progressed into more intense bodybuilding training. At the age of six Richard was maxing out at 180 lb (82 kg) on standard bench-press. During this early age he claimed his title as world’s strongest boy as well as his nickname "little Hercules". At the age of eight he was bench pressing 210 lb (95 kg).
During his childhood, Sandrak was kept in strict seclusion. Dedicating all of his time towards training, Richard never had time to play with friends and experience a typical childhood. Being on a strict diet enforced by his father, Sandrak was never able to eat junk food or any sweets. Sandrak recalls days when his father would eat pizza in front of him, while he was left to eat a head of lettuce. According to Giardina, Sandrak was made to repeat intense exercises as punishment if he got something wrong. Sandrak states his father never forced him into bodybuilding. "I've never been forced to train or do anything against my will," he said. "My parents used to train all the time and I wanted to join in. It was mostly my choice. It's just what I grew up doing. I was never forced. It was never an issue."
Sandrak began traveling across the country to participate in competitions, promotions for nutrition products, and photo shoots for numerous magazines. He also appeared on several TV and radio shows, such as The Howard Stern Show.[episode needed] As he got older his career gradually waned. His Hollywood debut was as the title character in the 2009 film, Little Hercules.
Giardina quit after he came to feel that Pavel's parenting was criminal, and Pavel threatened to kill Giardina. Not long after Pavel was imprisoned for physically assaulting his wife, leaving her with a broken wrist and nose, an event for which Sandrak himself called the police. By September 2007, Pavel had been recently released from prison, though held under psychiatric guidance, and faced the possibility of deportation.
A year after Lena and Sandrak left Pavel, Sandrak was profiled in the documentary The World's Strongest Boy, which detailed his ability to do splits, his ability to bench press three times his own body weight, and the fact that his body had less than 1 percent body fat, which can be lethally low. Though medical experts argued that such muscular development requires testosterone that is not found in children younger than 10, and speculated that steroids were involved, Lena Sandrak denied that her son used such substances.
By age 15, Sandrak continued to train five times a week, 90 minutes per each session, and ate food more typical of others teens like pizza. His live-in manager, Marco Garcia, helped normalize his life, and produced Little Hercules in 3-D. Sandrak hopes to make more movies, and to devote his time to raising awareness of childhood obesity.
Sandrak graduated from The Emerson Academy in Studio City in June 2010, with a high GPA and with college credits through classes via Cal State Dominguez Hills. He is currently living happily in Studio City, taking courses at Valley College, and occasionally performs jobs for his former Emerson Academy educator, Sonia Roman. Such jobs include teaching PE for the school and helping students with their homework.
- "The World's Strongest Boy - Young Bodybuilder Tells of Isolated Childhood". ABC News. 14 March 2005.
- Anthony, Andrew (September 29, 2007). "The growing pains of the world's strongest boy". The Guardian.
- "The World's Strongest Boy - Little Hercules". Kidzworld.com. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
- Duncan, J.J. (October 26, 2009). Richard "Sandrak Transitioning Into Normal Life After Living as Child Hercules". Zimbio.
- The World's Strongest Boy