47-year-old Rich Willis might have dwarfism – but that’s not stopped him from dreaming big!
The dad from East Yorkshire has undergone over 50 operations throughout his life after being born with diastrophic dwarfism, which has a serious impact on the joints.
As a result of the numerous surgeries and the chronic pain he was left in, Rich slowly became reliant on pain medication in order to get through the day. But it was a comment from his beloved 5-year-old daughter that encouraged him to turn his life around.
He explains, ‘what inspired me to start powerlifting was the fact that I was watching the Paralympics with my daughter and she saw this lady with dwarfism, and she recognised she was like me. And she said, ‘Daddy, do you think you could do that?’’
‘At the time I had just come out of many major surgeries, to be honest I had got quite an addiction to opiate pain medication that I had been on for years.’
‘I think it was the kick that I needed to actually do something with my life that was positive. I just quit all the medications that I was on when my doctor was on holiday – went cold turkey and took up powerlifing!’
Despite having never lifted a single weight before, Rich has gone from strength to strength and is now training to represent Britain at Tokyo’s 2020 Paralympics.
Rich says, ‘my average workout includes a lot of pain, a lot of sweat and a lot of tears. It involves a lot of hard work!’
‘What motivates me to keep going during the tougher workouts is that I really want to be able to make my daughter Cherry proud of me.’
Just 5 months after be began training, Rich took on his biggest challenge yet by competing in the English Weightlifting Championships.
He says, ‘the thing that I’m most proud of so far is after just 5 months of training I went into the English Weightlifting Championships doing weightlifting on the bench and I came 6th in the country! So I know onwards we can only get better and better.’
Proving you can do anything you set your mind to, Rich, who weighs just 51kg, can now bench-press an eye-watering 110kg.
His sights might be firmly set on Tokyo 2020, but for Rich it’s making his wife Charli and daughter Cherry proud that matters the most.
He says, ‘I think the motivation for me personally is doing something that not only makes myself proud, and particularly my daughter and my family proud but also hopefully will inspire other people who maybe think they can’t do something to give it a go.’
‘Even if I don’t make it to the Paralympics, the journey along the way will be a lot further than I would have got if I had not tried it.’
Watch the video above to see just how far Rich has come in his journey and the obstacles he has overcome.