Pavel and Lena Sandrak were living in a small Ukrainian village when they welcomed their son, Richard, to the world. Richard’s mother and father both had impressive athletic backgrounds. Pavel was a successful martial arts champion, and he is known all over the world. Lena was a professional in aerobics. People expected Richard to be athletic just like his parents, but nobody expected it to happen so quickly.
A Big Move
When Richard was two-years-old, the family moved to Pennsylvania to start a new life. Shortly after moving to the United States, Richard was introduced to weightlifting. Because Pavel was a martial arts expert, he had to stay in shape, so he built a home gym. It was then that the toddler stated playing with the workout equipment.
From an early age, Pavel started encouraging Richard to hold the light hand weights. He also taught his son the necessary stretching and martial arts techniques. This was the beginning of Richard’s strength training. From the very beginning, Pavel saw that Richard had an innate talent. Because of this, he pushed his son to grow. It wasn’t long before he had a specialized workout designed just for his son.
Richard’s parents saw his real interest in fitness when he would try to lift his father’s massive barbells. Rather than discouraging their son, they gave him weights that were a bit lighter. Pavel and Lena started creating a custom set of dumbbells for their son. Each one weighed a half-pound. Pavel also began working on Richard’s balance. It wasn’t long before he could stand on one foot on top of a basketball.
As Richard got older, his talent became more obvious. Pavel and Lena decided to move again. This time, it was to California. They knew that this was the place where they could get Richard into the entertainment industry, so the family moved again. Pavel knew that it wouldn’t take too long for the public to notice his son’s incredible strength.
Pavel really wanted his elementary school-aged son to become a bodybuilder. Each day, they went to the local gym. While they were there, Richard caught the eye of Frank Giardina, one of the personal trainers. Frank was no stranger to strength and stardom. He and his wife, Sherry, had both been featured on American Gladiators. Frank was fascinated by Richard’s remarkable strength. Pavel Frank if he would train his son, and Frank agreed immediately.
Pavel’s goal was to make his son a star. He and Frank worked on intensive workouts that would get Richard prepared for shows. At least five times a week, the young boy partake in grueling 90-minute workout sessions where he would do squats and sit-ups. By the time he was four, he was able to accomplish incredible things. Richard spent most of his time in the gym.
A Controlled Routine
Richard’s routine didn’t end when he left the gym. His father controlled every aspect of his life. He didn’t go to school, he didn’t have any friends, and he wasn’t allowed to play with toys. Instead of eating chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese like most kids, Pavel only allowed Richard to drink powdered drinks three times a day. There were no exceptions when it came to Richard’s routine. His father was determined to transform his son as soon as possible.
A Major Change
By the time Richard was six, his weight had tripled, and he had just one-percent body fat. By the time Richard was eight, he was able to bench 210 pounds. Finally, after all these years of hard work, Pavel was satisfied with his son’s transformation, and he was ready to let the world see. When the show was ready, Richard was called “Little Hercules.” The family started touring the United States, and Richard instantly became a sensation. People had never seen feats of strength from a child under ten. Between the little boy’s strength, his balancing abilities, and his martial arts moves, people were in awe. He even had a team of backup dancers to bring more attention to his talents. It wasn’t long before he was dubbed the “Strongest Boy In the World.”
Challenging His Peers
Richard was more than just a bodybuilder; he was also a contortionist. The young boy was shockingly flexible. It wasn’t long before Pavel decided that it was time for him to challenge his peers. Richard landed a modeling job and became a brand ambassador for many companies. He was even on The Howard Stern Show. Things were going great for his career, but Richard was missing out on his childhood. It wasn’t long before people started speaking out about their concern for Pavel and Lena’s parenting techniques. People were shocked when they found out that Pavel didn’t go to school and had no friends. The child never even had a slice of pizza.
As the public worried about Richard, his trainer, Frank, worried even more. His father’s strict rules bothered him. He didn’t have a bike, he didn’t have a skateboard, and he wasn’t even allowed to go outside. The boy hadn’t even gone to a park. Frank didn’t interfere because Richard said that he never felt forced to workout. He said that his parents trained all the time, and he wanted to join in.
Frank Steps In and the Media Turns
The more Frank thought about Richard’s missed childhood, he more it bothered him. Frank suggested that Pavel cut back a bit on his son’s workout sessions and bodybuilding endeavors. Pavel and Lena weren’t sure they wanted to end things because he was so successful. The media, who once loved the little boy, became just as worried. Stories were printed that Richard’s parents kept him so thin to make his muscles stand out. They also started to question the powered drinks that Richard lived on. The media suggested that it was steroids, but Richard denied it. He said that Lena made the drinks. Lena asked Pavel what was in the powdered drinks, and he became violent. When Frank questioned Pavel, he became abusive with him also. While this was going on, Pavel was spiraling out of control. He was physically abusive to his wife and his children. While the public was celebrating Richard, he and his family were hiding their bruises.
Things came full circle when Pavel was arrested for assault and sent to prison. Frank and Lena allowed him to cut back on his workouts. He tried junk food; he learned to ride a bike and a skateboard. The judge ordered him not to touch a weight until he was 16-years-old. Today, Richard is 26-years-old. He no longer looks like a monster, and he has an athletic body. Richard works in an office and works as a successful stuntman part-time. His father is no longer in his life, and Frank has become a father figure. He also goes to school, and his dream is to become a NASA engineer. 15 years later the strongest boy is unrecognizable.