The Little Hercules Boy Is Not Quite As Herculean These Days

Little Hercules is all grown up. If you're having trouble recalling who, exactly, that is, think back to the early 2000s when a small and very strong young bodybuilder named Richard Sandrak took over the internet, impressing and terrifying people with muscles that looked like they belonged on a much older person.

Also known as "The World's Strongest Boy," which was also the name of a 2004 documentary about Sandrak, ABC News reported that, at the tender age of 8, Sandrak weighed 80 pounds and could bench press more than twice that.

Sandrak reportedly developed an interest in weightlifting as a toddler. A few years later, his parents hired promoter and celeb trainer Frank Giardina and his wife, former Ms. Fitness America Sherry Giardina, to launch his career. Soon, the money was rolling in. Sandrak landed endorsements and became an internet sensation, and fans turned out in droves to see him at bodybuilding events. "We had more people at our booth than any 25 booths combined... I mean hundreds of people like they were going to meet Elvis Presley," said Frank Giardina.

Little Hercules had a difficult childhood

But Sandrak's life wasn't as charmed as it seemed. His father, Pavel, was sent to prison for beating up his wife, Lena, when Sandrak was 11 (per The Sun).

Some suspected that Sandrak was also abused. While Lena told The Guardian in 2007 that she was "concerned" about how Pavel treated Sandrak, she denied that he was pressured to become a bodybuilder. At one point, he was made to sleep on the floor to help with his posture. He didn't attend school but was tutored at home, and wasn't even allowed to play with other children until he was 10. The outlet also noted that medical professionals were skeptical that Sandrak could have developed such large muscles at such a young age without the help of steroids — something Lena adamantly denied.

Sandrak, then 15, maintained that his parents never forced him to do anything that he didn't want to do. "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." He added, "I have to say my parents are my heroes because they've helped me develop throughout my life."

Little Hercules left bodybuilding

After everything that happened in his home, and the fact that he was never able to have a normal childhood but grew up in the limelight, it's no wonder that Sandrak eventually left bodybuilding behind. In 2015, Sandrak, then 23, told Inside Edition that he had simply grown tired of the whole thing. "I don't lift weights anymore, it got boring to me," he said.

Sandrak, who had a decidedly less muscular body by that point, still defended the way he was brought up, though, saying that he didn't think his chiseled muscles were so unusual. "People seemed to try to make me out to be a freak of nature but there were many kids who had similar physiques," he said.

Sandrak got a job as a stuntman at the Universal Studios Waterworld show in Los Angeles where his job duties included setting himself on fire several times a day. He told the outlet that rather than lifting weights, he stayed in shape with chin ups, skateboarding, and running up stairs. He added that he dreamed of being "a quantum scientist" and "maybe even an engineer for NASA," saying, "There is no reason that cannot happen."

Little Hercules has fallen off the radar

Since that 2015 interview, Sandrak has kept a low profile. He doesn't seem to have any verified public social media accounts, although there are plenty of dupes out there pretending to be Little Hercules. A LinkedIn profile under his name lists Sandrak as a stunt performer at Universal Studios and Action Horizon, but there are no years associated with either position, and the profile is sparse on details and doesn't even have a profile picture, so it's possible that Sandrak didn't even set it up himself or that it's out of date.

Hopefully, Sandrak is still out there chasing his dreams and is living the peaceful life that he wanted.

While he left his past behind, he didn't seem to have any regrets at his last interview. "I am very proud of my past; it is not something I don't want anyone to know anymore," he told Inside Edition. "I am just not stuck living in it any more."