Richard Sandrak was born April 15, 1992, in a small village in Ukraine. His father was a martial arts world champion and his mother an aerobics competitor. Physical fitness was in his genes.
In 1994, Sandrak moved with his family to Pennsylvania and began training. His father introduced him to various stretches and light weight training.
The family eventually moved to California with the intention to break into show business. It was there that the family met trainer Frank Giardina, while touring one of Giardina’s gyms, and hired him to help foster their sons career.
My first exposure to the young boy known as Little Hercules was back in 2002. He appeared on The Howard Stern show and posed and karate kicked the air while his father bragged on in the background, his tone and demeanor eerily similar to Nicolai Koloff, the ruthless trainer of Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.
I knew at that moment the kid was destined to burn out on fitness by his teens.
That fact was obvious to everyone except Sandrak and his family.
During his childhood, Sandrak used to work out with his father and he would do up to 600 push-ups and sit-ups a day including 300 squats. Dedicating all of his time towards training, he 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.”
Giardina quit working with the Sandrak family after “he came to feel that Pavel’s parenting was criminal” and Pavel “threatened to kill Giardina.” A short time later, Pavel served prison time for physically assaulting his wife after breaking her wrist and nose. Sandrak himself called the police on his father.
Inside Edition caught up with Little Hercules in 2015. Sandrak is now a stunt man at Universal Studios in Orlando. He spends his days pretending to get shot, setting himself on fire, and tossing himself off a 50 foot high platform for thousands of tourists each day.
Sandrak hopes to make more movies and devote his time to raising awareness of childhood obesity.