Former 21st man mountain Ronnie Coleman dominated the international bodybuilding scene from 1998, holding the Mr Olympia title for eight consecutive years.
At his peak, Ronnie’s body and strength “wasn’t human”, said fellow weightlifting champion Kevin Levrone.
“You don’t have a chance of looking like him. It’s a gift from God. It’s a gift of genetics,” he said.
Ronnie’s unbeatable run earned him the nickname, The King. But the fitness world was left stunned and saddened when Ronnie, now in his 50s, revealed he may never walk unaided again.
Ronnie’s rise and fall story is shared in the documentary Ronnie Coleman: The King, currently showing on Netflix.
The former world champ cuts a sad figure as he is seen following his three and four-year-old children around the house on crutches, breathless and unable to stand up on his own.
Ronnie’s health problems, he says, are the result of numerous surgeries in his back and hips. Doctors say it’s also due to the degenerative wear and tear from the years and years of training.
In one moving scene, Ronnie says: “I just get up on a morning, and you know, takes a minute for me to get going.
“I just got to get used to it.”
Close pal and gym owner Brian Dobson said he cried when saw his “supernatural” friend using a walker.
Born in 1964, Louisiana, Ronnie graduated with an accountancy degree from Grambling State University in 1984.
He moved to Texas and, after reading an advert in a local newspaper, became a police officer in Arlington.
It was during this period a fellow officer persuaded him to join MetroFlex gym. And in exchange for participating in the Mr Texas competition, Coleman was offered a free gym membership.
Suffering with problems with his back from a young age, Ronnie had refused to let the pain stop him becoming world champion.
He confessed that he worked out and won many consecutive contests while battling with a herniated disc.
The subsequent surgeries and nerve damage left him with numbness in his legs which still plagues him to this day.
One operation had to be carried out after four screws in his back broke, causing his own bones to shatter in the process.
The pain in recovery was immense, leaving the former world champ needing the highest potency of oxycodone, a strong opiate painkiller often used by cancer patients.
“I’ve been in pain for so long now I’m just used to it,” he said. “I take the pills too, helps a little bit.”
Out of 10, he said the pain level is “usually a nine or a 10”.
“When I do appearances my pain level goes up to 12 or 13. Some was unbearable,” he said.
“If I’m in a whole lot of pain I just sit when I do appearances and people take pictures. For the most part I always try to stand up.”
In 2020, Ronnie revealed the huge cost of his last three surgeries was around $2million (£1.6m).
He told Muscular Development’s Ron Harris: “Every surgery I’ve had done was like $300,000 (£244k) to $500,000 (£407k) so the last three surgeries I had almost spend $2m.”
Despite it all, Ronnie is thankful and optimistic. He continues to receive treatment and in a recent Instagram video, was shown working his legs in the Metroflex gym where he started out.
He said: “I may have a little trouble with mobility but I still train legs twice a week every week.
“I miss doing squats… but at least I have some leg strength left.”
And after his most recent treatment in September last year, Coleman excitedly told his followers he was to be able to walk.
“God is truly blessing me this time around because he knows that I definitely need the inspiration because lately I’ve been semi-depressed after all my surgeries,” he wrote.
“I’m really in a state of shock because after the same results after the same surgery you kinda get use to being not able to walk and come to expect it.”After retiring, Ronnie started a supplement company that turns over $15m (£12.2m) every year. He’s happily married with four children and maintains his bubbly outlook on life despite his health problems.