UKs oldest bodybuilder is great-grandad still pumping iron at 87

The oldest competitive bodybuilder in the UK is still working on his muscles at the age of 87 and says pumping iron is “my life”.

Taking up weight lifting aged 15, Bill Despard still works out every day, hitting the gym for three hours a day, seven days a week.

He earned a silver medal in the 81kg category at the European Masters Weightlifting Championship in Poland in August this year.

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Great grandad Bill pumps his iron at the same place he has done for the last 20 years – at Kilwinning Olympic Weightlifting Club, in Kilwinning, North Ayrshire.

Throughout his career, he has bagged a number of medals and awards including from competitions in the USA, South Africa and Japan.

He doesn’t train alone though – Bill hits the gym with Holly, his 17-year-old staffie who keeps him company when he works out.

Bill said: “I made a wee bit of history for Scotland as the oldest ever weightlifter to compete at a competition. I enjoyed it, it was a terrific atmosphere and I was just hoping to get a medal.

"There were more than 1,400 lifters taking part over the week. A guy from Poland beat me, he is 87.

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“I got a new hip last year which has slowed me down a little, it makes me a bit apprehensive when I’m lifting the heavier weights, but I finished second and got a silver medal."

In 2023, the OAP is set to compete in a further five competitions, but his story is one with an incredible comeback.

At just 16 he was diagnosed with cancer and had to have his right breast removed and didn’t get back to competing until he was 18.

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“I love doing it, I love the sport," he said.

"It’s been good to me physically, it’s been great to me. I just feel that if I can get kids off the streets and teach them an Olympic sport, and help them get out of difficulties, that would be great.

“We had loads of members but Covid killed us. We’ve got 14 members at the moment. I don’t care if they’re 100-years-old, anyone can join in.

“I don’t make any money out of it. I’ve been paid once in my life when I was in Japan and I refereed and they gave me $300. I’ve never made a penny out of it.

“It’s my life, it’s everything I know in life.

“My wife used to come to all of my competitions but all I’ve got now is my wee dog, so I’ve got a bed in the gym for her and it’s beside where I train.

“She just sits and watches me and as soon as she sees me change my shoes she knows it’s time to go up the road.”


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