Andrew Cusick powers his way to the top
The word inspirational could have been invented for Andrew Cusick.
The Belfast man broke his back in a motocross accident in 2003 and spent nine months in a body cast.
His sporting future ranged from bleak to non-existent.
But Cusick refused to submit to his injuries – and is now one of the best powerlifters on the planet.
What started as nothing more than lifting light weights during healing physio sessions has developed into a truly inspirational story of mind over matter.
Cusick's place on the world stage was underlined this week when he was invited to compete in the prestigious Arnold Classic in Ohio in February.
The event, in honour of man of many talents Arnold Schwarzenegger, will see the world's best powerlifters going head to head.
And Cusick's single-mindedness shines through when he looks ahead to the competition.
"I am going there to break the all-time world record," said Cusick, who regularly lifts almost five times his 80kg body weight.
Reflecting on the motocross accident that changed the course of his life, Cusick said: "I came off at a jump and heard a terrible crack as I hit the ground. It was the worst noise I've ever heard. The pain was something else."
But Cusick, who runs a tattoo studio in Belfast, refused to throw in the towel.
"About a year after the accident, the physio had me doing light weights but over time I increased the weight.
"When I eventually went along to a gym, the guys there were amazed at the weights I was lifting given that I'd never done any formal training or taken part in competitions," he explained.
"It's taken off from there and now I'm right up there with the best."
Cusick has been competing since 2009.
"I'm just back from a big competition in Finland where I lifted a combined total of 970kg from three lifts – the third highest of all time," said the 31-year-old.
That whopping 970kg total comprised a 380kg squat, 320kg dead lift and a 270kg bench press.
"Before that I won the Sports Expo in Birmingham, which is a really big event," he said.
"I compete three or four times per year and have been consistently winning the 'best overall' category.
"But now my focus is on the Arnold Classic. Winning there would be the ultimate.
"If I win there I'll be the all-time number one."