Per Bernal / M+F Magazine
The Des Pyrenees bodybuilding competition doesn’t have a handicap division—but that didn’t stop Edgard John-Augustin, a bodybuilder with two prosthetic legs, from standing among the able-bodied competition.
Unfortunately, while John-Augustin was allowed to pose in the 2015 show, he wasn’t allowed to be judged. Still, his performance was so impressive that he received an invite to participate in the European Wheelchair Bodybuilding Championship, which was held in Spain three weeks later. He won it.
“It was an accomplishment, proof that anything is possible,” John-Augustin says. “I worked hard to get onstage, and the love from the people felt so good, so intense, it gave me the love to perform onstage.”
And when he’s not flexing in front of audiences, John-Augustin is spreading the love to his 384,000 Instagram followers (@bionic_body), with the aim of inspiring them to follow their dreams—no matter what challenges they might be facing.
After all, if it’s one thing he knows, it’s how to bounce back from adversity.
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Sometimes in life you realize that the greatest strength is not muscular but mental. Agree with that ? . Il y a des moments dans la vie où l’on se rend compte que la plus grande force n’est pas musculaire mais mentale. Tu es d’accord avec ça ? . 📸 : @perbernalphoto . #noexcuses #nolimits #keepgoing #prosthetics #bionic
John-Augustin was only 4 years old when his mother lost control of her car on a highway in his native French Guiana and crashed. Upon impact, a guardrail pierced the back window, where Augustin was sitting. When he came to in the wreckage, he realized both of his legs were missing.
“I remember a lot of blood and a stranger saving our lives, driving us to the hospital,” John-Augustin says.
Over the course of a few years, he endured a handful of surgeries and had to learn how to walk with prosthetics.
“But I was also a happy kid,” he says. “I tried to do everything that the other kids my age did, like running, climbing trees, and swimming.”
At 20, he moved to France to earn his Brevet de Technicien Supérieur, or higher education degree. The stress of exams put a strain on his body, and so he decided to go to the gym to work out. The weight room quickly became his ultimate stress reliever.
“Since that first time, I’ve never stopped training,” he says.
As far as training, John-Augustin doesn’t have any restrictions when it comes to his upper-body workouts. And though he’s missing his legs from the kneecaps down, he says that he’s still able to use the leg extension and leg press machines to contract his quads.
His prosthetics, though, don’t give him much balance, so freestanding barbell squats aren’t something he can do—so he compensates by doing V-squats or hack squats. The lack of balance also makes posing onstage difficult at times.
But you won’t hear him talk about this much. In general, you won’t really hear him complain much at all. “I just have to deal with it and find another way to do it,” he says.
Despite his affinity for the gym, John-Augustin had no intentions of becoming a professional bodybuilder.
For many years, he hid his prosthetics from the public eye, wearing long pants. Only his closest friends and his family knew about his disability.
Eventually, a close friend of his persuaded him to participate in a photo shoot wearing nothing but shorts. The photographer posted the photos on Facebook, and they received thousands of likes and comments from folks inspired by John-Augustin’s bravery and strength.
Shortly after, friends and co-workers christened him “the Bionic Body,” a nickname that has stuck.
“It was my choice to call myself that on social media,” he says. “I would never change it.” Those same friends are the ones who persuaded John-Augustin to get into bodybuilding. “I love the dedication, the hard work, the rigor needed,” he says.
Today, the IFBB Pro League classic physique competitor participates in shows against able-bodied competitors.
“It’s difficult for the judges to judge me as well as the other athletes,” John-Augustin says, “but my biggest pride is standing onstage next to awesome athletes I admire.”