I first saw this man over six years ago when he took the stage as an Open bodybuilder at the Toronto Pro. He stood out in the lineup for two compelling reasons. One, he’s 6-foot-3, and two, Edgard has two prostheses from the knees down. Like everyone else in the crowd, I both applauded his courage and wondered what his story was. It took me this long, but I finally spoke with this remarkable athlete shortly after the best placing of his career so far, fourth place in Classic Physique, once again in Toronto.
One thing that really surprised me was to learn that you earned your pro card as a Wheelchair athlete, as I’ve never seen you in that division.
Yes, I won the Wheelchair division at the 2016 European Championships. Not long after I won, they told me I could never compete in that category again. It was a hard time for me because I was already in prep for the Arnold Classic Wheelchair division when I got that news. I contacted Mr. Jim Manion, and he told me just do something else like Men’s Physique, Classic, or Open.
The first time I saw you was at the 2017 Toronto Pro, which was your pro debut and I believe the only time you went Open Bodybuilding. Some kid named Chris Bumstead won Classic at that show.
Yes, I tried the Open class for fun. Right away I realized those guys were much bigger than me. After that it has always been Classic Physique.
I think I had the same reaction as most people when they first see you, which is wondering what happened to his legs? Was he a soldier in a war, was there some accident or illness? I looked into it and learned you were involved in a horrible car accident at just 4 years old when you lost both legs and your older brother also lost a leg.
Yes, that was 34 years ago in my native French Guiana, which is in South America. We were both very lucky that someone pulled over and drove us to the nearest hospital, or I am I would have bled to death. When I am in America, strangers will often tell me, “Thank you for your service,” because so many US soldiers have lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they assume I am one of those.
I know you have spent most of your life in France, starting shortly after your accident. You went there mainly for medical care. What were they trying to do for you?
My brother and I were there by ourselves for a whole year working with doctors and rehab specialists. The first thing was helping me learn how to balance myself and walk again, which took almost a year in itself. It was actually fortunate it happened to me so young, because it was easier for me to learn than it would be for an adult. I hadn’t gone my whole life with legs and then lost them. All I wanted was to do what the other kids were doing, and soon I could run, ride my bike, and climb trees like them. The only thing that hurt was when they would make fun of me and call me ‘robot legs.’ But I was back home after that year, and life went on.
You started training at age 20 in Paris, France, where you had returned for university. What made you begin lifting?
I knew about gyms, but I was never interested. I was overweight as a teenager. Food was my comfort and how I managed stress. One day I had a final exam the next day and I was more stressed out than usual. I had a free pass to try a local gym so I said, why not? I will never forget that day. It felt really good to lift weights and feel my muscles working. They offered me a great deal for a year’s membership if I joined that day, so I did. I’ve been training ever since. Bodybuilding came much later. First, I just wanted to lose weight and get fit. I started looking online and reading bodybuilding forums to learn about how to eat and train properly.
Where did the nickname “Bionic Body” come from?
I was working as a sales manager in Paris. A colleague of mine knew a photographer who was looking for a very fit man to shoot. At that time only my family and close friends even knew I had prosthetic legs. I was ashamed of them and always wore long pants or sweatpants. I met with the photographer. I told him about my legs, and he insisted we do the shoot in shorts. In some of the photos I was depicted as a runner, and I posted some of those on my Facebook page. That’s how people found out, and the reaction was very positive. They messaged me and told me how I showed that anything is possible. I decided I needed a nickname, and I came up with “Bionic Body” because yes, my legs do look like robot legs. I started an Instagram account, and it went viral. Someone told me there was a disability class for bodybuilding and suggested I compete in that. I said, why not?
Did you get the name from the old TV show “The Six Million Dollar Man”?
No, I’ve never heard of that show.
You’re too young, but I thought maybe you had seen a clip or something on YouTube.
Now that you tell me about it, I will check it out.
When did you know that your physique was developing into something special that you don’t see every day in gyms?
I never had any desire or interest to be a bodybuilder, even though I knew a couple of guys when I was younger who were very much wanting to be pro bodybuilders. Once I started applying the things I was learning, my body changed. A friend of mine told me I would do well in a bodybuilding competition if I tried. I agreed to try it once, not having any goal of being the best bodybuilder, the best bodybuilder without legs, or anything like that. That first diet was the worst. I went months without eating any carbs, just crazy stuff because I didn’t know any better. My first contest was the Grand Prix Des Pyrenees. I was allowed to pose but not to compete, because they didn’t have a handicapped category. It was there that the head coach for the French bodybuilding team asked me to represent France in the Wheelchair division at the European Championships three weeks later in Spain. I had to get a wheelchair for it because I didn’t own one. I won my class, then came back a year later and got the Overall. That’s how I won my pro card. It was God’s plan.
I think you turned pro at the perfect time, because Classic Physique was just starting. At your height of 6-foot-3, you would have to be at least 300 pounds on stage to be competitive, and you compete around 225. But Classic is all about shape, proportion, and symmetry, and those are all qualities you possess.
Classic is really the only division for me. I don’t have the size for Open, and with all due respect to Men’s Physique, I train my legs too hard to cover them up.
That’s the most inspirational aspect of what you do as far as I’m concerned. I went on your YouTube channel, and you have a lot of leg training on there. That answers the question a lot of us have when we first see you, which is, how does he train his legs?
That’s what I get the most questions and comments about. People are amazed at all the things I am able to do with the prosthetics. To be honest, my legs are the one part of my physique I had to work the hardest for, so I am very proud to be able to show them whenever I can.
From the videos I’ve seen, it looks like you can do everything for legs except free weight squats. You can do extensions, leg presses, hack squats, leg curls, all of those.
Yes, because I still have my knees. The guard railing severed both my legs below my knees. If you don’t have a knee joint, you can’t train your legs. That’s why I can still do isolation and compound movements for my quads and hams. I don’t have the feeling, or mind-muscle connection of a normal person, maybe 50-60 percent of that.
What about the pain and pressure of that prosthesis pushing on the stumps when you have, say, 1,000 pounds on the leg press? Is it very painful?
I can’t even describe the pain. It’s worse when I’m dieting because with the fat gone, I am getting deeper into the prosthetic. I did an hour of cardio every day for my last shows, and every day I felt like giving up. I was happy because in the end we brought my best shape ever. My coach and I decided to take a rest after Toronto, which was three shows in five weeks for me.
You must get thousands of messages from people all over the world.
I do, and I am so grateful for them. It’s people who are handicapped and many who are not. They tell me things like how they were depressed but then saw my page and it made them feel like they can go after their goals and dreams. I showed them anything is possible. I don’t even care about being famous. Reading messages and emails like that makes me feel like I’ve done something meaningful. It also makes me want to push myself harder. This spring was the first time I competed in almost four years. I had shoulder surgery, and then Covid came along. Gyms were shut down in France and I lost a lot of my muscles. I saw from my social media that people were starting to forget about me. I was starting to think maybe bodybuilding was over for me, and then I met my current coach, Calum Raistrick.
What goals did you two set once you began working together?
I met him in February of this year while he was in Dubai, where I live now with my wife and children. Calum was giving a seminar about training, nutrition, and PEDs. We talked and I told him I hadn’t competed since 2019, and he was interested in prepping me. I explained that I am 38 years old, and I have three children. I want to be around for them for a very long time, so I’m not interested in doing anything crazy or dangerous just to get up on stage when I want to have a long and healthy life after bodybuilding. Calum assured me he wanted me to remain healthy too, and it turned out to be my best prep ever, and my best look on stage so far. He really changed the way I look at contest prep, and now I can’t wait to do another one after I am fully rested and have an off-season. We haven’t worked together for an off-season yet, because I met him right before I started my preps for New York and Toronto. I hadn’t even planned on doing Pittsburgh, but it didn’t make sense to fly 18 hours from Dubai to the USA just to do one contest if there was another one just one week before it. It also gave Calum a chance to figure out my body and peak week better. I was watery in Pittsburgh because we didn’t reduce either my sodium or water. He didn’t want to take any chances. We were able to get better for New York, and by Toronto it was the best I have ever looked in my life.
You’re living in Dubai now, which seems to be a real hot spot for bodybuilding. Andrew Jacked and Sergio Oliva Jr. are two of the many champions who call Dubai home.
The whole mentality and attitude toward bodybuilding here is incredible. We have some of the best gyms in the world, like Binous Gym where most of the top guys and girls train. We get new equipment every month! People will stop you in the street and say, “nice body!” In contrast, in France they look down on bodybuilders like we are show-offs, and they always assume we are stupid. It’s not a great place for bodybuilding even compared to other European countries like Germany and Spain. Dubai is the perfect place for it.
One thing I wanted to ask you was, how are the judges able to fairly assess you when you are missing your legs from the knees down? I know it’s not a calf contest, but still, is that a factor?
I spoke with Tyler Manion, who was the head judge at the New York Pro. I told him listen, I push myself so hard, but I didn’t place. Should I keep going or not? I can’t compete in Wheelchair because I am able to walk, and I can’t compare to the Open guys with their size. Tyler said I look amazing, just work on your back and upper chest and bring better conditioning, and I will place better. In New York I was 224 pounds, and for Toronto I worked very hard to get tighter and came in at 194 pounds. That’s when I finally made the top five for the first time, with fourth place. I saw Tyler again and he said, that’s the kind of condition we want to see from you.
Are you done competing for 2023?
Maybe. There is a pro show in Dubai in late September. My two older children haven’t seen me compete since they were very small and the youngest has never, so it would be nice to have them there. Right now, Calum and I are planning a good off-season where the goal would be to add about 10 pounds of muscle, which I do need because I am so tall. The weight limit for my height is 247 pounds, and I was more than 50 pounds under that in Toronto. Gaining weight isn’t really that hard for me. Everyone in my family is big. African genetics! Getting the conditioning in the lower back and glutes is hard.
I’m so glad I finally got to talk with you, Edgard. I think you’re going to make improvements and place higher, but that’s nothing compared to the inspiration you provide for so many of us. If you have been able to build a world-class physique as a double amputee, that shows the rest of us that anything is possible if you believe in yourself, work hard, and refuse to let excuses stop us from following our passion.
It’s been my pleasure! If I did it, anybody can do it. You just have to want it badly enough.
2016 European Championships – Wheelchair Champion
2017 Toronto Pro – 10th Place (Open Bodybuilding)
2018 Toronto Pro – Ninth Place, Classic
2018 Veronica Gallego Classic – 10th Place, Classic
2019 New York Pro – Did not place
2019 Toronto Pro – 12th Place, Classic
2023 Pittsburgh Pro – 14th Place, Classic
2023 New York Pro – Did not place
2023 Toronto Pro – Fourth Place, Classic