By Taniya Dutta
A fitness lover shunned for being different as a youngster now claims to be the strongest albino alive – and believes his condition makes it EASIER for him to gain muscle.
Gym junkie Austin McGowan, 26, was born with albinism, meaning he has poor vision and extremely sensitive skin which does not contain pigment.
But the dad-of-two – who was shunned at school because he had to always wear suncream and sunglasses – has now racked up 1400 social media fans for his rippling physique.
But Austin, from Springfield, Illinois, has thrown aside the insecurities of his youth and now believes the congenital disorder allows him to pile on muscle more easily than the average gymgoer.
Austin, who can lift 435 pounds on bench press, said: “People with albinism typically have awful vision, with most of us legally blind.
“But I consider myself different, because my look is refreshing and unique.
“I always had good grades and friends at school, but there were people that made me feel different and that made me insecure.
“I believe it is easier for me to gain muscles because of my genetics.
“I think it’s important for people like me with a disadvantage to tackle challenging obstacles to show people like us anything is possible.”
Austin first started weight lifting at the tender age of just 12 after receiving dumbbells as a Christmas present and aspiring to emulate his muscled WWE contestant heroes, before getting a gym membership from his mum for his 13th birthday.
After 13 years of hard work, Austin, who stands at 6ft tall, had beefed from 10 stone to 16 stone – with his body shape dramatically altering.
Austin, who lives with daughter Tristin, two, son Aidin, three months, and girlfriend Angela Skaar, said: “I never faced too many fitness-related challenges – I was a natural that started improving right away.
“I believe with all my heart I am the strongest Albino alive.
“I’ve been calling myself this for years, it’s all over YouTube and Google etc, and no one has yet to challenge me but I would love to display my strength and dominance!
“My albino genetics definitely played a key role.
“When I started being able to do things like bench press 435lbs with no spotter, I became convinced my strength was God-given.
“I definitely believe I am related to the creator of this world.
Austin now works out four or five times a week and said this has made him a stronger person in all aspects of his life.
He eats a healthy diet – including lots of fruit, yoghurt and eggs – but does still enjoy unhealthy snacks.
Austin said: “My hobby has helped me become a mentally and physically strong individual.
“It has shown me discipline and patience.
“It has changed my appearance and the way I look at some aspects of life.
“While I do technically build my body when I go to the gym, I don’t consider myself an actual bodybuilder.
“For me, this is more just something I love doing – it’s a lifestyle.”