World powerlifting champion Phil Richard has died at the age of 52.

Richard, from Swansea, was highly regarded in the sport, having been crowned junior world champion three times and masters champion on four occasions. He also won numerous European and British titles and set various world records after taking up the sport aged just 13.

In total, he won 48 championships over his long and highly-successful powerlifting career, which he balanced alongside his job as a senior process technician in the mining industry.

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His death has come as a shock to those involved in the sport, with British Powerlifting saying his passing is a "devastating loss for the whole powerlifting world". Richards tragically passed away just two days before his 53rd birthday.

Having continued the sport into his fifties, at the time of his death, Richard was the Classic British Masters Champion, Equipped European Masters Champion, and Equipped Western European Champion, reports BarBend. He was was also inducted into the European Powerlifting Federation (EPF) Hall of Fame in 2018.

Heartbreakingly, in an interview with BBC Sport Wales last year, he had promised to bring another world masters title back to Wales in 2024.

In a statement, the Welsh Powerlifting Association said: "The WPA is deeply saddened today to hear of the passing of Phil Richard.

"Phil's powerlifting career spanned 40 years - winning multiple Welsh, British, European and World titles and a multitude of records to go with them. He was an inductee of the British and European Halls of Fame and recently the first inductee to the WPA Hall of Fame. He is without question the most decorated Welsh Powerlifter ever, and a legend of the sport.

"Phil's success over such a long period is testament to his character, dedication and love for the sport which gave him so much, and which he gave to in return," they added. "Phil was ever ready to support people who were new to powerlifting, especially with equipped lifting - he was a big part of the Welsh and British Powerlifting communities.

"We give our sincerest condolences to Phil's family and friends at this difficult time. Rest in peace Phil, your bar is loaded."

British Powerlifting said: "It is with deep regret and heartache that we announce the passing of Phil Richard. A BP and EPF hall of fame lifter, Phil dominated the national and international scene winning his first World title in 1989.

"A loving caring Father and supportive team member, Phil has been part of our lifting life in many ways and his passing is a devastating loss for the whole powerlifting world. Rest in Peace Phil, enjoy those white lights and we raise a toast to you."

International Powerlifting Federation president Gaston Parage also paid tribute to Richard, writing: "Phil was a British Powerlifting and EPF (European Powerlifting Federation) hall of famer and was a long-standing proponent of equipped powerlifting. Phil was well known and well liked throughout the powerlifting community and he will be sadly missed."

Six-time IPF masters world champion Jo Whiteley penned Richard's obituary, writing: "A great proponent of equipped powerlifting, Richard was always at hand to help an inexperienced lifter or offer encouragement. When not lifting, Richard could usually be found at a competition, coaching, spotting and loading, or refereeing.

"Richard was often the life and soul of the party; small in stature but huge in spirit and touched the hearts of all those who knew him. [He] is survived by his daughter and two sons and will be sorely missed by the powerlifting community at large."