SPRINGFIELD, Mo. In 1988, Richard Galligher stepped on a bodybuilding stage in Missouri after months of training. He used exercise as a stress relief after his mother died. It soon became a passion.
Richard Galligher will return to the stage this weekend for the Missouri State Championship bodybuilding event. Here’s the catch, it’s been 31 years since he’s hit the stage.
That year he became the middleweight winner and best poser. This pre-qualifying win gave him a five-year ticket to get to nationals.
So he trained. “I was 207 pounds with 4% body weight. And being 5’7”, you can imagine I was stage ready,” he told KY3.
But Galligher never made it to that stage. Driving to work in early September 1993, he was hit head-on by a drunk driver.
At first, all he felt was shock. “I jumped right out of my vehicle,” Galligher explains. “To me I was okay. The police officer came, and all of a sudden I lost my standing. I just couldn’t go.”
Police took him home—but he quickly realized something wasn’t right.
“I had to call a friend because I couldn’t move my legs. And he came over and carried me out and took me to the hospital.”
Doctors diagnosed him with severe nerve damage and hairline fractures in his spine, leaving him unable to walk.
Meeting with another specialist, who had been in a similar accident and now used a wheelchair, Galligher heard the hardest news of all. He would have good days and bad days, he said, but his body-building days were behind him.
For years, he went through rehab to learn to walk again.
“I didn’t want to be sitting all my life,” he explains. “That’s when the road to recovery really happened. And it had to happen in my mind first. I had to overlook some of these things.”
Today, if you wake up early enough, you might cross paths with Galligher at the Chesterfield Family Center. He’ll be stationed somewhere in the weight room, either lifting or coaching someone else. He’s the buffest guy in the room, with arm muscles larger than most men half his age.
He says he is still recovering. Some exercises, like squats, remain impossible due to the nerve damage.
Since the start of the year, Galligher has been training for the Missouri State Championship bodybuilding competition, happening later this week. He’s nervous, he says, after 31 years off stage.
But now, at 64, “I have to give it another shot.”
And after years of training, he’s ready.
“Many times I argued with that guy in the mirror and he finally won,” he says. “Now I’m back on that road to recovery 26 years later after the wreck”