A WORLD champion powerlifter is going from strength to strength after putting the troubles of his youth behind him.
Keenan Freer, who has autism, struggled at home and school, had experiences with drugs and contemplated taking his own life before the power of sport and fitness saved him.
Now a full-time student, he has just won his third successive world title after taking the under-82kg section at the World Powerlifting Congress Championships in Porto, Portugal.
“It is not about titles for me,” he said.
“I want to stand up for autistic people and show that labels can't stop you achieving and being who you can be.
“You can come from a bad place and turn things around. It's a choice.
“Im 22 and since my first world championship in 2019 I've fathered a child, opened a gym and still continued to achieve great thing in my sports, all while having the label of 'autistic'”.
Keenan wants to make a career of health and fitness.
He is studying at Hull University for a degree in Science Anatomy and works out at the Power X gym at Swinton.
Diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, he also has a natural affinity with youngsters like himself and welcomes them there.
“I work out with young autistic people at the gym to try and improve their confidence through fitness, he said. “The discipline you get from keeping fit transfers through to real life.
“With autism, it is all about environment and I am happy when I am working out.
“I feel I can make a difference by talking about my own experiences and how I deal with the everyday challenge of an autistic person. I want to give something back and help people with mental health issues.”
Keenan is still keen to make a mark on the world scene as a powerlifter and wants to enter his first pro competition next year. He turns over to the adult class next December.
“Pound for pound I'm the UK's current no.1 UK squatter for my age,” said Keenan, from Swinton.
“Porto was my sixth title altogether and I'd love to take that to ten by winning at the Worlds, British and Europeans next year and taking an open class at one of those as well.
“I'm also doing it for a legacy for my son. I want to take this to the next level.”