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From fast bowler to bodybuilder

David Lawrence, the former Gloucestershire and England fast bowler, is remembered for the horrific knee injury that all but ended his career in 1992. But, aged 50, he appears to be stronger than ever, having reinvented himself as a champion bodybuilder.

When Lawrence fractured his knee bowling in a Test at Wellington's Basin Reserve, the crack was heard around the ground. He attempted a brief comeback with Gloucestershire in 1997 but, after suffering "a bout of depression", embarked upon a career as a nighclub owner and restaurateur in Bristol. Then came a new chapter, which led to him being named the National Amateur Body Building Association's West of England champion for the over-40s.

"I went to a competition in my mid-forties with a friend of mine who was competing and I looked at the people on the stage and I thought, 'I can do this'," he told the Mirror newspaper. "But after turning my hand to it, I discovered the hardest part wasn't the weights and training in the gym, by far the toughest part was the 14 weeks of dieting before competition.

"It is the toughest thing I've done mentally and physically and that is the difference between guys who want to get big and look good, and guys who are serious body-builders and want to compete."

A powerfully built quick during his playing days, Lawrence has had to get used to a different regime as a weightlifter, describing the strict diet as "torture". Still, those long days of toil in the field during a career that earned him more than 500 first-class wickets have prepared him for the hard yards - and his goal is to now qualify for the over-50 world championships.

"Before this, fast bowling was the most physically demanding thing I had done," he said. "I have worked as a labourer, I've worked on building sites in Australia in the heat and put in a hard shift. But it is not the same as fast bowling.

"Bowling on a hot summer's day is seriously tough, and at 5.30 when Goochie comes up to you and says, 'Syd, give me three more' and you're ­dehydrated, you've got cramp... but you've got to muster up something and that is physically demanding."