Keir’s powerlifting journey

Keir lives with Poland syndrome, characterised by under-developed or missing chest muscle. After years of feeling uncomfortable with his body Keir is now hoping to win powerlifting championships across the world and show that nothing is impossible when living with a rare condition.

Who Am I?

I’m Keir. I’m 47 and live with Poland syndrome. I hadn’t heard of the condition until I was about 30 years old. I’ve got no right pectoral major and a chunk of my latissimus dorsi is missing. 

Keir bench pressing in front of a audience during a competition

How did Poland syndrome affect me?

I always had a sense of being different, mostly when we did swimming lessons at school. Later in life when I played rugby, people would wander up to me in the shower, stare at my chest and exclaim ‘what happened to your chest?’. I think the time that bothered me the most was when I, in front of my friends, asked someone why they were wearing a top that was too small for them. My friend quickly replied, ‘what are you talking about Keir, you’ve got no tit’. As my friends fell about laughing, I smiled through it. However, it confirmed my worst thoughts; that I was different, I was hideous and I was an amusement to the world. That was the worst time, but luckily there haven’t been many other times like that. Mostly my secret was hidden away, known only to me. My shame was only revealed on the occasional beach holiday.

Apart from the confidence, Poland syndrome hasn’t really affected me. I played rugby throughout my life, and no one ever noticed that I was slightly weaker on one side. They noticed in school that when I threw a ball it was a lot more feeble than everyone anticipated. Other than that, I wouldn’t really say there was an impact. The biggest impact was in my head. After years of trying to lose weight and ‘muscle up’, I’d always give up because no matter how much fat I lost, and no matter how much muscle I put on, I always looked more like a car crash victim than a supermodel. 

Eventually, I went to the doctors to see about getting plastic surgery. To my surprise, I was sent to a surgeon who agreed to operate immediately. They described either an implant or taking some muscle from my back. I toddled off and started googling Poland’s surgery. The results were not inspiring. Even the things people were using to advertise didn’t look quite right. I went back to discuss the operation and shared my apprehension. The deciding point was when I asked what would happen about my underdeveloped nipple. ‘We’ll give you a pack of stick-on nipples’ they announced. The image of going swimming, my nipple detaching and bobbing about in the pool came to me and I decided to leave it. As I was leaving, I asked if there was any sort of psychological support available. They told me this had never been asked before, which tells me they definitely never offer it. 

Keir powerlifting in front of an audience during a competition

What about now?

Fast forward 17 years, I feel very differently about myself. While there is no rugby in my life anymore I’ve discovered a love of powerlifting. I used to be strong in rugby, I certainly seem to be strong in powerlifting. Training to be stronger rather than ‘look better’ has done a lot for my confidence. As I’m writing this, in 2 weeks I’ll be competing in the drug tested, non equipped, masters 2 division under 100kg British Powerlifting Championships. Now this is a very small pool but I’m hoping to win. After that, I’m hoping to go to the World Championships and try for a win there. While my bench press (sometimes called a chest press) is unsurprisingly quite poor, I’m hoping to break some records for squats and deadlifts. That will look a bit like putting 2.6 times my weight on my back, letting my bum sink down below my hips and standing up again, and picking 2.7 times my bodyweight off the floor. I’m hoping to do roughly 1.3-4 times my bodyweight on the bench press which isn’t good, but isn’t disgraceful. Bizarre as it sounds, someone with Poland syndrome could be a champion powerlifter.

There’s obviously lots that can go wrong between now and competition time. I can get injured, I can get ill, my life long attitude problem might get me doing something stupid. Those aside, I’m hoping to show that people with Poland syndrome can still excel in areas they might think are closed to them. I want people who are cringing when they look in the mirror to know things can get better. I want people who think they can’t do sport to know that nothing is impossible. And most of all… I need myself to know that. 

The British Finals for me are 18 July 2024

The world finals are 27 August 2024

You can follow my stop start journey on instagram @geriatricpowerlifter – if you want to see the achievements of other people with Poland syndrome I find myself inspired by @harrycartwrightpt @itsgunnaranderson and @mronepec.


Keir works in mental health, helping people who self harm and feel suicidal avoid long periods in hospital. He likes rugby and powerlifting but also writing, chess and singing. He lives with his family in North Wales.


Learn more about Poland syndrome

Genetic Alliance UK member, PIP UK, educates, supports and raises awareness of Poland syndrome

Visit PIP UK's website