Volume 75, Number 11 | August 3 - 9, 2005

Villager photo by Tomas

A woman gets a lift — make that 10 — from Billy Williams, as he does pushups at Union Square.

Revival of the fittest: He-man wants some competition


By Lincoln Anderson

New York may not have gotten the 2012 Olympics but it does have Sportsman U.S.A. That’s the moniker of Billy Williams, a 50-year-old accident victim who is ready and willing to take on all comers at Union Square in six events of physical prowess. Somewhere between a pentathlon and a decathlon, the events include the 100-meter dash, vertical jump, long jump, shot put, bench press and pushups.

Asked where the shot putting would take place, Williams gestured to the park’s lawn and said, “There’s grass out there…. All I need is a bench with weights — make a long-jump pit....” The long-jump pit could be in front of the stairs, he said. On second thought, he said, all events would take place on the plaza behind the pavilion building.

A former top track and field athlete who grew up on Freeport, L.I., Williams is eager to get the Union Square games underway. There’s a $500 pot, winner take all. Yet, though he waits every day near the subway kiosk, there’s been only one taker.

“Five months has gone by and only one guy has signed up. That’s pretty bad,” he noted. “And I’m right here at N.Y.U. All these young guys come out here, ‘I’m bad. I’m bad.’ Not one of them will do it.”

Not only did Williams turn 50 last Thursday but he says he was partially paralyzed and brain damaged in an accident in 1993. But he’s recovered physically, and is ready to compete.

When not at Union Square, for the last two months, Williams has been living at Project Renewal’s E. Third St. men’s shelter.

“I ain’t no homeless bum,” he said. “I’m determined to get out of that homeless shelter and get back on my feet.”

He said he went to every health club in Manhattan, but no one would hire him.

“These trainers they have can’t even bench press 300 pounds,” scoffed Williams, who says he can press 390.

He certainly looks to be in good shape. He says every morning he jogs up Broadway to 34th St., then does his “boxer’s hops” across to Second Ave. and sprints back to Project Renewal before coming out to Union Square. For strength training, he uses a rope that he wraps around a lamppost, but Park Enforcement Patrol officers recently told him he can’t use the lampposts anymore.

“Jealous — that’s all,” he said.

Aside from the pack of Marlboros tucked in his sock and cigarette behind his ear, he resembles a professional wrestler in peak shape.

“The outside of the car looks good, but it’s what’s under the trunk that counts,” he said, though he’s confident his engine is ready.

In addition to opponents, he’s seeking sponsors. If Whole Foods, for example, across the street would like to sponsor him he’d wear their T-shirt. It would be a windfall for the supermarket when the Sportsman U.S.A. competition takes place, he said.

As he awaits a worthy contender — any contender — Williams does pushups with people on his back for money to build up the $500 takings. Whoever wins the competition will get this money, which, he said, is kept in his locker awaiting the Union Square games.

However, he admits, at the end of the day, he might take $5 of it to buy a sausage-and-peppers sandwich.

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