IFBB bodybuilding legend Flex Wheeler used to be a fierce competitor on the posing dais and now he is showing fire in his belly in the face of adversity as he took his first step since having part of his leg amputated.

The four-time Arnold Classic winner is refusing to let major surgery get the better of him as he starts to put his life together after the devastation of losing his lower right limb in October.

The three-time Mr Olympic runner-up is going through rough times and is trying to stay optimistic knowing that he would never be able to compete again let alone lead a normal life. But he is not losing hope by any stretch of the imagination.

The 54-year-old, who was one of the world’s leading bodybuilders in the 1990s, posted a photo of himself on social media to record his first step on his new prosthetic leg. Within a day of posting, the IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness) superstar received almost 50,000 likes as they applauded his bravery, giving them a glimpse of the new Flex Wheeler fans would have to get used to.

“So it begins … thank you Jesus ... my first step,” he wrote on Instagram.

Bodybuilding legend Flex Wheeler in latest personal battle after losing part of his right leg during emergency surgery

His fans responded positively on his Instagram posting with many sending him well wishes and words of encouragement.

“True picture of faith, willingness and determination. You are a blessing beyond the skies. You got this,” said one user.

Just weeks earlier, Wheeler posted photos and videos of himself hitting the gym for the first time since his surgery, trying to stay positive despite his latest misfortune in a career plagued by injuries and tragedies. Wheeler has had complications with his kidney in the past, saying a few months ago, he had inherited an “extremely rare” disease called segmental glomerulosclerosis. He needed a kidney transplant in 2004.

“Second day training in the gym,” he wrote on Instagram on December 17. “First time training at this amazing club @kilo.vegas Training some tris, bis and shoulders. Trying to build up my upper body strength so I can more safely use my crutches and wheelchair. Meanwhile check out this fabulous gym @kilo.vegas @backwidow.”

The posting received a lot of attention from his fans who have been amazed by his optimism and good spirit.

“You are more than an inspiration brother my prayers go out to you and your new journey 1 love brother much RESPECT AND love the great FLEX WHEELER. You have given me motivation to get back in the gym and into shape,” said one of his fans.

Wheeler has come back from adversity before, surviving a near-fatal collision in 1994 after he crashed his Mercedes-Benz that left him with a broken neck. The Sultan of Symmetry, as he was called in his heyday, made a miraculous recovery a year later and returned to successful competition, winning the Iron Man Pro Invitational contest before finishing runner-up in the Arnold Classic the same year.