With his shirt on, Alex Tilinca of Hicksville, N.Y. looks just like any average 18-year-old guy in his freshman year at Hofstra University on New York’s Long Island, majoring in marketing, and preparing for final exams.

Check out his Instagram feed, however, and you’ll find a muscleman extraordinaire, an award-winning bodybuilder — who just happens to be a transgender man.

Tilinca told me he decided this is as good a time as any for “a breather” from his sport. So right now, he’s entirely focused on his studies (relax, mom and dad, of course he is!).

“School is going good!” Tilinca told Outsports. “I never left bodybuilding I’m just talking a long off season.”

Tilanca showed the result of what that looks like on Instagram.

“Letting my body really situate at my current weight; giving my body a breather to really settle to where we’ve gotten so far,” Tilinca posted. “This is not a sprint. It’s a long run. While I admit I enjoy seeing the scale go up I recognize that it’s quality over quantity.”

As Newsday’s Barbara Barker reported last month, Tilinca entered the Teen Classic Physique competition at the Victor Martinez Legends Bodybuilding Competition in the Bronx. That was in August, and to Tilinca’s surprise, he won first place, defeating cisgender men.

“It was like the universe was telling me to keep going. Don’t stop,” Tilinca told Newsday. “This is what I’m meant to do with my life. It shows it’s possible to do what I want to do.”

Take a look at the difference Tilinca has made in just 18 months, in a post from two months ago, in which he declared, “nothing is too high of a goal.”

View this post on Instagram

About a year and a half apart here. People thought I was crazy, too much trying too hard, too regimented, aiming too high for such a short period of time etc…. . But I don’t think I was and don’t think I still am. I knew that I could do it that’s why I pushed so hard. Most people are SCARED to push so hard because deep down they think they will fail; they are scared of the thought of failing. My goal is to be over 200 lbs at my height lean and ripped. Does that sound insane, yeah sure. AM I insane? Maybe lmao. Is it gonna take a lot of time, consistency, patience and faith? Yes, absolutely. But if you instill the work ethic to back your words up, then nothing is too high of a goal. . Happy #mondaymotivation

A post shared by Alex Tilinca (@alextilinca) on

Tilinca said his goal is to become the first transgender man to win Mr. Olympia, billed as the premier bodybuilding event in the world. So far, no transgender man has won a major professional bodybuilding competition.

But Tilanca did beat cisgender competitors in that contest in the Bronx over the summer.

“And it felt great,” Tilanca told Outsports. “I never really even thought about the cis part — for me, I just wanted to win.”

Alex Tilinca at 130 lbs with about 5-6% bodyfat.

The Victor Martinez Legends Bodybuilding contest is named for the 2nd place finisher at a Mr. Olympia event in 2007. Tilinca took second place in the Novice Classic Physique and the Junior Classic Physique divisions, then won first place in the Teen Classic. That finish matches what we’ve found, over and over, among trans female athletes: they sometimes win, but mostly lose to their cisgender competitors.

Since the National Physique Committee doesn’t list any rules applying to transgender competitors on its website, Tilinca did not have to disclose that he’s trans. The NPC did not respond to Newsday’s request for comment.

Watch Newsday’s video of Tilinca and read more about his transition, how his parents support him and how he keeps fit by clicking here. Follow Alex Tilinca on Instagram here.

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