Gladiators star Cobra seriously ill in Kent hospital with pneumonia

A former Gladiators star is seriously ill in hospital with pneumonia after ‘destroying’ his body with decades of extreme workouts.

Michael Willson, who was known as Cobra on the show during the 1990s, told the Sun it was ‘touch and go’. 

The former bodybuilder, 55, is suffering from a number of health problems including severe acute pancreatitis and pleurisy, a condition which causes sharp chest pains.

He also needs two new hips and struggles to move his right arm thanks to a rupture in his shoulder.

Gladiators star Cobra, whose real name is Michael Willson, has been in hospital for three weeks with pneumonia

Gladiators star Cobra, whose real name is Michael Willson, has been in hospital for three weeks with pneumonia

Gladiators star Cobra, whose real name is Michael Willson, has been in hospital for three weeks with pneumonia 

He also needs two new hips and struggles to move his right arm thanks to a rupture in his shoulder. He is pictured here in April1995

He also needs two new hips and struggles to move his right arm thanks to a rupture in his shoulder. He is pictured here in April1995

He also needs two new hips and struggles to move his right arm thanks to a rupture in his shoulder. He is pictured here in April1995

Mr Willson told the Sun: ‘I’m only half a Gladiator now. It’s been touch and go. I don’t feel like I’m kicking the bucket at the minute, but it will only take another cold or cough and I’m in trouble.’ 

He added: ‘I pushed the limit and listened to silly Arnold Schwarzenegger saying you’ve got to take more pain than your competitors.

‘But pain is your body saying “oi, pack it in”. You need to pull back, not push through. But for 20-plus years I was: push, push, push.’

So far Mr Willson has been in the hospital in Kent for three weeks, having been hospitalised before Christmas as well after his pancreas swelled up.

He also claimed that his co-stars including James Crossley, who was known as Hunter, are far healthier because they didn’t ‘self-inflict’ pain by carrying on.

Mr Willson said: ‘I’m only half a Gladiator now. It’s been touch and go. I don’t feel like I’m kicking the bucket at the minute, but it will only take another cold or cough and I’m in trouble’

Gladiators, which ran from 1992 until 2000, regularly pulled in more than 12million viewers

Gladiators, which ran from 1992 until 2000, regularly pulled in more than 12million viewers

Gladiators, which ran from 1992 until 2000, regularly pulled in more than 12million viewers

Mr Willson added: 'I pushed the limit and listened to silly Arnold Schwarzenegger saying you've got to take more pain than your competitors'

Mr Willson added: 'I pushed the limit and listened to silly Arnold Schwarzenegger saying you've got to take more pain than your competitors'

Mr Willson added: ‘I pushed the limit and listened to silly Arnold Schwarzenegger saying you’ve got to take more pain than your competitors’

Mr Willson said that he once fractured his hip on the ITV show but carried on regardless – without telling the show’s producers. 

Mr Willson said that he once fractured his hip on the ITV show but carried on regardless

Mr Willson said that he once fractured his hip on the ITV show but carried on regardless

Mr Willson said that he once fractured his hip on the ITV show but carried on regardless

He also powered through a number of spinal injuries.

Gladiators, which ran from 1992 until 2000, regularly pulled in more than 12million viewers.

Mr Willson was known for his high-kicks and splits on the widely popular show.

In October last year, some of the original cast – Ace, Panther, Cobra, Jet, Hunter and Scorpio – reunited at a convention.

The group posed together at a TV, Film, Comic and Memorabilia Convention called Stoke CON Trent in Staffordshire. 

Mr Willson slipped into his old costume and revealed his incredible guns for the cameras.

The former bodybuilder, right, is suffering from a number of health problems including severe acute pancreatitis and pleurisy, a condition which causes sharp chest pains

The former bodybuilder, right, is suffering from a number of health problems including severe acute pancreatitis and pleurisy, a condition which causes sharp chest pains

The former bodybuilder, right, is suffering from a number of health problems including severe acute pancreatitis and pleurisy, a condition which causes sharp chest pains

Snaps from his social media

Snaps from his social media

Snaps from his social media

Snaps from his social media

Now living in the West Midlands, Michael spends his time making watercolour paintings

Mr Willson was known for his high-kicks and splits on the widely popular show

Mr Willson was known for his high-kicks and splits on the widely popular show

Mr Willson was known for his high-kicks and splits on the widely popular show

Mr Willson was known for his high-kicks and splits on the popular ITV show

Mr Willson was known for his high-kicks and splits on the popular ITV show

Mr Willson was known for his high-kicks and splits on the popular ITV show

A painter, a jailed gym owner and a drug addict: As the stars of Gladiators reunite to mark the show’s 25th anniversary, we reveal what happened when they hung up their Lycra

Gladiators became one of the biggest TV shows of the Nineties.

Every Saturday night, millions of viewers watched as muscle-bound rivals toppled each other off podiums, faced off against brave contestants and wrestled each other to the ground in a bid to be crowned the series’ champion.

Yesterday fans of the ITV show, which aired between 1992 and 2000, were delighted when some of its best-known stars, including Warren ‘Ace’ Furman, Helen ‘Panther’ O’Reilly, James ‘Hunter’ Crossley and Diane ‘Jet’ Youdale, reunited on This Morning to mark 25 years since the show first aired. 

They were joined by referee John Anderson, who along with host Ulrika Jonsson, became a fan favourite in his own right.

While the former Gladiators all showcased their youthful looks and enviably toned figures, time has not been so kind to all their former castmates.

From stints in rehab to time in jail, FEMAIL investigates what happened to the TV stars once they hung up their Lycra…

Ace: Warren Furman, 45

Name: Warren Furman

Age: 45

Occupation: Having turned his back on showbusiness, Warren found God and now runs a Gospel choir in York, where he lives with his wife and two kids.

Speaking on This Morning yesterday, he said: ‘I used to worship myself, I thought I was fantastic. I have now turned to God’s grace. I am a Gladiator of the gospel.

‘You’ll never know God until you change your direction and so I realised this. It was great, we had loads of money and women, but I realised I had to change’.

Gladiator history: Four years after the show began in 1996, the blond hunk beat 60 other hopefuls for a place on Gladiators, where he stayed on the series until its end in 2000. He returned for the revival in 2008

Fun facts: Warren was engaged to Katie Price in the late Nineties, during which time they enjoyed a particularly lavish lifestyle. He previously said: ‘We travelled the world first class, went for expensive dinners, had big houses and fancy cars’, yet things later broke off acrimoniously.

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