When it comes to finding the alpha male in sport it’s hard to look past the world of strongman.
Hafthor Bjornsson is very much king of that mountain and says he can stay on top for another decade.
Speaking exclusively to Sport360, the Icelander discussed his drive and desire to be the best in the sport for years to come after sweeping all before him in 2018.
For a man who is such a household name, it’s hard to describe last year as a breakout, but more the culmination of years of hard work and determination from the man also known as The Mountain from Game of Thrones.
In the space of nine months, Bjornsson claimed the four biggest titles in the game – the Arnold Classic, Europe’s Strongest Man, World’s Strongest Man and the World’s Ultimate Strongman – the three global events for the very first time.
For a man with six previous podium finishes at World’s Strongest Man it was the affirmation of his status at the pinnacle of the sport – a position he has no plans to relinquish.
“As long as I stay healthy and injury free I can stay number one for a decade,” he said.
A relatively straightforward win at the Arnold Classic last month, showed no signs of Thor’s dominance being challenged. He took the title by four and a half points from Martins Licis, with Mateusz Kieliszkowski a further nine points back in third. In the world of strongman, this isn’t a gap, it’s chasm.
“I think it showed my will to become better each year, the drive I have and the dedication is paying off,” said Bjornsson. “Even though I won the World Strongest Man title, the Arnold Classic, and the World’s Ultimate Strongman, I am still hungry for more. I am still working my ass off every single day to become better. I won one of the toughest strongman shows in the world quite easily. I didn’t even have to finish the last event, so it went very well for me. I am still improving each year even though I’m the best. I’m not backing off, I want to stay the best.”
A lot of talk beforehand centred around the deadlift event – with sponsors putting up a huge cash prize for anyone who could break to current world record of 500kg – set by long-time rival of Bjornsson, Eddie Hall in 2016.
The 30-year-old Bjornsson won the event with a lift of 474kg, more than 10kg better than second placed Brian Shaw. When the Icelander attempted 501kg, the bar lifted, but not enough for the record – something he is relatively relaxed about.
“I am all about winning titles. I am in this game to win titles. Records are constantly being broken and nobody can take away a title that you have won. I’ve won Europe’s Strongest Man four times, won Iceland’s Strongest Man eight times in a row, won the World’s Strongest Man, The Arnold Classic in Ohio two years in a row – no one can take that away from me, but records are constantly being broken, and I know one day that record will be broken,” said the Reykjavik native.
“I know how strong I am and I know if I would have had a perfect pull on the day in Ohio, I would have got the 501kg. In the pull, I slipped a little with my left foot, and if the pull is not 100%, you are never going to pull that kind of weight. I also know that the other record was done in a suit, that gives you about 30kg – at least. So, I was close to lifting 501, raw, without the suit. I’m pretty confident I am able to pull 501 on a regular bar with a suit.”
To stay on top of the game would be hard enough for a full-time athlete, but for a man who is also busy with acting and other projects – it’s doubly tough.
“It’s extremely challenging at points,” he said. “Let’s say you have to film for 16 hours a day, obviously you have to stay super consistent and you have to have someone there to help you. Whenever I travel for filming, I make sure I have an assistant with me who is always on the clock because if I’m shooting, I can’t be on the clock. I have to have someone there with me to make sure I am eating every two and a half hours. Sometimes it gets that busy that the person with me is basically feeding me between shooting. That’s how dedicated I am, and that’s how badly I want to stay the best.”
Currently in Dubai, Bjornsson has been working with the World’s Ultimate Strongman (WUS) team and their new incubator project.
He lifted the inaugural WUS title last year and is impressed with their latest venture – developing raw strongman talent and turning them into world-level athletes.
Bjornsson recommended Larry Wheels to become the first person to take part in the project and is now seeing the hard work come to fruition.
“This is an amazing program, it is the right direction for the growth of strongman and to bring talent like Larry Wheels who has a great background and who is already strong, but just need some guidance and help to learn the right ways to become a great strongman,” he said.
“I think WUS is doing great things for the world of strongman. They are stepping up the game in every way possible, treating athletes super well and everything is just on top. This is great because the level of strength is growing, the guys are getting stronger, and the sport is getting more popular, so it’s amazing to see what they are doing.
“It’s great place for any athlete to be able to come here and just to train, eat and sleep. WUS are taking athletes who are gifted but are new to the sport. For me, if I would have had an opportunity like this handed to me I would have said straight away ‘yes’. This is the best opportunity any beginner can have.”
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