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Hafthor Björnsson

Hafthor Björnsson: The Mountain from Game of Thrones Who Can Carry 650 Kg On His Shoulders

They say that for every guy there is a stronger guy. However, in the case of Hafthor Björnsson, you would have to look long and hard as he holds the title of World’s Strongest Man. This Icelandic strongman gained fans primarily by playing the character of Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane in the Game of Thrones series. But not many people know that he was also a professional basketball player. At the peak of his fame is breaking a 1000-year-old strength record. In addition, he has many triumphs and strongman achievements behind him. Let’s take a look at his sports and acting career and personal life, which is full of interesting things.

Hafthor Björnsson
Author of the photo: Paula R. Lively
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bj%C3%B6rnsson_Arnold_Classic_2017_(cropped_2).jpg

Origin in a family of giants and a career as a basketball player

Hafthor Júlíus Björnsson was born on November 26, 1988 under the sign of Sagittarius. He was born and raised in Reykjavík, which is also the capital of Iceland. He comes from a family of giants and apparently inherited his height from his 203 cm tall father Bjorn.

As a child, he worked on the farms that his family owned. He has one sister, but not much is known about his childhood and education. However, his achievements in later life shine all the more. Even as a child, he was always taller than his peers.

This made him an ideal candidate for a basketball player. His parents signed him up for this sport when he was 12 years old. It captivated him so much that he devoted himself to it professionally. At a young age, he represented the Icelandic junior team, but his dream of a further professional career was ended by an ankle injury.

At that time, he underwent two surgeries and in 2008 he decided to quit basketball for good. It was there that his love for exercise and iron began to form.

Injured ankles paved his way to the world of strongmen, which he absolutely dominated

He trained with heavy weights, which, as he claims, he literally fell in love with. He was able to gain weight quite quickly and the results were visible straight away. Hard work combined with his genetics paid off. This also drove him forward and kept him motivated. The feeling of improvement was so amazing, he said, that he couldn’t stop. In his local gym, he even met the famous Icelandic strongman Magnús Ver Magnússon. He was impressed by Hafthor’s physical condition and predicted that he could become a professional strongman. It didn’t take long before Hafthor began to apply his strength competitively as well.

Hafthor Björnsson
Author of the photo: Paula R. Lively
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bj%C3%B6rnsson_Arnold_Classic_2017c.jpg

Hafthor entered the world of the strongmen for the first time in 2010 and defeated his opponents in several competitions. He managed to win 5 out of 6 OK Badur Strongman Championships events. He ended the year 2010 with second place at the Jon Pall Sigmarsson Classic. Hafthor’s strength was unstoppable even a year later, when he won the titles of Iceland’s Strongest Viking and Westfjords Viking. In addition, he also won the title of Iceland’s Strongest Man. He reigned over this competition for an incredible 10 years, during which no one could beat him. The unstoppable Hafthor has already conquered all targets in Iceland and it was time to show his power to the world.

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A strongman who pushed the limits and broke a 1000-year-old Viking record

He received a wild card, thanks to which he could take part in the World’s Strongest Man competition, where he had to face other strongmen from all over the globe. It was 2011 and his world debut eventually ended in sixth place. Since 2012, however, he has regularly appeared in the top three strongmen. At that time, it was clear to everyone that if there is someone in the strongman world who can push the limits, it is Hafthor Julius Björnsson.

And that happened in 2015, when this Icelandic strongman broke a 1000 years old record. It was at the World’s Strongest Viking competition that he walked five steps with a 10-metre log that weighed an incredible 650 kilograms. After his performance, he said that he was fully prepared to achieve his main goal, which was to become the strongest man on the planet.

He completely dominated the world competition in 2018 in the Philippines, where he won an amazing first place. Since 1996, he was also the first Icelander to enjoy this phenomenal success. Hafthor’s ambitions to win also extended to other competitions. Thanks to his resilience, he became the first man in history to win the Arnold Strongman Classic, Europe’s Strongest Man and the already mentioned World’s Strongest Man competitions in the same year. He dominated the first one three times and the second one five times.

His personal records include:

  • 474 kg Elephant Bar Deadlift, Strongman Raw with Straps (world record at Arnold Strongman Classic 2019)
  • 213 kg Log Press (Europe’s Strongest Man 2018)
  • 451 kg Tire Deadlift (Arnold Strongman Classic 2014)
  • 650 kg Log Carry, 5 steps (World’s Strongest Viking 2015)
  • 7.15 m 15-kilogram Keg Toss (World’s Strongest Man 2016)
  • 8 Kegs thrown into the air in 16.35 seconds (World’s Strongest Man 2014)
  • 501 kg Deadlift (Thor’s Power Gym, Iceland)
  • 460 kg Squat (Thor’s Powerlifting Challenge 2018)

A strongman who turned into a boxer

The world of strongmen was getting too small for Hafthor, so he decided to enter the world of boxing. He made his first appearance in the ring at the beginning of 2021, where he faced former European lightweight champion Steven Ward in an exhibition match. Ward deserves a lot of respect in this case, because the difference between the two fighters was an incredible 60 kilograms. According to his own words, the professional boxer was shocked by Björnsson’s size. The match did not have a clear winner as it was just an exhibition. However, it was also a valuable experience for Hafthor before future fights.

One of those fights was literally a ‘Clash of Giants’, because he faced another giant in the world of strongmen – the Englishman Eddie Hall. He is his long-time rival, whom Hafthor accused of cheating in the World’s Strongest Man competition in 2017. Hall then won by one point, which was a difficult pill to swallow for the Icelandic strongman. He then commented in the media that Hall and one of the judges literally stole his victory and considered the entire verdict to be twisted and wrong. The duel Björnsson vs. Hall, which is considered to be the toughest boxing match in history, was supposed to take place on September 18, 2021. However, Eddie Hall suffered an injury during training, which forced the entire event to be postponed. In the meantime, arm-wrestling champion Devon Laratt became Hall’s replacement. It was Thor’s first professional match and he defeated his opponent early, in the first round, by TKO.

Hafthor Bjornsson
Author of the photo: Ellen Finch
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hafth%C3%B3r_J%C3%BAl%C3%ADus_Bj%C3%B6rnsson_Scottish_Stone_Put.jpg

Duel Björnsson vs. Hall finally took place on March 19, 2022 in Dubai. It lasted full six rounds and Thor was declared the winner with a score of 57-54 from all three judges.

Training and diet as a source of massive strength

You will surely understand that behind everything that Hafthor Björnsson was able to achieve wasn’t only his physical predispositions, but also proper training and quality nutrition. Some sources state that he consumed up to 10,000 calories a day. Thor posted his diet on Facebook while he was preparing for World’s Strongest Man 2016. He ended up finishing second, but was only two points short of the winner. A year before, he even had the privilege of sparring with UFC champion Conor McGregor, who managed the training with the giant Thor with honour.

The strongman’s diet looked like this:

  1. 6:50 a.m. – Morning cardio training + core (30 minutes), BCAAglutamine and a handful of almonds
  2. 7:30 a.m. – eight eggs, 200 g of oats, blueberries, strawberries and avocado
  3. 9:30 a.m. – 400 g of beef, 400 g of sweet potatoes, fruit
  4. 11:50 a.m. – BCAA, glutamine
  5. 12:00 p.m. – 400 g of chicken, 400 g of potatoes, vegetables, fruit
  6. 2:00 p.m. – shake (150 g oats or sweet potatoes, 2 bananas, 150 g rice groats, frozen blueberries, a handful of almonds, peanut butter, glutamine)
  7. 2:30 p.m. – strongman training, BCAA, glutamine, Vitargo Energy
  8. 5:30 p.m. – 60 g of protein, 2 bananas
  9. 6:00 p.m. – 500 g of beef, potatoes, vegetables
  10. 8:30 p.m. – 500 g of salmon + 500 g of sweet potatoes
  11. 10:30 p.m. – 50 g of casein, 6 eggs, avocado, 30 g of almonds, 50 g of peanut butter

He supplemented this diet with a plenty of fluids, where in addition to water he also drank juice to get even more calories. In the middle of the night, he used to add 50 g of casein or raw egg whites. However, he drastically changed his usual diet after leaving the competitive strongman environment.

His new diet routine reflected the fact that he was preparing for his first boxing match. At the beginning of this journey, he weighed an incredible 205 kilograms. After changing his diet, supplemented by intensive training, Hafthor Björnsson lost a decent 55 kg.

The boxer’s diet looked like this:

  1. Breakfast – three eggs, 200 g of chicken, smoothie (150 g of yogurt, 100 g of berries, 40 g of oats)
  2. Boxing training (sparring with a trainer, working on using bodyweight and effective balancing)
  3. Cardio HIIT on a bicycle – 30 seconds of easy pedalling, 20 seconds of moderately intensive pedalling and 10 seconds of fast pedalling. He repeated all this five times. Then he had 3 minutes of rest, after which he went again for another 5 rounds.
  4. Lunch – 220 g of beef tenderloin, 180 g of white rice, 100 g of vegetables
  5. Strength Training
  6. Post-workout meal – 220 g chicken, 250 g potatoes, 100 g vegetables
  7. Dinner No. 1 – 200 g of salmon, 100 g of rice, 100 g of vegetables
  8. 15 minutes of infrared sauna + 15 minutes of cryotherapy
  9. Dinner No. 2 – 250 g Greek yogurt, 100 g bananas, 30 g almond butter, protein shake

He himself jokingly commented on this diet by saying that he actually ate almost nothing because he was losing weight. His least favourite was the post-workout meal because he’s not a big fan of chicken. However, when consuming it, he keeps in mind his goals.

Admitting to using steroids

Hafthor Björnsson is known for being willing to do anything to win. Even taking steroids, which he confirmed in an interview in 2017. He justified his open admission by saying that if you want to be the best, you will do everything for it. However, he did not want to comment further on this topic and asked the moderator to skip similar questions.

The annual World’s Strongest Man competition, which Thor once won and often placed in the top three, prohibits the use of performance-enhancing substances. However, the extent or effectiveness of steroid testing in this case is unknown. So every strongman has to pass the test with a negative result. Hafthor claims that he has never failed tests for banned substances.

Game of Thrones Star

Hafthor Björnsson
Author of the photo: Paula R. Lively
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bj%C3%B6rnsson_Arnold_Classic_2017b.jpg

In addition to his career as a famous athlete, Hafthor also made a name for himself on TV screens. In 2013, he was cast in the fourth season of the successful HBO show Game of Thrones. He introduced himself as the knight Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, who was characterized by his cruelty, huge sword and heartlessness. Björnsson played this character for several consecutive series. He claims that his favourite character was Cersei Lannister.

He was approached for the show through a message on Facebook. Having no acting experience, at the time he thought it was just a prank. He didn’t respond to the message, but luckily the casting team was persistent and they called him a few days later. By mutual agreement, he attended the casting, where he had to read a few lines of the script. He then met the famous stunt coordinator C.C. Smiff, who oversaw the sword fight sequences in the show.

He had to prove how good was his mobility. A lot of similarly sized guys have problems with their knees, they can’t bend and they’re slow. For the needs of the Game of Thrones series, The Mountain needed to be large, but he also had to handle sword fights skilfully. Smiff was really impressed by Hafthor’s physique. The Icelandic strongman got the role a few days later and began filming the fourth season. He is most famous for a fight scene in which his character gouges out the eyes of a rival named The Red Viper with his fingers.

His acting career changed his life, but he refuses other roles

This well-known episode was watched by more than 7.1 million people, and Hafthor himself claims that this much attention definitely changed his life. He remembers the day it was broadcast well, because right after, his social networks went crazy and he started getting huge amount of followers. He says his phone didn’t stop buzzing because at the time his notifications on Instagram were turned on. The final episode of the show Game of Thrones was broadcast in May 2019. Even after the end of the show, Hafthor Björnsson has more than 3 million followers on Instagram.

If you expected the GOT to launch his successful acting career, prepare to be disappointed. Thor does not like to travel and turns down most acting opportunities. An exception was, for example, a music video for an Icelandic pop star, which was supposed to be recorded in his gym. He justifies his lack of interest in appearing on the screen or in commercials by saying that he is selfish. He wants to focus primarily on himself, his training, diet and sleep. Furthermore, he adds that he may do commercials sometime later, and if he ever quits his sports career, he thinks that he would devote himself to acting full-time. However, he would like to star in action films in particular, where he would put his huge body and agility to good use.

Unpleasant accusations of abuse from his ex-partner

Although Hafthor Bjornsson has millions of fans, his reputation as a good guy is not supported by the accusations of his ex-partner, with whom he has a daughter. Andrea Sif Jónsdóttir publicly accused him of domestic violence in The Reykjavík Grapevine journal. According to her, Thor is supposed to be very jealous. Even to the extent that he deleted all male contacts from her phone and Facebook. In the harrowing interview, she went much further and mentioned a vacation during which she allegedly feared for her life. They lived on the 20th floor of the hotel and Hafthor was said to have threatened to throw her off the balcony. Allegedly, he also pushed her and slapped her.

The scene between the couple was apparently heard by the surrounding guests as well. However, Thor reportedly apologized to Andrea for his actions and promised never to do it again. But according to his ex-girlfriend, he did not keep his promise. One night he allegedly tripped her legs and pushed her down the stairs in a nightclub. As a result, she reportedly ended up in the emergency room and was determined to leave him. However, she later found out that she was pregnant, which made the whole situation even more complicated. However, the Game of Thrones star denies all these accusations. In a post on the social network, Thor wrote that he has nothing to hide and thinks that his ex-partner is only interested in money. In addition, he was shocked that the journalists had published the interview with Andrea, and he planned to sue the newspaper for defamation.

He got compelled by the charm of a petite waitress Kelsey, with whom he runs a gym

Hafthor has been married to his wife Kelsey Henson since 2018. They met at a restaurant where Kelsey worked as a waitress and Hafthor first met her while participating in one of the strongman competitions. Kelsey recognized him immediately thanks to the Game of Thrones. From the moment she apprehensively asked him for a photo, their joint life chapter began to be written. They love each other despite their great physical differences. Tiny Kelsey is only 157 cm tall. Hafthor himself is 206 cm tall and is roughly 100 kg heavier than his wife.

When one of the fans on Instagram asked them how they can even kiss, considering their physical differences, Kelsey responded quite promptly. She replied that Hafthor bends and she tiptoes. Or if that fails, she simply tells him to pick her up. The Mountain also introduced his wife to the world of fitness, which she fell in love with. The couple regularly publishes posts from a gym on social networks. In addition, together they run a gym named Thor’s Power Gym.

In September 2020, the couple announced the happy news of the birth of a son. Hafthor was with his wife during the birth and he is very proud of her for how amazingly she handled the whole process. Kelsey herself described giving birth as the most powerful moment of her life. In addition, the proud mother started an Instagram account on which she documents her motherhood and the childhood of Thor’s son. They kept the name private for some time, but in November 2020 their baby boy got baptised and received the name Stormur Magni Hafþórsson.

Which of Thor’s competitive achievements stood out to you the most? Would you like to see more of him in shows and movies? If you liked the article, don’t hesitate and share it with your friends.

Sources:

[1] Hafthor Bjornsson – https://biographymask.com/hafthor-bjornsson/

[2] Everything You Don't Know About The Mountain – https://www.looper.com/110519/everything-dont-know-mountain/

[3] Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson Biography – https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/hafr-jlus-bjrnsson-45998.php

[4] WSM Results – https://www.theworldsstrongestman.com/results/

[5] Hafthor Wins World’s Strongest Viking, Sets Sights On World’s Strongest Man – https://strongmancl.com/hafthor-wins-worlds-strongest-viking-sets-sights-on-worlds-strongest-man/

[6] Hafthor Bjornsson Deadlifts A 474kg Elephant Bar World Record (Closely Misses 501kg) – https://barbend.com/hafthor-bjornsson-474kg-elephant-bar/

[7] Watch The Mountain from Game of Thrones Deadlift Almost 1,000 Pounds – https://www.gawker.com/watch-the-mountain-from-game-of-thrones-deadlift-almost-1586066070

[8] World’s Strongest Man 2014 – http://strongman.org/news/worlds-strongest-man-2014/

[9] Weightlifting: 'The Mountain' Bjornsson deadlifts 501 kg to set world record – https://www.reuters.com/article/us-weightlifting-deadlift-bjornsson/weightlifting-the-mountain-bjornsson-deadlifts-501-kg-to-set-world-record-idUSKBN22E0R1

[10] GAME OVER Game of Thrones star Hafthor Bjornsson announces boxing fight against pro Steven Ward – who is 12 STONE lighter than him – https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/13380585/game-thrones-hafthor-bjornsson-boxing-ward/

[11] Eddie Hall and Hafthor Björnsson's Boxing Showdown Is on Hold – https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a37130616/eddie-hall-hafthor-bjornssons-boxing-fight-delayed/