Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson

Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (Icelandic: [ˈhafθour ˈjuːlijʏs ˈpjœr̥sɔn] (listen); in English transliterated as Hafthor; born 26 November 1988) is an Icelandic former professional strongman. He is the first and only person to have won the Arnold Strongman Classic, the Europe's Strongest Man and the World's Strongest Man in the same calendar year[2][3] and holds numerous championship titles from multiple strength federations including many world records.[4] With 30 international competition wins, he's the third most decorated strongman in history behind Lithuania's Žydrūnas Savickas and Poland's Mariusz Pudzianowski[5] and due to his 'brute strength' and dominance in every known strongman event, analysts and strongman experts including Laurence Shahlaei, Michael Gill and Matt Rhodes consider Hafþór to be the strongest man to have ever lived.[6]

Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson
Björnsson Arnold Classic 2017.jpg
Hafþór in March 2017
Born (1988-11-26) 26 November 1988 (age 33)
Occupation
  • Strongman
  • Boxer
  • Actor
Years active2010–2020 (strongman)
Height205 cm (6 ft 9 in)[1]
Spouse(s)
Kelsey Henson
(m. 2018)
Children2
Basketball career
Career information
Playing career2004–2008
PositionCenter
Career history
2004–2005Breiðablik
2005–2006FSu
2006–2007KR
2007–2008FSu
Websitehafthorbjornsson.com

Hafþór is also an actor, and played Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane in the HBO series Game of Thrones for five seasons. He is pursuing a career as a 'titan weight boxer' since 2021.

BackgroundEdit

Hafþór was born on 26 November 1988 in Reykjavík, Iceland.[7] As a child, he worked in his family farm and lifted natural stones hence was always big and strong from a young age.[7] His imposing height of 205 cm (6 ft 9 in) [8] is credited to his 203 cm (6 ft 8 in) father Björn[9] and his mother Ragnheiður, who is also of very tall stature.[7] Hafþór's grandfather Reynir is also tall as him and just as broad across the chest.[9]

Hafþór is also a Chess player with a Blitz rating of 800[10] and a polyglot, speaking fluent English, French, Swedish and Norwegian in addition to his mother tongue Icelandic.

Basketball careerEdit

Hafþór began his athletic career as a basketball player, playing as a center. He started his senior team career for Icelandic 1. deild karla club Breiðablik in 2004.[11] The following season he transferred to FSu Selfoss, but after about 10 games it was discovered that he had been playing with a broken bone in his ankle and was prompted for surgery. After recovering, in 2006, Hafþór moved to KR in the Icelandic top-tier Úrvalsdeild.[12][13] However, after a screw in his ankle shattered, he had to undergo a second surgery in November, forcing him to miss the rest of the season.[14]

To commence the 2007–2008 season, he moved back to play for FSu Selfoss and averaged 6.7 points per game,[15] helping the team to achieve a promotion to the Úrvalsdeild.[16] Unfortunately, the troublesome ankle continued and ultimately forced him to retire from basketball at the age of 20.[17][18]

Between 2004 and 2006, Hafþór played 32 games for the Icelandic junior national basketball teams[19] and 8 games with Iceland's U-18 national team in Division A of the U18 European Championship.[20] In May 2004, he won the Nordic championship with the U-16 team.[21] During the 2004 FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship Division B, he helped Iceland achieve promotion to Division A.[22] In 2006, he won the Nordic championship again, this time with the U-18 team.[23]

Strongman careerEdit

Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson
 
At the 2015 Caledonian Club Highland Games
Personal information
OccupationStrongman
Height205 cm (6 ft 9 in)[1]
Weight180–205 kg (397–452 lb)[24][25]
Sport
SportStrongman
Medal record
Representing   Iceland
World's Strongest Man
3rd 2012 World's Strongest Man
3rd 2013 World's Strongest Man
2nd 2014 World's Strongest Man
3rd 2015 World's Strongest Man
2nd 2016 World's Strongest Man
2nd 2017 World's Strongest Man
1st 2018 World's Strongest Man
3rd 2019 World's Strongest Man
Arnold Strongman Classic
2nd 2017 Arnold Strongman Classic
1st 2018 Arnold Strongman Classic
1st 2019 Arnold Strongman Classic
1st 2020 Arnold Strongman Classic
Europe's Strongest Man
1st 2014 Europe's Strongest Man
1st 2015 Europe's Strongest Man
2nd 2016 Europe's Strongest Man
1st 2017 Europe's Strongest Man
1st 2018 Europe's Strongest Man
1st 2019 Europe's Strongest Man
Giants Live
1st 2014 FitX Australia
1st 2014 World's Strongest Viking
1st 2015 World's Strongest Viking
1st 2015 Sweden
World's Ultimate Strongman
1st 2018 World's Ultimate Strongman
Strongman Champions League
1st 2013 Latvia
2nd 2013 FIBO Germany
2nd 2013 Netherlands
2nd 2013 China
3rd 2013 Russia
3rd 2013 Brazil
1st 2014 Serbia
1st 2014 Finland
1st 2014 Netherlands
1st 2014 Malaysia
1st 2015 Norway
1st 2015 Bulgaria
1st 2015 Croatia
Arnold Pro Strongman World Series
2nd 2011 Arnold Amateur
3rd 2014 Arnold Brazil
1st 2016 Arnold Brazil
1st 2016 Arnold Australia
1st 2016 Arnold South Africa
1st 2017 Arnold Canada
Jón Páll Sigmarsson Classic
2nd 2010 Jón Páll Sigmarsson Classic
1st 2012 Jón Páll Sigmarsson Classic
Força Bruta
2nd 2013 Força Bruta
3rd 2014 Força Bruta
Iceland's Strongest Man
3rd 2010
1st 2011
1st 2012
1st 2013
1st 2014
1st 2015
1st 2016
1st 2017
1st 2018
1st 2019
1st 2020
Strongest Man in Iceland
1st 2010
1st 2011
1st 2012
1st 2016
1st 2017
Iceland's Strongest Viking
1st 2010
1st 2011
1st 2012
Westfjord's Viking
1st 2010
1st 2011
1st 2012
Grundarfjord Viking
3rd 2009
Highland Viking
3rd 2009
1st 2010
Eastfjord Strongman Championships
2nd 2009
1st 2010
1st 2012
OK Budar Strongman Championships
1st 2010
Akranes Strength Challenge
1st 2011
WoW Stronger
1st 2017
King of the Castle
1st 2012
Battle of the North
1st 2014
This list contains only the podium finishes. A full list is given under Competitive record

In 2008, when 4 x times World's Strongest Man champion Magnús Ver Magnússon spotted Hafþór at his gym "Jakaból", he immediately realized his potential as a good prospect for strongman[26] which paved the way for Hafþór to train with Stefán Sölvi Pétursson and Benedikt Magnússon.

Iceland's Strongest ManEdit

With the newfound friendships and guidance, Hafþór progressed well in the sport and went on to win several strongman contests in Iceland from 2009 onwards, including Strongest Man in Iceland,[27][28] Iceland's Strongest Viking, Westfjords Viking, Highland Viking,[29] Eastfjord Strongman Championships, Akranes Strength Challenge and five of six events at the OK Badur Strongman Championships.[9] After placing 3rd behind his friends Pétursson and Magnússon in 2010, Hafþór won his first Iceland's Strongest Man title in 2011[30] becoming the 9th Icelander to win the title since its inception in 1985. His winning streak continued and on 9 August 2020, Hafþór won the Iceland's Strongest Man for the 10th consecutive time.

In January 2015, at the World's Strongest Viking competition held in Norway, Hafþór carried a 10-metre-long (33 ft), 650 kg (1,433 lb) log for five steps, thus breaking a legendary 1,000 year old record set by Orm Storolfsson.[31]

Europe's Strongest ManEdit

After placing 5th and 4th in 2012 and 2013 respectively, Hafþór won the 2014 Europe's Strongest Man competition in Leeds. During the competition, after making a new world record in the Atlas stones event, he answered the reporter "I'm the future of strength, and I'm king of the stones".[32]

Hafþór successfully defended his title in 2015, but in 2016, despite doing well in other events, he made a mistake at the car walk by gripping the apparatus from the center instead from sides, which compromised balance and eventually lost the title to Englishman Laurence Shahlaei.

He regained the title back in 2017 after an iconic battle with Eddie Hall and successfully defended it again in 2018 and 2019 becoming a 5 x times Europe's Strongest Man Champion.[33]

World's Strongest ManEdit

Hafþór took part in World's Strongest Man after earning a wild card invitation to the 2011 contest [34] and placed 6th. Taking part again in ensuing years, he placed third in 2012, 2013 and 2015, and finished runner-up in 2014 to Žydrūnas Savickas[35] and again in 2016 to Brian Shaw[36] and finally in 2017 to Eddie Hall[37] before becoming the World's Strongest Man in 2018.[2][3] Hafþór was also the first Icelander to win the title since Magnús Ver Magnússon in 1996.[38]

In his attempt to defend his title, Hafþór unfortunately suffered a torn plantar fascia during the group stages and came in third place overall after doing all the events of the final while suffering from the injury,[39] thus achieving the longest continuous podium streak in World's Strongest Man history with 8 (2012-2019).

In May 2020, Hafþór stated that he would not return to Giants Live events or World's Strongest Man competitions.[40]

Arnold Strongman ClassicEdit

Being recognized as the heaviest and the most difficult strongman contest in the world,[41] Hafþór defeated its defending champion from 2017 Brian Shaw and won the 2018 Arnold Strongman Classic in Columbus, Ohio. In the fourth Event Hafþór broke the Elephant bar Deadlift world record with 472 kg (1,041 lb) beating Jerry Pritchett's 467.7 kg (1,031 lb) which was established the previous year.[42][43]

Hafþór successfully defended his title at 2019 Arnold Strongman Classic and improved on his Elephant bar Deadlift world record, increasing it to 474 kg (1,045 lb) in only his second attempt out of the 3 allowed attempts.[44][45]

After successfully defending his crown again in 2020, Hafþór became only the second person in history to win the Arnold Strongman Classic 3 x times in a row after Zydrunas Savickas.

World's Ultimate StrongmanEdit

In 2018, Hafþór won the inaugural World's Ultimate Strongman held in Dubai in a stacked field of 12 athletes.[46] This year also marked the most dominant calendar year in strongman history with Hafþór wining the Iceland's Strongest Man, Europe's Strongest Man, World's Strongest Man, World's Ultimate Strongman and the Arnold Strongman Classic.

Also from 2018 onwards, Hafþór significantly increased his static strength specially in collabotation with his new strength coach Sebastian Oreb[47] and on 15 February 2020, Deadlifted an unofficial world record on the elephant bar with 480 kilograms (1,058 lb).

On 2 May 2020, Hafþór Deadlifted 501 kilograms (1,105 lb) under strongman rules (standard bar with figure 8 straps and suit) at Thor's Power Gym, Kópavogur, Iceland while being refereed by Magnús Ver Magnússon under the sanctioning of World's Ultimate Strongman and broke the almost 4 year old strongman deadlift world record of 500 kilograms (1,102 lb) by Eddie Hall.[48] The lift was globally televised live by ESPN and was recognized by the Guinness World Records.[49]

In August 2020, Hafþór officially announced his retirement from strongman competitions.[50][51]

Competitive recordEdit

Placements: 56 x 1st places, 12 x 2nd places and 11 x 3rd places = 79 podium finishes from 95 total competitions.[52][53][54]
Winning percentage: 46.1% International & 86.7% National
Podium percentage: 75.4% International & 100% National

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th Total
International 30 11 8 4 7 1 2 1 1 65
National 26 1 3 30
Combined 56 12 11 4 7 1 2 1 1 95

Personal recordsEdit

NutritionEdit

To maintain his size and strength, Hafþór used to consume up to 8,000 calories a day during 2012 - 2017 to maintain a 180–190 kg (397–419 lb) physique and increased it upto 10,000 calories a day in his prime which is considered 2018, 2019 and 2020 to maintain a 200–205 kg (441–452 lb) physique.[68] As a general rule, his macro balance was 2:2:1 carbs to protein to fat ratio.[69] A typical breakfast may consist of eggs, bacon and french toast while a typical lunch may consist of rice, spinach, carrots, bison and chicken stock. He had six healthy meals a day with the exception of "one cheat meal once in a while is fine as long as you stay on track the rest of the time."[70]

Health concernsEdit

Hafþór has had occasional sleep troubles in past after heavy meals due to his large body weight.[71][72] In March 2017, he was diagnosed with Bell's palsy which paralysed half of his face.[73][74] In an interview, when asked if he had ever used steroids, Hafþór answered: "Yes, I have. When you want to be the best, you do whatever it takes". Hafþór didn't provide further information related to the cycles or whether his use of the substances was ongoing.[75][76][77] Hafþór recovered from Bell's palsy the following year.

Acting careerEdit

Hafþór was cast as Ser Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane for the fourth season of the HBO series Game of Thrones in August 2013.[78] This was his first main acting role, and he is the third person to depict the character after Conan Stevens played the role in season 1 and Ian Whyte in season 2 but the first actor to portray Clegane in more than one continuous season with his appearances in seasons four through eight.[79] He was also cast for the lead role in the Philadelphia Renaissance Faire during their debut season in 2015. He appeared as 'King Thor', the leader of a Viking raiding party intent on capturing the city of Amman.[80]

In 2018 Hafþór played Mongkut, the main villain in Kickboxer: Retaliation opposite Alain Moussi and Jean-Claude Van Damme in a story about a kickboxer (Moussi) who was sedated and taken to a prison in Bangkok, where he's forced to fight a giant for freedom and a large sum.[81] In the same year he also played Big John in the film Operation Ragnarok about a town in the south of Sweden isolated after a viral outbreak and the trapped Swedes and immigrants uniting to survive an onslaught.[82]

The next year, he starred with Mike Tyson in the action film Pharaoh's War, a plot about an ex-military man (Tyson) with a mysterious past leading a group of Egyptian refugees through the desert to protect them from a group of evil mercenaries.[83]

In 2022, Hafþór had a minor role as Thorfinnr the Tooth-Gnasher in the historical epic fantasy The Northman which starred Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke. Anya Taylor-Joy and Willem Dafoe.[84]

FilmographyEdit

FilmEdit

Year Title Role Notes
2015 Eddie: Strongman Himself
2017 Devilish Deeds Psycho Phil Bell
2018 Kickboxer: Retaliation Mongkut
2018 Operation Ragnarok Big John
2019 Pharaoh's War Frank
2022 The Northman Thorfinnr

TelevisionEdit

Duration Title Role Notes
2011–2019 The World's Strongest Man Himself
2014–2019 Game of Thrones Mountain Recurring role
2015 A League of Their Own Himself Series 9, Episode 7
2016 Heavy Bubbles Himself
2017 Born Strong Himself
2018 Keith Lemon: Coming to America Himself Series 1, Episode 6
2019 E:60, How the World's Strongest Man became 'The Mountain' on Game of Thrones Himself Original air date; 14 April 2019

Boxing careerEdit

Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson
 
Personal information
Height205 cm (6 ft 9 in)[1]
Weight145–152 kg (320–335 lb)[85][25]
Sport
SportBoxing
Weight classTitanweight

On 2 May 2020 after breaking the Deadlift World Record, Hafþór challenged its previous record holder Eddie Hall to a boxing match.[86] With a training regime under his coach Billy Nelson[87] and a stricter diet which differed from his strongman days, Hafþór completely transformed himself to suit the new sport losing 60 kg (132 lb) in the process.[88][85]

Hafþór's first exhibition match was against ex-WBO European light-heavyweight champion Steven Ward in January 2021.[89] For his second exhibition match he faced the 2010 Commonwealth Games Heavyweight Gold Medalist Simon Vallily in May 2021.[90] On 18 September 2021, Hafþór faced Canadian Professional Arm-wrestler Devon Larratt in his first non-exhibition boxing match. Larratt volunteered for the fight when Eddie Hall withdrew himself after sustaining a Bicep tear during training.[91] Within the first round of the fight, referee was forced to stop the fight awarding Hafþór the win via TKO.[92][93] On 19 March 2022, after almost two years since its announcement, Hafþór and Eddie finally faced each other in Dubai which was taglined The Heaviest Boxing Match in History. Hafþór knocked down Eddie twice to win the fight via unanimous decision with all three judges scoring the bout 57–54 in favour of the former.[94][95][96]

Boxing recordEdit

Professional record summary
4 fights 2 wins 0 losses
By knockout 1 0
By decision 1 0
Draws 2
No. Result Record Opponent Type Round, time Date Location
4 Win 2–0–2   Eddie Hall UD 6 19 Mar 2022   Dubai
3 Win 1–0–2   Devon Larratt TKO 1 (6), 2:00 18 Sep 2021   Dubai
2 Draw 0–0–2   Simon Vallily D 4 28 May 2021   Dubai
1 Draw 0–0–1   Steven Ward D 3 16 Jan 2021   Dubai

Personal lifeEdit

Family, relationships and domestic violence allegationsEdit

Hafþór had troubled relationships with his former girlfriends who accused him of domestic violence[97][98] including Thelma Björk Steimann[99] (the mother of his daughter), who feared for her life once during a vacation.[100] She pressed charges, but the case did not go further than that and Hafþór has since charged her with slander.[101][102][103] However, things escalated to a point where Hafþór was not allowed to see his daughter for 3 years[104] but the things settled over the years and he frequently visits his daughter Theresa Líf who resides in Denmark with her mother.[105][106]

Since late 2017 Hafþór dated Canadian fitness model Kelsey Henson whom he met in Alberta, while touring for a strongman competition. The couple garnered a lot of attention because of their height difference.[106][107][74] They married in August 2018 [108][109] and On 26 September 2020 welcomed their son, Stormur Magni Hafþórsson.[110]

EndorsementsEdit

Hafþór is a brand ambassador for SodaStream, a company involved in manufacture of a device for making carbonated water at home. He has appeared in advertisements of the brand promoting environmental awareness and collaborated in one with fellow Game of Thrones actress Hannah Waddingham (who played Septa Unella).[111][112][113] In 2016, Hafþór co-founded the spirits brand Icelandic Mountain Vodka. The main focus of the company is a seven-time distilled Icelandic vodka. The company also produces gin.[114][115]

Since 2019, Hafþór is also a brand ambassador for The Beard Struggle, a company that manufactures beard care products for men [116] and in 2020, incorporated Thor's Skyr, a company manufacturing traditional high-protein Icelandic yogurt.[117]

In other mediaEdit

Hafþór has a YouTube channel: Hafthor Bjornsson, which has content on training, fitness, strength and nutrition. As of 13 April 2022, it has 612k subscribers and 70.7 million views.[118]

ReferencesEdit

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