Last Sunday, the Philippines hosted The World’s Strongest Man (WSM) Finals, arguably the most prestigious international competition, and a familiar face came out on top. Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson bested Pole Mateusz Kieliszkowski, four-time champ American Brian Shaw, and 27 other competitors in the weeklong event.
You might know Björnsson for playing The Mountain in the hit television series Game of Thrones. He was the undisputed favorite among the powerlifters, who had to contend with massive logs, stones, vehicles, and barbells.
While Björnsson has always been a specimen of strength and power, this was his first ever WSM win since he started competing six years ago. It’s a proud moment for us in Manila as first-time hosts, too. But even before this monstrous feat, the 29-year-old has already epitomized what a strong man is outside the competition.
1. He played pro ball
Us Filipinos should be excited to learn that Björnsson played professional hoop before starting his strongman career. He was a, at the time, a 6’7” Division 1 center who only played for one season, and averaged 6.7 points per game on 63.8% shooting. Unfortunately, he had to retire at the age 20 after suffering several ankle injuries.
In case you were also wondering, dude still got game:
2. He transformed his body
It’s fascinating how he has come a long way from having a 230-pound lanky ballin’ body, to now being more or less 400 pounds with arms the size of tree trunks. It was a lifestyle change; he not only had to do hardcore training, but also commit to eating and sleeping right full-time. These days, he does a combination of weightlifting exercises, and swims and bikes for endurance. In an interview, he reveals that he eats every two hours, and consumes over 10,000 calories a day. With his current size, however, Björnsson explains it’s no longer about bulking up to perform better. “Getting bigger isn’t a big deal for me. I don’t want to get bigger. But having a nicer body and being stronger is definitely something I’m aiming for,” he quips in a 2016 interview.
3. He was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy
A day before the 2017 Europe’s Strongest Man, Björnsson announced online that he was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, a condition where one’s face is partially paralyzed due to inflamed nerves. He went on to win the European strength athletics competition that year. A year later, we can still see that his face still has a trace of the disease, but we already know that won’t ever stop him from achieving his strongman goals.
“I spent a good amount of time at the hospital as doctors ran some tests on me. Luckily I was informed there was nothing to worry about. That I have caught some virus called Bells Palsy (sic) which causes half of my face getting paralysed. It can last from a week to a few months apparently,” he wrote in his announcement post.