Hafthor Bjornsson, who played Sir Gregor Clegane, “The Mountain,” on Game of Thrones, is a legendary Icelandic strongman who just beat the world deadlift record and said he probably could have lifted more.
He lifted l,104 pounds, or 501 kilograms, for 2 seconds at his gym in Iceland. The previous record was held by Eddie Hall, a British man who, in 2016, became the first man to lift 500 kilgrams, according to BBC.
His full name is Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson. Bjornsson, age 31, is married to Kelsey Henson, who was a Canadian waitress he met while he was in the country for a competition. He has a daughter, Theresa Lif, with a former girlfriend. Bjornsson and Henson recently announced they are expecting a son. You can read more about his wife here.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hafthor Bjornsson Grew Up Working on his Grandfather’s Farm in Iceland Picking Up Rocks
Hafthor Bjornsson spent much of his time as a young boy working on a farm in Iceland. He said he often had to pick up rocks for days and weeks on end, which he described as “the beginning of my strongman training” in a 2019 interview.
He began weightlifting at age 17 or 18, and was very quickly able to accelerate the weight. He credited that to discipline, which he learned as a young boy on the farm with his grandpa.
“I spent a lot of time as a young kid on a farm with my grandfather, and it was hard work. You know, we worked. We woke up, we worked the whole day. Early mornings, I’d have to pick up stones, take all the big rocks and put them on the barrels. I hated that job, but I did that for days and weeks, picking up rocks, and that was probably the beginning of my strongman training, picking up rocks,” he said.
That experience taught him discipline and to motivate himself. He said a coach is not always there to encourage him, and it was necessary to be self-motivated to be able to push himself further to achieve his successes.
2. Hafthor Bjornsson, 2018 World’s Strongest Man, Told People Who Are Stuck in Life to Try Something Else & Break Their Routine
Hafthor Bjornsson won World’s Strongest Man in 2018, in a competition which you can watch here. On Saturday, May 2, 2020, he broke the world deadlift record, lifting 1,104 pounds, or 501 kilograms, for 2 seconds. He shattered the previous record of 500 kilograms.
You can watch behind-the-scenes footage of his record-breaking lift here. He is 6-feet 9-inches tall and weighs 425 pounds.
“I have no words. What an amazing day, one I will remember for the rest of my life. I said I was coming for it, and once I set my mind on something, I’m a dog with a bone,” he wrote on Instagram.
Bjornsson spoke about motivation and pride in his country during a 2019 interview. He said many people are stuck in life, and encouraged them to break their routines.
“When my daughter was born in 2009, my life changed completely,” he said. “You see so many people stuck in the same routine and they hate it. They hate it. They’re not happy in life, they’re not happy in whatever they’re doing.”
He said to anyone who is miserable in life, just try something else and see if they can do it.
He spoke about Iceland’s success in sports like weightlifting and CrossFit.
“I don’t know what it is, but we have been very successful in sports even though we are a small country. And why is that? It’s the pride, like I said, we’re very proud of our country. We want to shine and we want to show all the great nations that we can also be great,” he said.
3. Acting in the Brutal Game of Thrones Face-Crushing Scene Made His ‘Heart Hurt’
Hafthor Bjornsson made his acting debut on “Game of Thrones,” playing Sir Gregor Clegane, “The Mountain.” He has landed a series of acting gigs, but HBO’s huge hit series was his first. In an interview with The New York Times, following a scene where he methodically crushed his opponent’s face, he said he is a peaceful person despite his huge size.
It “felt strange for me,” he said, and looked away. “Maybe people don’t think this, but it actually made my heart hurt.”
He said he realized that he needed to be dispassionate, but that he thought he did well for his first time.
“I think it went pretty well considering that these things were new to me,” he said. “I did not have experience with acting, and I did not have experience with crushing a man’s face with my hands.”
Since then, he has landed a series of other roles, according to his IMDB profile. Most of them are video shorts. More recently, he was cast in 2019 Kuwait film, “Pharoah’s War,” and in a 2017-2019 TV series, “Chad Goes Deep.”
4. Hafthor Bjornsson Married Canadian Waitress Kelsey Henson in 2018 & She Is Expecting a Baby
Hafthor Bjornsson met his future wife, Kelsey Henson, when she was working as a waitress at Earl’s Kitchen & Bar in Alberta, Canada. He was visiting for a strongman competition. She asked for a photo with him, and they later began dating. They began their relationship in 2017 and were married in 2018, according to The Netline.
Now, his wife is expecting a baby, he recently announced on Instagram.
“Swipe right to see gender of the mini me!” he wrote on Instagram April 10, 2020, along with a series of photos of the two popping a balloon that burst with blue confetti.
He wrote a sweet post to his wife for her 30th birthday, sharing a photo of her on Instagram.
“Happy 30th birthday my love! @kelc33 It’s almost impossible to believe she’s 30 today. She doesn’t look a day older then 25!” he wrote.
5. Hafthor Bjornsson Has a Daughter Born in 2009 Who He Said Is His Biggest Motivation & His Strength
Hafthor Bjornsson has a daughter, Theresa Lif, who was born in 2009 to a previous girlfriend. He spoke about her in a 2019 interview, gushing about the little girl, but eventually opening up that he hadn’t been able to see her in three years. It’s unclear whether those circumstances changed, and why he could not see her. He said it was for reasons beyond his control, and that they speak every Sunday.
Bjornsson first spoke about his daughter in the interview, talking about his definition of success.
“People look at success in many different ways. Success is to be healthy. Success is being a good father. I have a good family. They are the reason…I want to make them proud – my family, my daughter,” he said. “When I am working hard in the gym, I want to make them proud. That’s my biggest motivation.”
He then began talking about difficult times in life, and how he overcomes them.
“Lately the last 2, 3 years I’ve been going through some very hard times. Some very hard times. I haven’t been very open about that. It’s been very tough for me. I had to deal with some difficult things that I couldn’t control, and that’s life. It’s very hard and it’s difficult,” he went on, and asked the camera to be shut off.
Sometimes in life, he said “you just want to lay down and die,” but he “took it as strength.”
“I just want to be honest about this right now. I actually haven’t seen my daughter in three years, like I haven’t physically seen, haven’t been able to hug my daughter in three years,” he said with tears in his eyes. “And that’s the hardest thing I’ve gone through. It’s really hard for me to talk about it. And the hardest thing is there’s nothing I could do.”
He empathized with other moms and dads who are going through the same thing.
“This is something that’s hard for me to talk about. This is something that many fathers and moms are going through, and it’s not easy,” he said. “I use my daughter as strength. I think about her every day. I want to be successful for her.”
They talk every Sunday, he said.
“That’s the highlight of every week when I call her,” he said. “I’m doing everything in my power to see her again, and I know one day that’s going to happen. She is my biggest motivation. She is probably the reason why I won World’s Strongest Man.”