“You can have the best coaches in the world, but that doesn’t make you a champion. You have to work for it yourself. I’m going to be completely obsessed with everything that concerns getting better.”
A glimpse into the mindset, from an interview in 2019, that has made Hafthor Bjornsson one of the best strongmen in history, a well-known actor and now boxer.
At 32, Thor has achieved so much already in his career and is preparing to take the next leap when he faces rival Eddie Hall in the boxing ring in September.
The former World’s Strongest Man, who has Bell’s Palsy with one side of his face paralysed, appears superhuman at times – and you would need superhuman strength to deadlift 501kg, which is a world record amount.
But in his early life, the Iceland native had dreams of becoming a professional basketball player.
You can see he had many of the attributes being 6ft9 and strong to go with it. He played for his country at junior level and for Division 1 teams in Iceland, before that dream was cruelly ended at age 19.
“I knew as a kid I was a strong boy. I always like to lift things, like stones. I did push ups and chin ups, probably every day,” Bjornsson told ESPN.
“My grandfather was a farmer for over 30 years and spent a lot summers in my childhood on his farm.
“I started to play basketball when I was 12 years old. My dad drove me to the first class because I was too afraid to go by myself.
“I played for the national Icelandic team for my age group. We did pretty well.
“My goal was always to become a professional basketball player, but that dream didn’t go far. I broke my ankle twice. Had to have two surgeries, that ended my career. I was 19 years old.
“I started to hit the weight room more. Just pushing your body to the limit, how much muscle mass, strength and size I was putting on, I got hooked there.
“Getting stronger every time you hit the gym, the feeling to become better was just great and I couldn’t stop.”
Thor met four-time World’s Strongest Man Magnus Ver Magnusson in 2008, which set him on a path to a great career in the sport.
He has won Iceland’s Strongest Man for the last ten years, Europe’s Strongest Man five times and the Arnold Strongman Classic for three straight years between 2018 and 2020.
Thor was remarkably consistent in the World’s Strongest Man competition, finishing either second or third for six straight years before he finally won it in 2018.
The Icelandic strongman did admit to using steroids to get better, though, in an interview with ESPN.
“Yes, I have,” Bjornsson says in the 2017 interview when asked about steroids. “When you want to be the best, you do whatever it takes.”
Thor became a household name when he was cast to play Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane in the fourth season of Game of Thrones.
He continued playing the role all the way until its conclusion in season eight.
Now, Bjornsson will take to the boxing ring in September for his pay-per-view fight with fellow strongman Eddie Hall.
Bjornsson had accused the Brit, along with referee Colin Bryce, of cheating to win the 2017 World’s Strongest Man finals during the Viking Press.
However, video evidence uploaded to Hall’s YouTube channel appeared to dismiss the Icelander’s claims.
Their feud continued, though, and they will settle their differences in the ring.
Thor, and Hall, has dropped a serious amount of weight as he prepares for the fight to transform his body from being strongman ready to that of a fighter.
He has had two exhibition bouts in the build-up to the event, getting rocked by British boxer Simon Vallily last month.
Now all eyes will be on the main event later this year.