A global pandemic isn’t keeping the Mountain from “Game of Thrones” from being, well, the Mountain.
Hafthor Julius Bjornsson, a k a Thor, the 6-foot-9, 425-pound actor who played Cersei Lannister’s undead henchman in the final five seasons of the HBO hit, is attempting to break the 500-kg deadlift record from ReykjavÍk, Iceland, as part of the World’s Ultimate Strongman Competition on Saturday, May 2 at noon.
The event will air live on ESPN and stream live on CoreSports.World with commentary from Strongman Laurence “Big Loz” Shahlaei.
Because of the coronavirus, this deadlift attempt will be quite different from Bjornsson’s previous Strongman competitions, which have always taken place in front of huge crowds.
“It’s going to be more of a challenge for me because I can say without a doubt that I perform 5, maybe 10 percent better in a competition — the crowd gives you that adrenaline rush that you need,” Bjornsson tells The Post. “I’m a little bit worried to do it in my gym by myself with a doctor, a referee and film crew.”
Still, Bjornsson is quick to point out, the event will be in compliance with Iceland’s ban on gatherings of more than 20 people amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
While Bjornsson’s deadlift attempt comes at a time where sports fans are salivating for any sort of action after the coronavirus axed live sports across the globe, the event isn’t without its naysayers, chief among them, Bjornsson’s fellow Strongman — and rival — Eddie Hall.
Hall happens to hold the very world record Bjornsson is trying to beat, having pulled 500 kgs (1,102 pounds) during Europe’s Strongest Man competition in 2016.
In an Instagram post from April 10, Hall questioned the legitimacy of Bjornsson’s attempt taking place outside normal competition conditions.
“Absolutely no legitimate sport would acknowledge World Records broken out of competition & you are undermining the very sport you are claiming to champion,” he wrote, adding that he looks forward to having his record broken and Bjornsson is “probably the man to do it.”
“I’ll still shake your hand afterwards and say well done . . . if you do it under the appropriate conditions,” he continued. “Break a record in a comp where other people can contest it & no one will have a negative word to say, including myself.”
To that, Bjornsson said this 501-kg deadlift feat was already in the works when the coronavirus hit.
“I knew I was in great shape, and when you’re trying to train yourself for something big like that, it’s very difficult on the body,” he says. “So I thought of just hosting a show. If we could stream it live, people would love that, they could be excited for something.
“When things get a lot of attention, there’s always going to be some negativity,” he says. “People are saying that this needs to be done in a competition — I wish I could do it in a competition, but I can’t control this situation, so I’m trying to do the best I can.”
Bjornsson’s 501 kg deadlift is officially sanctioned by World’s Ultimate Strongman and will be refereed by four-time World’s Strongest Man (and Bjornsson’s fellow Icelander) Magnus Ver Magnusson.
“He’s known as one of the strictest referees in the world — he will not give you anything for free. That’s the reason why I want him to referee my lift because I knew people would respect that. I want my lift to be legit,” Bjornsson says.
The Mountain and the homebody
Although many people across the world are struggling with the coronavirus-related lockdowns, Bjornsson is used to being a homebody with his pregnant wife Kelsey.
“Usually when I prepare myself for competitions, I do isolate myself a lot so I can stay focused,” he says. “It hasn’t been really tough for us, honestly. She’s enjoying herself right now sleeping in and watching TV. It’s good timing for her since she’s supposed to be resting.”
Bjornsson, a self-described “huge gamer,” has been spending his own downtime playing “a lot” of video games on the new computer he ran out to get as “things were getting scarier” amid the coronavirus.
“Every morning I make breakfast, stream for my followers and play some games — I play about three hours a day when I’m resting,” he says. His current go-tos are Call of Duty: Warzone, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Valorant.
Since he’s been so focused on his deadlift training, Bjornsson only ventures out for grocery store runs to prep for his diet of six meals a day.
“A lot of people think the training is the most difficult part, but the diet is actually the most difficult part,” he says. “I’m basically eating nonstop, from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep.”
While he does need to fill up on carbs like his once-a-week “huge pizza” to recover from training, Bjornsson’s not scarfing comfort foods like the rest of us on lockdown.
“I don’t have a whole lot of cheat days — I haven’t even opened my Easter eggs yet.”
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