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The Giants of Iceland


Iceland. Its very name suggests a kind of strength. Something about its viking history, its inhospitable climate, and massive geothermal power has given the country an almost unparallel reputation in the world’s strongest man competition. It might have a population of just 300,000 people, but amongst those are some of the strongest that have ever lived. This small, black, volcanic rock is full of strong men. Everywhere you look, there are tough guys, men at checkout counters, driving taxis, or selling refrigerators. It’s an island of giants. Isolation and adversity, has fueled this tiny nation’s strength, but also contributed to tragedy. NEST OF GIANTS We arrived in the heart of mid-winter, when the average temperature is minus 15, and daylight rarely stretches beyond four hours. Our first destination was Jakaból, a notorious strongman gym. This name translates as “Nest of the giants”. JAKABÓL GYM. By the looks of the place, it’s got quite a, sort of, clandestine vibe going on. I can imagine that you have to sort of knock three times. It’s kind of “fight-club-esque”. Jakaból occupies a significant, but sad place in the history of Icelandic strongmen. It was first opened by Jón Páll Sigmarsson, the ice-blond poster-boy for the scene, and the four-time world’s strongest man. However, upon his untimely death, the gym closed down only to be reopened by his archrival, and the other four-time world’s strongest man winner, Magnús Ver Magnússon. On a personal level, Magnús Ver Magnússon is someone who I remember growing up, and it’s quite weird to think that all these years later, I would be in the middle of an Icelandic industrial state, hanging out with this man-beast himself. Jakaból is not your average gym. It looks more like a construction site than a pilates studio. There are no zumba classes here. Just steel, concrete, and sweat. [No pussies] So, obviously, looking around Jakaból, these aren’t the kind of things that you can go down and buy in your local sports shop. There are a lot of things I’ve developed. I know how to build things, I know how to work with metal, stuff like that. And so, making aluminium blocks, for example, that whole thing was my idea. The loglift, I built that myself. The cylinders as well, one thing here there isn’t nowhere else in the world, is what I call the “morning bit carry”. You carry that, like that. As far as you can. It’s so tough, it’s unreal. All the boys hate it. TRAINING SESSION. Are you quite hard on the boys? Sometimes. You gotta figure out a way to make them go to their limits, without killing them. 350, 351 [kg]… Do you think maybe the idea of the strongman kind of has had its day with guys like you and Jón Páll? The sport has grown. But I’m still waiting for it to take that really big leap. I used to love the carwalk. You would get in it like the Flintstones, and you walk off with the car and it looks amazing. Make it live, make it differently, you know what I mean? What I would love to see is like, throw a bunch of big, strong guys on an island, and make them like Survivor, and stuff like that. Show these guys they can do something else than just lift big things. Big men lifting big things is the essence of the world’s strongest man competition. In its 30-year history of thrills, spills, and ruptured ligaments, it’s moved from being a politically incorrect pantamime, to something more akin to a proper sport in recent years. [PÁLL LOGASON A.K.A “THE SQUARE METER”] [STRONGMAN] What’s it made out of? Concrete? Rubber. That’s rubber?! Not padding or anything, it’s just a steel bar. That’s a big no for a strongman, don’t use padding on anything. How does a four-time world’s strongest man reconsile getting weaker? Losing mass and losing strength, how does that make you feel? Well, I hate it. I really do. You look at something, and you go, “Yeah, I used to be lifting that, and it feels a lot heavier today.” You know what I mean? It’s been a bit of me for such a long time, that I’ll probably be buried with the bar. With some weights. Slowly, Jakaból began to fill up with strongmen. Everywhere you looked, there were big men lifting big things. But when a whole family showed up for a workout, the place took on a strangely domestic, everyday feel. I wonder what the people here did when they weren’t lifting building equipment. How they relaxed, and what they did for a living. And what is your day job? I work as a sales representer. I sell home appliances, refrigerators, and stuff. Some weekends and nights, I work as a bouncer. Do you enjoy that? No. It sucks a lot. It’s a horrible job. The fact is that being a strongman doesn’t absolve you from paying the bills. To find out more about the people at Jakaból’s day-to-day lives, we met with Ari Gunnarsson, another champion Icelandic strongman, [SUNDHÖLL REYKJAVÍKUR] who is off to his day job at the local pool. Come on, you can do it! Faster! Faster! You’re a lost cause, man. I don’t know what kind of swimming this was. Not butterfly, not breaststokes. It was a doggie style. My butterfly stroke was a humiliating experience, especially with the local kids and Ari’s somewhat out-of-shake collegue looking on. Is being strong useful in everyday situations? No, I wouldn’t say so. [ARI GUNNARSSON, STRONGMAN] I’m always tired, I’m so heavy, it’s always a pain in the knees, you know? When somebody asks me to help them move something, it’s very common and handy to pick on me, you know? “Oh, you’re strong, lift this cart for me,” or something. Is it a dangerous thing to be involved with, in terms of injuries and health problems and things like that? There are injuries in all sports, but in strongman, maybe a little bit see it more seriously. I tore my biceps tendon last summer. I was lifting a tire. 400 kilos. And I put my finger on it, and he said, “Go!” And I just heard that sound. In England, and in America and all sorts of places, I think we all grew up watching World’s Strongest Man. Usually on New Year’s Day, or something like that. We were all fascinated by it. It’s a different sport. You don’t see it quite often. You don’t see guys flipping cars, taking big stones. You don’t see it.

Stephen Childs

100 Comments

  1. who else stumbled here randomly and have no idea who the hell is Joe Rogan😂😂

  2. They do praise Iceland for halving suppirior genetics because of a ruf climate but the people of Iceland are Scandinavian, no intent to make conflict among Vikings but its not just Iceland that posesses the grate Scandinavian size and strength

  3. These men were flipping cars. CARS. On a side note, could they have found a whiter, pastier man to do this story? But he is a really good interviewer!

  4. A land of giants you say? I think I may have found my people.

    (6'5, 320. On a BAD day.)

  5. That pussy from VICE is trying to do sports in a Yves Saint Laurent pullover? What a douche nozzle.

  6. That obstacle course is far fuckin' out. 45 years ago I'da been ALL over it. Spot me 17 seconds for $20.

  7. You can't keep so much strength and skill tied down selling refrigerators! It's not fair to them or the world!

  8. Why did he pick that colour for his snow coat?

    Not that I'd say that to his face, I'd say it looked very nice to his face

  9. 3:49 He has a Will Ferrell look in his eyes. For some reason, he reminds me of Will Ferrell.

  10. My childhood friend callie's late hubby was a strong man and died lifting. His name was jesse murunde. She is now married to another strongman Nick Best.

  11. Those are the descendants of the fallen angels. The nephilian. And they are closer to the caves where they're forefathers came from

  12. Nordic accent
    I used to be a weight lifter like you…till I took a prolapse to the ass

  13. I was addicted to Vice when they still did these segments. How far it has fallen.

  14. There's something wrong with the reporter's shoes..or he's feets are so damm big they look desproportional with his body!!

  15. Been watching Strongman since it's inception. Long time fan of a lot of these guys. Thanks for sharing this man!

  16. This guys are working out in the snow….I work out in temperatures of 110 degrees. I cant even imagine snow!

  17. 5:27 As I get older I'm getting weaker and I hate it. Some times I pick things up that were never a problem before and now I have a pulled mussel. I have aces an pains I never had before. But in my mind I can still do all the things I did when I was young. Oh how I hate it.

  18. If you look at most victories in strongman competition, you will notice the majority of the countries are all the countries that were viking or countries where the vikings went.

  19. Difference between America and Iceland :
    America : A soyboy who's doing a CHILD obstacles run in a YSL pull and can't even breath correctly after that
    Iceland : Big fucking real mens who could crush this leftist soyboy with one hand

  20. Something tells me their tiny population has something to do with their per capita giant ratio

  21. Clearly men don't know the strength of pussy lol …. pussy is 3rd most powerful thing on earth … money being second…

  22. I love how lyrical Icelandic is. And the way that they speak English. It's like they're reciting the sagas everyday

  23. These hard,even never have it hard enough, they need to paint themselves permanently black, out on full Islamic gear, never speak a word again and live as a stranger in their own community. THEN they may be worthy of some respect. sTOP BEING PLUNDERING NAZI BARBARIANS and do something which requires REAL strength for once in your life…

  24. These guys are doing the wrong sport. Imagine them dominating in football or rugby

  25. Polynesians are huge giants too, most woman & men there are roughly 6'4 to 250 pounds which is normal. If only they too could part take in strong men competitions instead of working as farmers which are the usuals.

  26. Anyone know the song that is playing at 17:30 during the giant's roar?

  27. Most physically incapable grown man I've ever seen. You Scandinavians are so nice he might of been made fun of In other places lol

  28. Uh, Scandinavia has always had the worlds tallest people on average, and since strongman competitions are popular in Iceland it makes sense that the athletes are massive.

  29. I only can imagine of what the woman looks like from the men being so big and buff lol hahahahaha I’ll date one of them girls just don’t beat my little ass.

  30. Oh dear… this Icelandic spinach 🙂 so glad they don’t have enough for export cuz the dinosaur age will be back in full swing in just about 10 year. We’ll have gigantic ripped rabbits horses vegetarians and all sorts of spinach users walk around the streets playing American football with 6 ton cars in hand

  31. These are some of the nicest guys I have ever seen you'd think they would be cocky but their not lol.

  32. Well they have one of the most cute Girls in Europe that i will tell…. And The guys are Alpha males… Nice….

  33. @4:48 how is it politically incorrect? Is he condemning masculinity and strength? Are vice journalists THAT incipid??

  34. You ain,t mutch if you ain,t dutch!The talest people, milions in a small country.Best fighters in the world.

  35. Revelation the ice cn be free the way of the north true bueaty all work together…never usery, poisonus food…and no more serpents and bugs….Jah!

  36. You peops don't get it, Its all to keep us safe for what's beyond the wall…

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