This week, Inspired by Middle East focuses on the strength of the body and engines.
In summary :
- the world championship of Strongman competitions in the united arab Emirates, where we went to meet the man they call “Thor” and known for his role of “The Mountain” in the series Game of Thrones,
- a motorcycle tour in the company of the “Bahrain Bikers”, and bikers in the Middle East.
The “StrongMen” in Dubai
Combining physical prowess and mental strength, the Icelandic Hafthor Bjornsson has just been crowned the strongest man in the world. The athlete participated in the championship-the inaugural of the “Beasts of the Middle East” with its eternal rival, the key : a prize of $75,000.
Thirteen international athletes, therefore, have competed against each other in Dubai. The British Eddie Hall is in particular come to attend the event, who won the world title last year, and that is none other than the first man in the world to have raised 500 pounds. A record of the amazing world established in 2016, which was nearly the cause of his loss…
“I woke up in a pool of blood… The blood ran from my nose, my ears and my eyes… I lost my sight for several hours“, he recalls.
The rivalry is part of the universe Strongman and the most ferocious opponent of Eddie Hall is a certain Icelandic.
“I respect Thor. It is a great Strongman. I respect the fact that he has won the championship of the world. But he failed to win the title only once”, relativises the British.
In the Emirates, in front of a crowd of 10,000 spectators, the “Strongmen” have pushed trucks of 30 tonnes and have surpassed their limits by lifting loads monumental.
The maintenance of Inspire : Hafthor Bjornsson, ‘The Mountain’ from Game of Thrones
At 29 years of age, Thor has proven that he was the man of the moment at the world championships in Dubai, taking the title of Ultimate Strongman after having shone during the competition.
The one who had begun his career as a basketball player before turning to track and field, had become the strongest man in Iceland in 2010. A series of other titles followed since, but 2018 is without a doubt the year’s most remarkable to Hafthor Bjornsson. He thus became the only athlete to win the world championship, the European championship and the prestigious Arnold Strongman Classic.
Parallel to his career as athlete, Thor is also pursuing a career as an actor playing Gregor Clegane, aka “The Mountain”, in the series Game of Thrones.
With its 2.06 metres tall and 200 pounds, the athlete is not up to standard is given a break in his training to meet us.
Rebecca McLaughlin-Duane to Inspire : How would you describe the competition in Dubai compared to the other championships in which you participate ?
Hafthor Bjornsson : All the competitions are fairly similar when it comes to the force. You know it will be heavy, difficult, challenging and that it will be a good fight between the strongest athletes in the world.
If you interested in your workout and your way to stay in shape, since your body is your work tool… What are your habits ?
Everything is very precise, I eat every two hours and a half. I prepare my meals myself and every day I am constantly working. There is no real free time. If you want to be the best, in any discipline, you have to work very hard.
It seems that you eat the steak and rice six times per day… is this true ?
It is true. With carrots and peppers, and I added a bit of chicken.
You are currently the strongest man in the world, you have been crowned the strongest in Europe four times and the strongest in Iceland eight times. What else is there to do ?
I want to try to become the strongest man who ever walked this Earth. I want to win more titles. Then, I could focus more on the tv. So far, this has worked very well for me. I won the competition the most noted around the world, I am very honored to be a part of Game of Thrones and have been crowned the strongest man in the world.
You play as “The Mountain” in the series since 2013, and this without any acting experience before. How you have managed this ?
When I got the role, I was obviously very nervous, as anyone would have been without any experience as an actor. One of my first scenes was the big fight scene against the red viper. One of the fight scenes are the most important, some people speak of them as of the best scene of tv of combat ever filmed. Seeing all the cameras, all the lights and all the people present, I was nervous. Yes I remember, I was very nervous.
In between the fights, the duels with the sword… Is it that you’re worried about what the writers ask you to do ?
I’m not really worried, but rather excited to see what awaits me every time. I remember when I had to film the famous scene where I have to literally push in the eyes of my opponent in their orbits… I said to myself : “this is a bit crazy ! “Even if I knew that this was not real, it was still a very strange moment… of having all his cameras around you while you blast through someone’s eyes…
What other roles would you like to play ? Is it that you think you might be pigeon-holed because of your physique ?
I have already received many proposals with all sorts of different roles. I had to decline a lot unfortunately. I decided to put this aspect aside for the moment, in order to concentrate on my sporting career. But if I ever have the opportunity to have a role in parallel, I’ll do it.
So you’re thinking of taking your retirement in the next few years ?
Yes, you know you can’t participate in the sport of Strongman for the rest of your life. But playing on the other hand, I can do it for a long time.
The filming of the latest season of Game of Thrones is completed, it will be broadcast next year. Is it that there will be other projects ?
I’ve heard rumors that there would be a spin-off… This turn around of events prior to the series. But these are only rumors, we’ll see.
At the meeting of the “Bahrain Bikers”, and bikers in the Middle East
Feel the wind blowing on his face, the smell of gasoline in the air, the roar of the engine… These are the feelings that come spontaneously in mind for the bikers who pave the road at over 100 km/h. It is this feeling of escape that’s shared by the 31 members of the “Bahrain Bikers” who get together each week.
The group is primarily made up of men of the forty, many of whom are bankers and autoentrepreneurs. The youngest of them is only 19 years old, but retirees aged 60 years and older also participate in the excursions.
Sayed Ebrahim, an engineer and father of four children, and ensures that the group has always been there for him, in good as in bad times, since its creation in 2012.
“We all have a heart of a biker. As soon as one of us has a problem, he has need of support or help, we are here for him“, he confided to the microphone of Salim Essaid.
Sayed driver a Harley-Davidson classic, with a value of $ 27,000. He will ride with it and its companions of road about four times a week. But driving a motorcycle in Bahrain is not easy, especially when the thermometer shows 40 degrees in the summer.
“Sit on the gear hot, it is already a challenge in itself. Then imagine the driving under the extreme heat and by the time wet… But we love driving and we love our motorcycles, it is for this that we arrive at spend in addition to the difficult conditions, “explains Sayed Ebrahim.
Another problem in the area : the drivers do not necessarily account for the bikers on the roads. According to the world Bank figures, about 100,000 people living in the Middle East and North Africa, twenty lost their lives in road accidents in 2015. A figure four times higher compared to that of the countries of the european Union for the same period for example.
However, Bahrain remains a country with one of the mortality rate the lowest in the region. Sayed, captain of road certified, regularly trained bikers the rules of the road before embarking on their journeys.
Harley, up in the United States…
“Bahrain Bikers” have also founded a regional network of bikers six years ago. This year, 21 groups of bikers come from countries such as saudi Arabia, Iraq and Jordan met in Manama. With a double objective : to improve the driving practices and, of course, exploring new places.
Three years ago, the bikers of the Middle East have even pushed their cars up in the United States. A dozen enthusiasts who have travelled around 4000 kilometres in 11 days, from Oregon to the Grand Canyon of Arizona. An amazing trip organized by the one and only female biker of the group.
Anne al-Zayani is American, a native of Oregon, and has been living in Bahrain for nearly 30 years. Married to a Bahraini mother of four children, she crossed the path of the “Bahrain Bikers” there is now 6 years old. It takes from the road to their side on his Harley.
“I have often been told that it is good that my husband allows me to do what I do, and then it’s part of my culture. The guys respect me a lot as a woman biker, they find that it is great that I driver. But at the same time, they would not allow certainly not their wives or their daughters to ride a motorcycle, so their reaction is ambivalent, “says the captain of the road of the “Bahrain Bikers”.
For Anne, the “Bahrain Bikers” are a second family. The Bahraini adoption is proud to show that to ride a motorcycle of 335 kilos is not a book to one genre in particular :
“The cliché is that it is a matter of men, but it is false. A lot of women driving motorcycles.“
Anne knows a score of other motardes in Bahrain, who shares his passion. They will join maybe one day the group of bikers in their tour…