Jón Páll Sigmarsson

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Jón Páll Sigmarsson
Jón Páll Sigmarsson Official Portrait in 1988, with 28 years (cropped).jpg
Official portrait of Jón Páll Sigmarsson in 1988
Born(1960-04-28)28 April 1960
Died16 January 1993(1993-01-16) (aged 32)
Reykjavík, Iceland
NationalityIceland Icelandic
Other namesThe Viking
Occupation(s)Strongman, powerlifter, bodybuilder
Years active1979–1993
Height193 cm (6 ft 4 in)
ChildrenSigmar Freyr Jónsson
Competition record
Representing  Iceland
World's Strongest Man
2nd 1983 World's Strongest Man
1st 1984 World's Strongest Man
2nd 1985 World's Strongest Man
1st 1986 World's Strongest Man
1st 1988 World's Strongest Man
3rd 1989 World's Strongest Man
1st 1990 World's Strongest Man
World Muscle Power Championships
1st 1985 World Muscle Power Championships
1st 1986 World Muscle Power Championships
2nd 1987 World Muscle Power Championships
3rd 1988 World Muscle Power Championships
1st 1989 World Muscle Power Championships
1st 1990 World Muscle Power Championships
1st 1991 World Muscle Power Championships
3rd 1992 World Muscle Power Championships
World Strongman Challenge
3rd 1987 World Strongman Challenge
2nd 1988 World Strongman Challenge
Pure Strength
1st Pure Strength 1987
Europe's Strongest Man
3rd 1983 Europe's Strongest Man
1st 1985 Europe's Strongest Man
1st 1986 Europe's Strongest Man
3rd 1987 Europe's Strongest Man
2nd 1988 Europe's Strongest Man
3rd 1989 Europe's Strongest Man
4th 1990 Europe's Strongest Man
4th 1992 Europe's Strongest Man
Le Defi Mark Ten International
3rd 1985 Le Defi Mark Ten International
2nd 1986 Le Defi Mark Ten International
5th 1987 Le Defi Mark Ten International
Iceland's Strongest Man
1st 1985 Iceland's Strongest Man
1st 1986 Iceland's Strongest Man
1st 1987 Iceland's Strongest Man
1st 1990 Iceland's Strongest Man
1st 1992 Iceland's Strongest Man
World Mighty Man
9th 1992
Battle of the Giants
2nd 1989
Representing  Iceland
IPF World Powerlifting Championships[1]
3rd 1981 IPF World Powerlifting Championships 125 kg
EPF European Powerlifting Championships[2]
2nd 1980 EPF European Powerlifting Championships 125 kg
2nd 1981 EPF European Powerlifting Championships 125 kg
1st 1983 EPF European Powerlifting Championships 125 kg
NPF Nordic Powerlifting Championships[2]
2nd 1979 NPF Nordic Powerlifting Championships +110 kg
1st 1980 NPF Nordic Powerlifting Championships +125 kg
1st 1981 NPF Nordic Powerlifting Championships +125 kg
Highland Games
Representing  Iceland
Commonwealth Highland Games
Champion 1986

Jón Páll Sigmarsson[a] (28 April 1960 – 16 January 1993) was an Icelandic strongman, powerlifter and bodybuilder who was the first man to win the World's Strongest Man four times[3] and the first and only man to win the World Muscle Power Classic five times. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest strongmen of all time,[4] and is credited with developing Iceland's national identity.[5] He was named Icelandic Sportsperson of the Year in 1981, and was one of the best-known Icelandic athletes.[5] In 2012, Jón Páll was inducted into the World's Strongest Man Hall of Fame.

Early life[edit]

Jón Páll was born in Hafnarfjörður on 28 April 1960, weighing 4 kilograms (8.8 lb) and measuring 52 centimetres (20 in). He was the first child of Dóra Jónsdóttir and Sigmar Jónsson.[6][7] He was raised by his mother and foster father Sveinn Guðmundsson.[8] The family moved to Stykkishólmur when he was two. He remained there until the age of nine, when the family relocated to Reykjavík.[9] Growing up, he spent his summers on Skáleyjar and was active as a farmhand. He worked from dawn until dusk, carrying pails of water and assisting his foster father on seal hunts.[10] He took up Glima, a traditional Icelandic form of wrestling, at the age of five and later played football and handball, as well as competing in swimming, middle-distance running,[11] and karate.[7]


Jón Páll was introduced to weight lifting in 1976, and began training at Jakaból in 1978.[7] In 1984 he won the Icelandic bodybuilding title in the +90 kg. class. His achievements in powerlifting also include Icelandic records in the bench press (with 192.5 kg (424 lb), 195 kg (430 lb), 210 kg (463 lb) and 222.5 kg (491 lb)) and the squat (with 320.5 kg (707 lb), 330 kg (728 lb), 342.5 kg (755 lb) and 357.5 kg (788 lb)), but his best performances were usually in the deadlift event, in which he set the European record many times (with 350 kg (772 lb), 352.5 kg (777 lb), 360 kg (794 lb), 362.5 kg (799 lb) and 370 kg (816 lb)) and multiple world records in strongman competition deadlift variations, such as the rectangular handled wheel and one handed deadlift.[12]

Jón Páll was invited to the World's Strongest Man competition for the first time in 1983, in which he came in second only to Geoff Capes. The following year, at age 24, he defeated Capes and secured the title. During the final armwrestling event, in which Jón Páll was up against him, Capes appeared to be winning, pulling Jón Páll's arm down convincingly, but sustained a muscle tear in his forearm as Jón Páll started to thrust his arm back. Right after winning the bout, Jón Páll shouted "The King has lost his crown!" and won his first World's Strongest Man title in 1984. Although Jón Páll was closely defeated by Capes at the 1985 World's Strongest Man, he managed to regain the title in 1986. During the deadlift event at the 1985 World's Strongest Man competition, someone in the audience called him an Eskimo. Jón Páll shouted back: "I am not an Eskimo. I am a Viking!" and successfully lifted the 495 kg (1,091 lb) cart.

In 1986, Jón Páll first wrestled English author and Guinness World Record Holder Brian Sterling-Vete in a demonstration match for the TV news and print media held at Finnur Karlsson's gymnasium in Reykjavík, Iceland. Halfway through the match Jón and Sterling had plotted to surprise the audience with a supposed angry outburst leading to the two of them demonstrating their skills as martial artists. This showmanship became synonymous with both Jón Páll and Sterling.

In 1987, Jón Páll clashed with his arguably greatest rival - 3 times World's Strongest Man winner Bill Kazmaier of Burlington, Wisconsin, USA, who had not been invited to compete at World's Strongest Man again after winning the competition 3 times in a row from 1980 to 1982. Kazmaier boasted some of the heaviest powerlifting lifts of that time including world records in the bench press with 300 kg (661 lb), deadlift with 402.5 kg (887 lb) and total 1,100 kg (2,425 lb) and had made his reputation in the 1980s as "the strongest man who ever lived" by breaking numerous strongman world records.

At Pure Strength 1987, a competition held in place of the absent World's Strongest Man competition of that year on the grounds of Huntly Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, Geoff Capes, Bill Kazmaier and Jón Páll matched up to crown the strongest man on the planet.[13] Jón Páll, being in the shape of his life, won the contest convincingly by winning 8 out of 10 events and even managed to beat Kazmaier, who was making his comeback into the strongman sport after having worked and travelled as a professional wrestler.[3] A famous quote, "There is no reason to be alive if you can't do deadlift." was shouted by Jón Páll when he won the deadlift event at this contest with a strongman world record lift of 523 kg (1,153 lb) off a rectangular handled bar from knee height.

At the 1988 World's Strongest Man the two rivals clashed again. As expected Kazmaier dominated the static events while Jón Páll, who had shed body-weight to cater for all the dynamic tests of strength of World's Strongest Man instead of the latter statically orientated events of Pure Strength 1987, was often victorious in the more athletic, speed- and endurance-oriented events. Although Jón Páll was beaten by Kazmaier in the deadlift, log lift and sack race, he managed to win the "weight over the bar event" and the McGlashen Stones in the end to secure the overall victory and to become the World's Strongest Man for the third time, equaling Kazmaier's record. After his victory Jón Páll said: "I may be the fastest strongman in the world, but I think Bill [Kazmaier] is the strongest on his feet."

After a disappointing third place at the 1989 World's Strongest Man, Jón Páll was able to win the competition, while injured, for a record breaking fourth time in 1990. O.D. Wilson, who was leading the competition with a comfortable 5½ points before the last event (a 200 m race with a 100 kg weight on the back), weighed 180 kg (397 lb) and lacked the endurance and running speed to complete the course quickly enough and ended up losing by half a point to the much lighter and faster Jón Páll.

After battling with the injuries sustained during 1988, 1989, and 1990, which had affected his athleticism, his strength became progressively more static in his later years. Jón Páll was often challenged by fellow competitor Bill Kazmaier in feats of statically oriented events between contests because he believed the events were biased in Jón Páll's favour. This included Kaz challenging Jón Páll to a sledgehammer hold during Pure Strength 1987 where Jón Páll beat Kazmaier. Kazmaier had travelled to Nigeria for a strength exhibition with Douglas Edmunds to break the deadlift world record by deadlifting 414 kg (913 lb) with straps, Jón Páll then re-broke the record with a lift of 427.5 kg (942 lb) in his gym in Iceland in front of spectators in 1987 at his heaviest bodyweight in preparation for Pure Strength 1987.[14]

The 1990 World's Strongest Man proved to be Jón Páll's last appearance on the World's Strongest Man stage, as he was surpassed as the Icelandic number one by fellow countryman Magnús Ver Magnússon, who won the Iceland's Strongest Man title in 1988 and 1989 and continued Sigmarsson's legacy by emulating his 4 World's Strongest Man title wins during the 90's.

Personal life and death[edit]

Although he was known for his energetic and boastful personality when competing, Jón Páll was a soft-spoken and bookish man in his personal life.[10] Jón Páll had one son, Sigmar Freyr (born 1983).[8]

On 16 January 1993, Jón Páll died of an aortic rupture while deadlifting in his gym, Gym 80 in Reykjavík.[15][16] This was likely the result of a congenital heart defect that affected other members of his family,[16] which may have been exacerbated by his use of anabolic steroids.[17] He had sought medical treatment in the United States the previous year due to heart problems. In Sölvi Tryggvason's 2013 biography of Jón Páll he stated he suspected Jón Páll knew he was close to death.[18]

Hjalti Árnason, a lifelong friend of Jón Páll's, created the Jón Páll Sigmarsson Classic international strongman contest in 2010 in honor of Jón Páll.[19] The event is held annually during the Icelandic fitness & health expo in Reykjavík, the inaugural winner was America's Brian Shaw in 2010[19] and the final winner was Iceland's very own Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson in 2012.[20]

Jón Páll was described in his life documentary "Larger than Life" by one of his former rivals Geoff Capes as "a new kind of guy on the block" and by David Webster equally in describing him as a man who boasted pure static strength as well as versatile athletic strength in all its forms, a combination that lead to his supreme performances. World's Strongest Man Director Colin Bryce called Jón Páll the greatest strongman of all time for not only his titles but also showmanship, stating "Strongman is entertainment. None of us would be here without Jón Páll".[21]

Personal records[edit]

Powerlifting competition records:

done in official powerlifting meets[1]

* former European deadlift record in 1984

Strongman records:

  • Rectangular-handled wheel deadlift - 523 kg (1,153 lb) - Pure Strength 1987, a strongman world record in 1987.[22]
  • Ox-cart deadlift - 515 kg (1,135 lb) - World's Strongest Man 1985[22]
  • Silver dollar deadlift (18 inches with wrist straps) - 525 kg (1,157 lb) - World's Strongest Man 1983[22]
  • Single hand deadlift (Raw without wrist straps) - 250 kg (551 lb)[22]
  • Log lift - 165 kg (364 lb) - Iceland's Strongest Man 1987, a strongman world record in 1987.[22]
  • Rock press - 125 kg (276 lb)[22]
  • Wheel-barrow push - 1,360 kg (2,998 lb) for 3.06 m[23]

He also achieved world records in the Claymore Lift, McGlashen Stones and the Cannon Pull during Pure Strength 1987.[23] He was also the first man ever to load a 150 kg (331 lb) McGlashen stone and got into the Guinness Book of Records for lifting the world's largest whiskey bottle.[12]

Training bests:

  • Bench press - 250 kg (551 lb) raw.
  • Deadlift - 400 kg (882 lb) raw as an exhibition lift in 1986.
  • Deadlift - 427.5 kg (942 lb) with wrist straps as an exhibition lift.
  • Squat - 390 kg (860 lb) raw.

Competition history[edit]


  • World's Strongest Man
    • 1983 - 2nd
    • 1984 - 1st
    • 1985 - 2nd
    • 1986 - 1st
    • 1988 - 1st
    • 1989 - 3rd
    • 1990 - 1st
  • World Muscle Power Championship
    • 1985 - 1st
    • 1986 - 1st
    • 1987 - 2nd
    • 1988 - 3rd
    • 1989 - 1st
    • 1990 - 1st
    • 1991 - 1st
  • Europe's Strongest Man
    • 1983 - 3rd
    • 1985 - 1st
    • 1986 - 1st
    • 1987 - 3rd
    • 1988 - 2nd
    • 1989 - 3rd
    • 1990 - 4th
    • 1992 - 4th
  • Other contests
    • 1982 Scandinavian Strongest Man - 1st
    • 1985 Le Defi Mark Ten (Canada) - 3rd
    • 1986 Le Defi Mark Ten (Canada) - 2nd
    • 1987 Le Defi Mark Ten (Canada) - 5th
    • 1987 Japan Grand Prix - 2nd
    • 1987 Pure Strength - 1st
    • 1989 Corby Great Eccleston (England) - 1st
    • 1989 Iceland's Kraftur Contest - 1st
    • 1990 Nissan Power Cup - 1st
    • 1990 European Muscle Power Championship
    • 1991 European Hercules - 2nd
    • 1992 European Hercules - 6th
    • Iceland's Strongest Man winner - 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1992
    • Finland's Strongest Man winner - 1989
    • Finnish nationals winner - 1992


  • 1980 European Powerlifting Championships - 2nd
  • 1981 European Powerlifting Championships - 2nd
  • 1981 World Powerlifting Championships - 3rd
  • 1983 European Powerlifting Championships - 1st

Olympic weightlifting[edit]

  • 1980 Icelandic Olympic weightlifting Championships - 1st

Highland games[edit]

  • 1986 Carmunnock Highland Games (Scotland) - 7th
  • 1986 Commonwealth Highland Games (Scotland) - 1st


  1. ^ Icelandic pronunciation: Icelandic pronunciation: ​[ˈjouːn ˈpʰautl̥ ˈsɪɣmar̥sɔːn]


  1. ^ a b c "Sigmarsson Jón Páll". allpowerlifting.com. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Sigmarsson Jón Páll". allpowerlifting.com. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  3. ^ a b David Horne (7 May 2010). "David Horne's World of Grip". David Horne. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  4. ^ "The Top Ten World's Strongest Men of All-Time". World's Strongest Man. Archived from the original on 28 October 2011.
  5. ^ a b Símon Birgisson (7 December 2013). "Heldur rýr Jón Páll". Vísir (in Icelandic).
  6. ^ Staff writer(s) (26 January 1993). "Jón Páll Sigmarsson - viðbót Hann fæddist á Sólvangi í Hafnarfirði hinn 28". Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic).
  7. ^ a b c Kári Elíson (27 January 1993). "Jón Páll Sigmarsson - viðbót Harmur berst um hyggjusvið. Sorg og tómleiki". Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic).
  8. ^ a b Staff writer(s) (19 January 1993). "Jón Páll Sigmarsson látinn". Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic).
  9. ^ "Jón Páll Sigmarsson".
  10. ^ a b Odegard, Alana (30 January 2014). "A Tribute to Iceland's Gentle Giant: Larger than Life". Iceland Review.
  11. ^ Jon Pall Sigmarsson, ICE – Strongman
  12. ^ a b c d e f "Jon-Pall Sigmarsson Tribute Page". earthlink.net. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  13. ^ "1987 Pure Strength Contest". billhenderson.org. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  14. ^ "Jakabol: Magnus Ver Magnusson Launches New Gym". ironmind.com. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  15. ^ Revealed: Secrets of the World's Third Strongest Man
  16. ^ a b "The Giants of Iceland | Strength Beyond Measure".
  17. ^ Steraæði á Íslandi
  18. ^ "Jón Páll vissi hann væri að deyja".
  19. ^ a b "Brian Shaw Wins the Inaugural Jon Pall Sigmarsson Classic Strongman Contest". ironmind.com. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  20. ^ Randall J. Strossen (7 November 2012). "Jón Páll Sigmarsson Classic III". ironmind.com. Retrieved 16 April 2022.
  21. ^ Phil Blechman (17 November 2020). "World's Strongest Man Athletes Reveal Their Strongman GOAT Picks". Barbend.com. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  22. ^ a b c d e f "WSM Records". billhenderson.org. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  23. ^ a b "World's Strongest Man - Season 11, Episode 1: Pure Strength 1987 - TV.com". TV.com. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 6 May 2015.

External links[edit]