Interview with Magnús Ver Magnússon

November 27, 1997

Me and Magnús in North Wales, Pennsylvania.

Bill: All right, so what was your take on what exactly went wrong at the World's Strongest Man this year? Do you think it was fixed against you?

Magnús: Well, for the part, yes. I had to fight against the organizers, mainly, because they are wanting a new winner. But I think you get that in every sport, you know. They want a new winner and etcetera. They get tired of you if you're winning too much. But that was not the main thing. The main thing is that I picked up an injury, just on my lower back before I went over, but I still decided to go, you know, and see how things went.

Bill: What I thought was that even if they wanted a new winner, the sport needed someone like you to attract people, because from what I noticed, about 75 percent of the people that were out there were there to see you and they were holding up signs that said, "Magnússon" on them. And it seems like if they keep the guy who is drawing all the crowds out of the sport, it's never going to get a chance to get the recognition that it deserves.

Magnús: Well, yeah, I understand that, and I understand that I seem to have a lot of following. And that seems to be, like everywhere. Maybe it's because I'm not cocky, you know what I mean? You have to be a sport, and when you're a sport like that, people recognize it and appreciate it. I've felt I get a lot of following, which is really nice. People are recognizing what you're doing and enjoying it. But for the sport, it's bad if they are trying to push out somebody that's got the attraction. And I just think these people don't realize it.

Bill: It seems like they were doing so much to make the sport popular here in the United States.

Magnús: Oh yeah.

Bill: But then they're keeping out the guy that everyone in the United States wants to see.

Magnús: Yeah, you know, but it was bad enough that I picked up this injury, but also in the qualifying round it was no need to f*ck me up also by bad equipment. You know, I was struggling enough anyway.

Bill: Do you think you can regain the title?

Magnús: I think so. You see, the guy that won it, Ahola, is a great athlete but six weeks before we were in Finland for the European Hercules. And I beat him so badly, you know he's still feeling it.

Bill: That's funny.

Magnús: (chuckling)

Bill: What do you do when you're not competing?

Magnús: A lot of things. You know, I go around and do some work for my sponsors, try to find new sponsors. Stuff like that. Appearances, all kinds of things. I do a lot of shows and a lot of competitions, really. I do up to, from like thirty to forty a year.

Bill: Are you still doing Highland Games?

Magnús: I was, this year, yeah. Now I'm just relaxing and trying to recover with my injuries, and it's coming along. The worst thing is, you know, picking up this injury and having that problem, is that before that, I was in the strongest shape of my life. And I was looking forward to competing and I was sure that I would win it again.

Bill: Yeah, you'd mentioned before that especially with the events that were in the final that if you'd gotten into the final, it would've been perfect for you.

Magnús: Oh yeah, it would've fitted me very well. I understand the winning weight for the squat was something like 370 or 380 kilos.

Bill: Yeah, I remember you did something like 437 a couple years ago.

Magnús: Yeah, I've been working on that, I've been working on the log for reps from ground. I was looking at something like sixteen reps. I did fourteen in that the year before. And the winning total in that was twelve this year, you know?

Bill: Yeah.

Magnús: It had two loadings, I understand... the car roll.

Bill: Yeah, you and Gerrit were always great at the car roll.

Magnús: You know, it was all good events for me and it's a shame. But when they put these things together for the heats, they pick you out and then they put a bunch of guys in your heat, and then they think, "No, this is too easy for him. We have to change this and this... we have to make it hard for him to qualify." And that's basically what they do. But this time, it really backfired on them. Becuase I didn't get through, Gerrit Badenhorst didn't get through, and Riku Kiri didn't get through. It was the three strongest guys there. So, for the rest of the show, even though the boys were tough and strong, the show was left with no credibility.

Bill: Yeah... how much time do you spend training?

Magnús: I would say, like, three hours. Yeah, it goes from two and a half to four hours, like, five days a week.

Bill: That's quite a committment.

Magnús: Yeah.

Bill: What kind of a diet do you use? Do you use any supplements?

Magnús: Yeah, I use some Creatine, vitamins, some gainers. Otherwise, I eat a lot of rice, pasta, and meat, some fish. I stay away from, you know, fatty, greasy foods. Anything high cholesterol.

Bill: How much of your success do you think you can attribute to your diet?

Magnús: I don't know, I've never had a really serious diet. I've been able to eat mostly what I like. I actually have a problem to put on weight. You know, it's no problem for me to lose weight. But I have to eat all the time to gain weight or even just to hold the weight. I seem to have a fast metabolism.

Bill: How much longer do you see yourself competing?

Magnús: I think a couple of more years. It depends on injuries. If I get really bad injuries, I'm out. You know, if I tear a muscle, if I tear a bicep or something like that, it would be a big loss. But if I'm just pulling something or twisting something a little bit, it doesn't take too long to recover from that. And that thing that came into my back really started in my knee... my right knee. When I was doing these squats I was feeling pain in my knee, and it makes your body move in a slightly different way, and possibly that put more pressure on my back or something, and that causes the problem that came into my back in that last moment.

Bill: What do you plan to do once you stop competing?

Magnús: I haven't really decided what to do, but I'm looking into a few things. Personal training, etcetera. I'm looking into starting a special security company that specializes in just moving money around for companies that close late at night, so they need somebody, you know, big and strong to carry money to the bank. Stuff like that.

Bill: It'll keep you in shape.

Magnús: Well, you know, they've been having a few incidents like that where these people have been mugged. They are just working for the store really, so they can't defend themselves. I think there's a need for that here.

Bill: Did you ever consider movies?

Magnús: Yeah, I've considered it, and I'd like to do that.

Bill: Yeah?

Magnús: Oh, yeah.

Bill: You've already got your "in" with Letterman.

Magnús: But, yeah, I'd like to do that. It'd be fun. I actually was, some time ago, I was offered a part in a movie taping over here. It was gonna be called... it was like a new version of the "Into the Center of the Earth." And then they changed it, and taped in Canada or something. So I didn't do that.

Bill: That would be fun to see.

Magnús: Yeah, I was supposed to be the Icelandic, big, strong guy doing the guiding.

Bill: That would be a tough role, huh? A big, strong, Icelandic guy.

Magnús: Hey, you know, you get to fight with some sea monsters and stuff like that.

Bill: What's your family life like?

Magnús: Oh, it's ok. I've got my girlfriend and I've got a daughter with the girlfriend, and we've got another one here so it's four of us together.

Bill: Is that Aster that's still your girlfriend?

Magnús: Yeah.

Bill: I remember she was featured often screaming for you on tv.

Magnús: Oh yeah.

Bill: What are your hobbies outside of competing?

Magnús: Well, I like to do a lot of things. I like to go out with my friends, I like nice cars. All things that any boy could do, you know? I like driving in the winter. I've got a Jeep.

Bill: Since you've been all over the world pretty much for all your competitions, have you ever been anywhere that you like more than Iceland?

Magnús: I don't know, there's a lot of good places I've been to...

Bill: Primm, Nevada?

Magnús: I wouldn't say so, no.

Bill: Neither would I.

Magnús: There was something there that I just didn't like. You know, the hotel, there was no lounge.

Bill: No lounge... yeah.

Magnús: Like we're used to, you can go down to the reception or lounge and you can sit in couches and talk together and stuff like that, you know? Nothing like that, and it was bad. The only thing you could do was gamble.

Bill: Yeah, they kind of trap you there.

Magnús: I didn't lose any money.

Bill: Good for you.

Magnús: I gained a little bit.

Bill: Which of your accomplishments are you the most proud of?

Magnús: I think my greatest victory in the world would be the one in Sun City.

Bill: Sun City? That was a good final.

Magnús: Yeah, that was the toughest one. It was so hot and it's such a thin air over there, and it took me a month to recover.

Bill: Wow. I remember a couple of the guys getting heat exhaustion. I think Cowan... and it was only a point between you and Manfred at the end.

Magnús: Yeah.

Bill: Well, I think we've gone through all of my questions now. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Magnús: Yeah, well, it is a bad thing when you are doing the World's Strongest Man and you expect it to be the greatest of all competitions and you come there and you find out it isn't. The people bring out bad equipment. You know, if they bring out two logs to do, you know, two logs at the same time, they are not identical. Stuff like that messes up the whole competition.

Bill: I heard a rumor about that. With the one log being heavier or unbalanced.

Magnús: It was. It was basically what f*cked me up.

Bill: Also, in 1994, I think, when I was putting up the statistics [on the web page] for 1994, I was going through the points, and it the pole push event, the way I calculated it, I believe there were four guys who were knocked out in the first round, I think you were one... and you were each given two and a half points, I think. And it seemed to me considering how many people competed, you each should've gotten three and a half points, so that you would have been a point ahead of Manfred going into the last event.

Magnús: Yeah, I agree with that. Actually, there was another thing there, and that was that Ted Van Der Parre had to pull out of the competition. So there was instead of eight guys, seven guys. And I was leading the competition before that event. Now to be fair, and I think I earned that, I should've gotten a bye from that first round into the four man final.

Bill: Since there were seven guys.

Magnús: Yeah. They didn't do that. Joe Onosai was last on points. They gave him the bye. That does not make sense. The only reason they did that was they were hoping that it would f*ck me up. It almost did, actually.

Bill: They wanted more drama in the final.

Magnús: This is one where I don't care. I'm happy, and if I lose for somebody and it's fair and square it means that he has been better on that day. But if I lose for somebody and it's bad judging, or just to f*ck me up, I'm not happy with that.

Bill: You shouldn't be. You were definitely cheated this year, as Kaz told me, when he was not invited back for five years.

Magnús: It's actually the same situation, or a similar situation.

Bill: Yeah, because you won three years in a row.

Magnús: Yeah, Kaz was mad, and he speaks his mind. And he says what he thinks is wrong. And actually, he gets a bit aggressive in that. But, it's the same thing with me. I say what I like and I don't bow for anybody, and they hate that. They just hate that and it's a shame. But anyway, I've won it four times, I've won it three times in a row... the HARD way. Against all odds, and everything. And I actually have nothing more to prove in this. And the same with Kaz really. In my eyes, Kaz was, in his time, he was the best in this.

Bill: Yeah.

Magnús: You know, it's the same now that in my time, I'm the best in this and I'm not saying that I'm better than Kaz or anything like that. I'm just saying that we are not there together, you know what I mean? I'm better in some things, he would be better in other things if you look at the past, but the achievements - it's about the same, I think. And it's the same with Jon Pall. They are like legends in this, and I'm getting there also, you know?

Bill: It would certainly be great to see you come back and win next year. That would be a shot to the organizers, I think.

Magnús: It depends if they invite me back, when they get rid of me.

Bill: They better. If for some reason they don't, I'll be sure to start up a petition and I'm sure I could get a few thousand people to sign it from all the mail I've been getting about how angry people are that you were kept out of the final.

Magnús: You can put in this also - I have a big rouse... a lot of fight with them because of me not getting a bye into the final, and they give two Americans a bye into the final.

Bill: And then the Americans had something like three times as much time to rest from their heat afterwards.

Magnús: You know, that doesn't matter really. They were just doing their national championships. I did my national championships, it's the same thing. Why shouldn't I get straight in there also? Plus, I'm four times winner. I've just said, what have I done to deserve that? Nothing.

Bill: Especially, I don't mean to sound unpatriotic, but the Americans [really haven't fared well lately. No one's been in contention for the title] since O.D. Wilson.

Magnús: That's true. Or Kaz... they were one of a kind in this, really. And what I was saying is, I said to them, "This is unfair." I said, "Ok, I can understand that you want to make sure that there is an American in the final. This is in the States, and all that." Ok, but give the winner a chance, from their heat, and give me a chance. Not two... you know, not two Americans, that's too much.

Bill: They should always give the defending champion a chance to be in the final.

Magnús: Possibly they'll change that now, when I'm out of it. Out of that position, you see.

Bill: It's inexcusable if they don't, because...

Magnús: I've been fighting for this for the past three years. I've always said, "You know, what do I have to prove again?" And I have to prove myself again to be in there.

Bill: You had managed to get through in `95 and `96 and you had tough heats both of those years, and it was close.

Magnús: Yeah. Well, if you look at my heat now, every guy... all six, have been in the world's before. Now look at the last heat. Only one guy had been in the world's before.

Bill: Flemming.

Magnús: Flemming. Yeah, so Flemming and Ahola really got a bye there.

Bill: They didn't seem to have any problem.

Magnús: No.

Bill: Wow... well, thanks Magnús.

Magnús: All right.