Jon Pall Sigmarsson Tribute

Brian Batcheldor is a long time friend of Jon Pall and has promoted many strength competitions in the United Kingdom. The following tribute was written by Mr. Batcheldor!

“Throughout history of the greatest respected attribute of a man has been his strength, being tested by various form of competition across the world. Many of these events culminated to give birth to the modern day World’s Strongest Man contests we know today. To win the title “World Strongest Man” is be a proud accomplishment that few have achieved. To win the title four times would surely make you the King of Strongmen. Jon Pall Sigmarsson did just that – and now our King is dead.

I will never forget the tearful greeting that awaited Ilkka Kinnunen and myself from Ilkka’s wife Mari when we returned from training on that fateful Saturday afternoon to be notified of Jon Pall’s death. I will never forget the expression on thousands of children’s faces as Ilkka broke the news over the microphone the next day at a show in Finland.

Nor will I ever forget the haunting sound of the lone trumpet playing “Amazing Grace” at the end of Jon pall’s funeral service as over a thousand pairs of eyes filled uncontrollably with tears. I have had to wait a couple of weeks before I could put pen to paper because, literally, word failed me.

No person I know could easily discuss the situation. It is still so hard to believe. I had only spoken to him the day before he died; he was telling me all about his new apartment and just seemed so happy. I could write many articles on Jon Pall’s achievement as there are plenty. 

At the age of 3, he stood up and told his family with pride that one day he would be the Strongest Man in the World.

Everybody looked at the little fellow and laughed when they saw the look of determination in his eyes. Twenty one years later he fulfilled his dream by winning the Worlds Strongest Man.

No man had realized the burning desire and willpower in that little boy’s mind. He regained the title several times and became the only man to win it four times, setting a record that still stands and probably will for a long time.

he came to strongman competitions via Olympic and Powerlifting where he excelled, his first competition being in 1978 in the 242lb class. He decided to stay with powerlifting, where he won the Silver medal in the European Championships in 1980.

In the same year he went onto win the Nordic Championships in Norway. In 1981 he won the Icelandic Championships and lifted in the Worlds in India. After several more European championships and titles, he hit his best total of 970kg in 1984 at a tournament called Jotnamotio setting yet another European record in the process.

Jon Pall Sigmarsson bodybuilding

He also competed in bodybuilding where he won several National and Scandinavian titles. His outstanding physique was always one of the things he was noted for during his Strongman career with reliable statistics such as 22″ arms and a 58″ chest to back it up.

In Strongman contests he won the World Muscle Power Championships from 1985 to 1991! he won the Worlds Strongest Man in 1984 (Sweden), 1986 (France), 1988 (Hungary), and 1990 (Finland) where he narrowly defeated the late great O.D. Wilson, a man Jon Pall liked and respected very much, and whose untimely death deeply saddened him.

Jon Pall was always plagued by injuries – his worst probably being his torn bicep where post surgery problems left him unable to use his arm properly, which required further surgery for which he was waiting.

He was told he could not compete anymore. The word “could not” did not exist in his vocabulary and he went on to many great battles.

Indeed, he was at his most dangerous when injured, because he loved to be the underdog. He needed a challenge and it brought out the best in him – the Viking in him.

He openly said when interviewed in competition “If I lose an arm, I have another one!”

I remember the 1990 Strongest Man contest when he tore his pec and turned up to compete for me five days later with the blackened “slab” just hanging there and he did so without moaning.

I coached him at the Finland’s Strongest Man, which comfortably won in a very tough field. He entered this contest one week before the Worlds Strongest Man (which he had to withdraw from) because he had given his word he would do so, even though he was injured. That was Jon Pall.

Jon Pall died on Sturdayx, the 16th of January, while training his deadlift. The autopsy shows heart disease, a hereditary trait amongst Jon Pall’s family and something he had been warned about from a young age.

He died at the age of 32. He leaves a huge unfillable void behind him. His personality was even larger than his physique. He was the most popular strength athlete, especially with children.

His Viking image and battle cry became his trademark and I never, ever came across anyone who had a bad word for his friendly giant, a man who had time for everyone else. His close friend and fellow competitor Jamie Reeves was hit very hard by Jon Pall’s death – to the extent of considering retirement.

jon pall sigmarsson strongman

The legendary Bill Kazmaier who shared many tough competition battle with Jon Pall was also deeply shocked. 

A fun loving man, who lived life to its fullest – he was a veritable pillar of strength, encouraging others yet never troubling anyone with his problems. 

At the World’s Strongest Man contest in Iceland last year we sat and talked into the early hours in the hotel bar one night, and he confided that he wanted to spend more time with his son Sigmar, and it deeply troubled him. It was for this reason that he said he wanted to retire after the World Might Man Contest in South Africa.

Sigmar is just nine years old and is finding his fathers’ death very hard to come to terms with, as is Jon Pall’s beautiful fiancee Heli, from Finland. Maybe, as Jamie’s brother Jock Reeves said to me ‘Jon Pall’s life was already mapped. He was never meant to suffer aging and the degradation of mortal weakness’.

Maybe right now he is sitting with Thor and Odin since he, like them, is now a Viking Legend. I hope so. We miss you brother.”

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