Moments after apparently carrying more weight than anyone ever before, German strongman Patrik Baboumian let out a roar and a couple seemingly unlikely words: “Vegan power.”
The 34-year-old, who already holds world records for log lifts and overhead beer keg lifts, carried a yoke loaded with just over 550 kilograms 10 metres across a stage at the Harbourfront Centre on Sunday afternoon — at Toronto’s Vegetarian Food Festival.
According to organizers, it’s the heaviest load ever carried — equivalent to a large horse. (Guinness World Records spokesperson Sara Wilcox said the attempt was for a new record category, “heaviest yoke carry travelling 10 metres,” adding that Guinness can’t verify the record until it receives documentation.)
“It’s a bit stupid to do things like that, it really hurts,” a breathless Baboumian said to the audience of several hundred afterward. But, the point is to inspire people and break stereotypes that tough guys need to eat a lot of meat, he said.
Baboumian, a longtime animal lover, became a vegetarian in 2006, he told Torstar News Service before the event.
“One day, I just thought, if you see a bird with a broken leg, you really have the urge to do something about it and help the bird,” said Baboumian, wearing a T-shirt that read, “I am a vegan badass” and sporting mutton chops vaguely reminiscent of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine from the X-Men films.
“Then, at the same time, you go to a restaurant and eat a chicken or something. It doesn’t make any sense.”
In 2011, shortly after being named Germany’s strongest man, he went full-out vegan.
“I just realized that if it’s really compassion that drives you, maybe it’s not enough just to stop eating animals but you maybe should boycott the whole animal industry, because … it’s not what you as a compassionate being would want. So actually you should go one step further and become vegan.”
Baboumian began bodybuilding as a young man in Germany after immigrating to the European country from Iran at age 7. He attributes his desire to be strong to the insecurity he experienced as a boy, born during the Iranian Revolution and raised through the Iran-Iraq War.
“When bombing is going on, you see a lot of people screaming around you and you can’t do anything if you’re small,” he said. “You just want to break out of that and be strong.”
The German strongman was joined on stage afterward for a Q&A with some other notable vegan tough guys, including retired UFC champ James Wilks, former NHLer Georges Laraque and ultra-marathon star Rich Roll.