This man went from fat-shamed child to world's strongest man contender
Bullying is a serious problem, especially in elementary schools and high schools. We try to raise awareness about the issue, and condemn body-shaming, but sadly, kids continue to be cruel. However, there might be one way to stop bullies: warn them that the kids they harass might grow up one day to be strongmen (or strongwomen). And you wouldn't want to mess with them then!
Cheick Ahmed al-Hassan Sanou - aka Biby - was born in Burkina Faso, West Africa in 1992. "My mum said I was big from birth," said Biby, in an interview with the BBC. "Weighing almost 5kg (11 pounds) and breathing heavily - not like a baby." By age five, he realized he was much bigger than his brothers and sisters. And by age nine, he was getting bullied at school by the boys, and girls wouldn't talk to him: "The girls in my year preferred the slim guy...The older girls would talk to me and be polite, but as soon as I showed any kind of interest, they would decline."
As Biby grew up, he became interested in sports, but not the type of sports you would expect. Despite his enormous size, he wanted to be a sprinter. "But whenever I ran...my body would wobble," said Biby. "The kids at school would laugh so much and point at me calling me 'Fat Boy.' It was as if I was entertainment to them, so I gave up on that - but I never stopped wanting to be an athlete."
Then Biby became interested in another unlikely sport: gymnastics. Every time he did a somersault, the other students would make fun of him, because his body made such a loud sound upon hitting the mat. But he didn't let the body-shaming get him down. Haters were his motivators. Biby practiced at home until he finally mastered the somersault, but he didn't stop there. He also learned how to do backflips.
When Biby was 16 years old, he weighed 268 pounds, measured 6 feet 2 inches tall, and boasted a 48-inch chest. When another boy was mocking him, he got upset and Hulked out - realizing his true strength. "I was frustrated," said Biby. "I said: 'Leave me alone,' and pushed him away, but he flew across the room and he was shocked. I was shocked too, but I knew that day that I had some power - he never bothered me again."
Although Biby knew he was powerful, he desperately wanted to lose weight. He tried eating more fruits and vegetables, and adopting the same diets as friends, but nothing worked. In 2009, Biby went to college in Canad. That's where he finally learned to appreciate his body. He made the basketball team, and joined the gym, where he lifted weight more than anyone else - teachers included. In high school, they mocked him for his size, but his teammates and coaches loved him for it. When Biby looked in the mirror, he didn't see a 'Fat Boy.' He saw a strong man.
At the local gym, Biby became a well-known figure, lifting just as much as the professional powerlifters. In 2013, he won his first powerlifting competition in 2013, and the national championship. His accolades even coined him a nickname: Iron Biby. "My brothers used to call me Biby and the name followed me around," the strongman explains. "But when I started becoming known for power lifting, I became Iron Biby,"
Since then, Biby's entered several international contests, beaten several big names, and is a serious contender to become the World's Strongest Man. The 378 pound powerlifter is famous for his big smile, core strength and surprising gymnastics: After pulling a truck of lifting enormous dumb bells, he'll do a somersault or a backflip. Back home, he's a local hero, with children idolizing him instead of soccer plays. "My plan is to be the strongest human being on earth," says Biby. "And to take the title of world strongest man to Burkina Faso."
And if any of those body-shaming childhood bullies see Iron Biby today - steer clear!
In a related story, here's 7 signs you're being bullied at work, and how to stop it...