Lithuanian Antanas Kontrimas holds the Guinness world record for lifting weights with his beard. On a holiday in the city, he talks with pride about the strength of his beard

You can swear by his beard. If Samson had his strength in his locks of hair, Antanas Kontrimas from Lithuania has it in his beard.

He is the current Guinness world record holder for lifting weights with his beard. On a holiday in Kerala, Antanas is in true holiday mood. He has neatly plaited his 35 cm long beard and is set to watch Kathakali. This is his first visit to the country and he loves South India.

Antanas performed this strange feat quite by chance. He began growing his beard to endorse beer for a TV commercial. “My beard was black then. It grew long and big.” That’s how the beard came about. At that time, a fitness event in his town of Telsiai, in Lithuania, was held. His friends were lifting weights and practising for the event.

Antanas teased them in good humour challenging that he could pick these weights by his beard. That was it. The joke translated into reality when his friends egged him on and he managed to lift, for the first time, a barrel of beer weighing 40 kg. Lithuanian television channels covered the event and soon he became a national hero. Two days later they wanted to make it official and he repeated his feat.

After that Antanas says he has been going from strength to strength, lifting beer barrels, grains sacks, pulling a three ton jeep with five soldiers in it and even pulling a plane!. All this by his beard!

In 2000, the Guinness Council contacted him with requirements to establish a record. He set a world record by lifting 55.7 kg weight. That was the first Guinness record he set. The next year he was invited by them to Hollywood to improve on this record. He raised the bar by lifting a 59 kg weight.

Antanas’s visit to India is after he met the world’s smallest woman, an Indian, in a competition in Rome. She invited me to India. I have to yet get in touch with her, he says. That time in Rome he bettered his record and lifted a weight of 63.5 kg. He carried an Italian girl!

“I lift the most beautiful girls in the countries where the competition is held,” he says with a hearty laugh. Antanas says that if the object or person to be lifted is underweight then a body suit is worn by them to increase the weight. Sand is often filled in the cast to increase the weight. It is tied with a rope and Antanas hitches his beard around the rope. He cannot touch the body or object with his hands.

Antanas’s fitness routine is regular daily exercise which begins with a bare body 100-metre run every morning in temperatures that often touch minus 10 degrees. “You need to have strong neck muscles,” he says, ready to better his record. He improves it every time by increasing the weight by 100 gm.

The beard that has got him all the fame and name is cared for and groomed lovingly. He uses herbal shampoos to tend it. As Antanas is the leader of his village community and has to wear a formal suit, he cannot plait his beard, so he lets it loose flying in the breeze.

Excited about coming to India he is wishing that a competition be held here where he would do an event with his Indian friend, the world’s smallest woman, and a beautiful Indian girl!