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This is the latest post in the blog series “Qui êtes-vous?” .
You may recall that I did a post a few weeks ago titled “Québec’s Rough’n Toughs”. In that post, I spoke about the story of Louis Cyr, Québec’s strong man from the beginning of the last century (at that time, labelled the strongest man in the world).
Antoine Bertrand is an actor in his late 30’s who has held various well-known roles over the years. One such role was as the main actor in the 2013 movie L’Homme le plus fort au monde (The Strongest Man in the World). It was a movie about Louis Cyr, played by Bertrand.
However, Bertrand’s other well-known roles date well before the movie. Bertrand became known to the public at large in his acting role in Virginie, one of the higher rated evening sitcoms which aired in the early and mid-2000s. He also acted in another well known TV series of the same period, Les Bourgons, c’est aussi ça la vie!, as well as Caméra Café, a co-host of the very popular variety show Les enfants de la télé, and he has held other comedic roles – regularly seen on some of our more common television events.
In the television program “Qui êtes-vous?”, Bertrand traces his English Stebbin family roots to New England, the challenges his family had, and how they arrived in Québec. He travelled to England to discover his roots, back 12 generations.
When Québécois think of the rough & tough side of pop culture, their thoughts will likely turn to two individuals — with 100 years of separation between their careers: Louis Cyr and Georges St-Pierre.
I think this pair is quite well known to most Anglophones in Canada, but for those who may not know them, I’ll offer a bit of information. In Québec, both their names can be heard more often than elsewhere in Canada, in general conversation or on television. It’s probably a good idea to know who they are (as a cultural reference, if for no other reason).
Louis Cyr was the strong-man of Québec. He died in 1912 at the age of 49. He was born to a very poor family, and did manual labour in Québec and the US to support himself. He was a physical giant, and routinely worked out. To entertain his friends, he would do strange things like lift horses and the like, quickly earning himself a reputation for having unusual strength. This got the attention of a freak-show manager, who took Louis Cyr on a tour of Eastern Canada to earn money (performing a one-man act). When his manger didn’t pay him, Cyr went home to Québec, got a job, but then decided to become his own one-man show, managed by his family. He hit the road again, across the US and Canada, and earned a huge following. Eventually he earned a reputation in North America for being the strongest man in the world, being able to lift a 100kg barbell with one hand, hauling over 1000kg (a metric ton) on his back, lifting a platform of almost 20 men (2 metric tons) on his back, lifting 250kg with one finger (hmmm… is that even possible? as far as the laws of physics go – ie: “snap!!), and pushing a train car up a hill.
But Cyr’s huge appetite got the best of him. When he wasn’t performing, he was either a police man (in Ottawa, Montréal and a couple other small towns), or eating eating eating – not the healthy kind either. His health deteriorated, and he died of kidney disease in 1912. His legendary stories, however, live on today. If you see a someone being a tough guy, you can use Louis Cyr as a metaphore and say “Who do you think you are, Louis Cyr?” (the binding-power of pop and folk culture).
Back to the present, and to Québec’s present-day tough-man, Georges St-Pierre.
This dude is the definition of “fit”. Born in 1981, he has already had a full, multi-million dollar career as world champion (several times over) in mixed martial arts and ultimate fighting. He held top titles of various designations from 2006 through to 2013: Welterweiht UFC (3 times) and other sporting designations (MMA, Fight Matrix, ESPY).
During his peak years, if hockey wasn’t on the screens of bars and pubs across Québec, you would have seen St-Pierre’s matches on screen, as well has his famous post-match interviews (with his banged up black, blue and bloodied face as his battle trademark). He’s likely known to everyone in Québec, even if they’re not a fan of ultimate fighting – and he is largely credited for bringing UFC into a mainstream sports sphere, not only in Québec, but across Canada as well.
Unfortunately, he had to vacate his title a few months ago when he tore his ACL – a ligament (Ouch!!!! Am a bit of a gym rat — I’ve been there done that several years ago with my own ACL injury – hurts like you wouldn’t believe!). So… the guy is down and out for the time being, trying to slowly train his way back through therapy. Things are up in the air how much longer he’ll be out for, and what his professional engagements will be when he does return. But regardless, he’s already the king for a certain demographic in Québec who follows UFC (and Québec’s demographic for this sport is larger than elsewhere in Canada or the US). In the meantime, you’ll still see him on television doing the talk-show circuit, and sports columns provide the odd update on how he’s doing, and why they’re guessing will come of his recovery.
George’s official website is http://www.gspofficial.com/, through which you can access his daily facebook views.
Sorry, Louis St-Cyr’s website wasn’t up and running yet in 1912… a couple years too early (but I’m sure it would have been awesome!)