Rongo Keene Interview: Sharing the Lighter Side of Strongman

The strongman's creativity and family helped him win World's Strongest Man: Home Edition.

Rongo “The Warrior” Keene of New Zealand competed in his first ever professional strongman event in 2015. Since then he has made quite the name for himself in the sport. He won the 2015 Singapore’s Strongest Man competition, the 2016 Australia’s Strongest Man competition, and the 2016 Australian Arnold Classic Open.

The 6’1 tall 32-year-old made his World’s Strongest Man (WSM) debut in 2018 and will return in 2020’s competition currently scheduled for November 11th-15th in Bradenton, Floria.

He will have a lot of momentum heading into that event as a fan favorite who recently won the first ever WSM: Home Edition. The competition was hosted by 2017 WSM champion Eddie Hall and consisted of strongmen from around the world performing feats of strength remotely for a chance to win a $10,000 grand prize.

We were fortunate to sit down with Keene via Zoom recently for an interview. We discussed how he came up with his creative feats of strength for the competition, including deadlifting a boat in full Moana cosplay, how his diet and training has changed in quarantine, his feelings on being a fan favorite, and even his excitement competing against strongman greats.

Check out the full interview below:

[Related: Eddie Hall predicts 2020 WSM top 4 in Q&A while training]

Keene’s Journey to the Win

The New Zealand strongman was featured in two episodes of WSM: Home Edition on his way to the finale. His feats of strength were in the deadlift and a carry medley. Both of his appearances stood out from the rest of the field for his showmanship and creativity.

For the carry medley, Keene carried a refrigerator, a rainbow colored trash can, and a wheelbarrow full of toilet paper before having his kids, dressed as a competition announce team, interview him. His straight faced sense of humor garnered a large number of audience votes — which would ultimately decide his overall competition win.

[Related: Bodybuilding techniques for strongman: how hypertrophy can improve your game]

In the deadlift, Keene and his kids decided to dress as characters from Disney’s Moana and lift an appropriately decorated boat. This was arguably the largest spectacle of the entire competition and something thought up during a brainstorming session with the Keene family.

Strongman Behind The Scenes

For Keene, WSM: Home Edition was an opportunity to show another side of the sport. Strongman athletes are most commonly seen in serious competitive environments. This Snapchat exclusive competition series allowed Keene to show off his playfulness and sense of humor.

I’m a character. I’m strong but not everyone sees the characters of all these amazing strongmen…we’re all quite funny.

Keene is accustomed to dressing up as Maui, the demigod of South Pacific legend from Moana, as he routinely does so to visit children at hospitals to lift their spirits.


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Training and Diet

Having a global pandemic close gyms around the globe has not stunted Keene’s training. Luckily, he has been able to train out of his home gym and the lack of competitive events has allowed him the time to fix some weak points in his game. In his own words, the down time has “been a blessing” as he has devoted attention to correcting some nagging injuries.

Keene always had structure with his diet since his early competition days, but the kinds of foods he consumed were pretty much whatever he wanted, including a lot of take out.

That has since changed as he now works with with nutritionist Nathan Payton, who also designed the diets of fellow WSM competitor Robert Oberst, 4-time WSM champion Brian Shaw, 2019 WSM champion Martins Licis, for the majority of his strongman career.

Now his diet consists of lean meats and veggies and a removal of dairy. 

I’m eating food that is going to fuel me right. My energy levels…I can feel in the future it is going to push me to be a stronger and better athlete.


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WSM: Home Edition

If you have not yet had the opportunity to check out all eleven episodes of WSM: Home Edition, you can do so via the discover page on the Snapchat app or visiting the WSM YouTube channel. Each episode is approximately five minutes long.

Featured image from Rongo Keene’s Instagram page: @the_warrior_rongokeene