Is Leo Sun Inspired by an Actual Adventure Racer?

In Cellan Jones’ biographical film ‘Arthur the King,’ Leo Sun is the unsympathetic teammate of Michael Light. Even though he joins the adventure racer’s team for his captain to win the championship for the very first time, he doesn’t hesitate to make it clear that he will continue to make “noise” every time the latter makes a decision. Leo leads Michael to immense embarrassment by posting a photo of the team leader after he loses an integral championship. Although Michael reunites with Leo only because of his sponsor’s insistence, the social media celebrity becomes an integral part of the runner-up team, who finishes the race with Arthur!

The Reel and Real Leo Sun

Leo Sun is a fictional character Michael Brandt, the screenwriter of ‘Arthur the King,’ conceived for the film. The real-life Michael Light, the Swedish adventure racer named Mikael Lindnord, didn’t have to deal with a celebrity like Leo who was forced upon him. Having said that, Lindnord had a teammate who wasn’t a navigator. Leo Sun is a fictional counterpart of Simon Niemi, one of the other three members of Lindnord’s team that competed in the 2014 ARWS World Championship in Ecuador along with Staffan Björklund, the navigator who can be paralleled with Chik, and Karen Lundgren, the only female athlete in the group who reminds us of Olivia.

Even though Leo is placed in Simon’s position in Michael/Mikael’s group in the film, both of them cannot be different anymore. Leo is a harsh, brutally honest, and unsympathetic athlete who became a part of Michael’s team only because the latter’s sponsors insisted on his inclusion. In reality, with regard to Simon, that wasn’t the case. He was an admired part of Mikael’s group. “[…] we knew each other very well, and we knew how to support each other. As Simon says, ‘It’s really important to be good friends – we have a good time training, and we have a good time after training,’” Lindnord wrote about Simon in the memoir ‘Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home,’ the source text of the movie.

In the film, Leo is the exact opposite of Simon. While the latter talked about being friends, Leo always found fault with the attitude, caliber, and decisions of his teammates. That’s the reason why he reacts not-so-admirably when Chik slightly injures his knee. When the navigator leads the team through an unorthodox route, Leo is the first one to question him as well. Simon, on the other hand, was a team player from the beginning to the end. Furthermore, he is not a social media celebrity like Leo. He can only boast around 750 followers on Instagram, while Leo is popular enough to release his own sportswear.

However, there are also similarities between Leo and Simon. Both of them are immensely motivated athletes who prefer not to slow down. “Tall, dark, and lean, he [Simon] is a great athlete. Very fast, very keen to get there first. At twenty-five, he’s the baby among us, but he’s already going places. Fast,” Lindnord added about his former teammate, reminding us of Leo’s insistence on continuing racing despite vomiting severely due to dehydration. Lindnord also describes Simon as someone who “sprints at everything if he can,” which is apt for Leo, who runs through fields during the final stages of the race despite the others’ tiredness.

After the 2014 ARWS World Championship, Simon continued to take part in several competitions within the realm of adventure racing. With a team, he emerged as the winner of Expedition Africa in 2019 by beating Russian athletes. He paddled, sailed, trekked, ran, mountain biked, swam, crawled, and rappelled for 70 hours and 48 minutes to win the championship. Simon is the father of a boy, and he spends his time with his family whenever he is not racing. Away from the tracks, he is someone who prefers to stay away from the spotlight.

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