A day after apparent injury, Thor roars back to victory
The biggest question of the day Friday for fans of the World’s Strongest Man Competition was whether defending champ and “Game of Thrones” star Hafthor Julius Bjornsson would compete after a day one injury.
Bjornsson not only competed on Friday, but won the opening round of the dead lift repetition competition at Coquina Beach. Bjornsson played the final “Mountain” character in HBO’s hit series that concluded this year.
The defending world champ and Iceland native, known to his fans as, “Thor,” blew through the first day’s monster truck pull, raising his massive arms triumphantly to an enthusiastic downtown Bradenton crowd, shouting, “I’m only getting warmed up!”
But in the follow-up event, the super yoke, Bjornsson stopped and walked off with medical staff, leaving American Rob Kearney with the super yoke qualifying win.
The competition shifted out to Anna Maria Island on Friday morning. Bjornsson was seen limping from the staging area into a packed competition arena at Coquina Beach.
Staffers have been tight-lipped about his injury and would not confirm whether he would compete on Friday, all the way up until Bjornsson left the staging area for the competition.
Given that the opening competition was dead lift repetitions with a weight of more than 800 pounds, Bjornsson’s dramatic round one victory after suffering an unknown injury delighted the fans that were lined six and seven deep around the arena’s barricades.
Fans arrived well before the scheduled 9 a.m. start and had to wait almost an additional two hours before things got underway after overnight rains on the island made stabilizing the lifting platform on the sand challenging.
Shortly before 11 a.m. the first competitors began leaving the staging area for the arena and day two of the 42nd annual World’s Strongest Man Competition.
It was a long, hot morning, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind as many of the athletes roamed about to talk and take pictures with their fans.
Jay Latzak and his son 9-year-old son Charles flew in from Atlanta to check out all the action. Eddie “The Beast” Hall posed for some photos with the father-son-duo and signed Charles’ shirt, which the young boy said was, “Really cool.”
Hall is the world record holder in dead lift competition and remains the only man to ever have dead lifted more than a half a ton. He won he world championship in 2017.
Latzak is a big fan of the sport and when he found out that the competition, which is held all over the globe each year, was going to be a short flight away, “I couldn’t resist missing out on being this close.”.
Latzak is certainly a Hall fan, but one of his favorites is American Brian Shaw.
But that’s par for course for strongman fans. Unlike some other sports, there isn’t a lot of fan rivalry, with fans certainly having their favorites, but also have a healthy respect for all of the athletes.
Mary Ann Lavilla and her husband became been big fans of the athletes and the sport over the past couple of years after getting serious about fitness themselves. They use a lot the athletes’ videos for tips and when they found out that the competition was going to be in Bradenton, they made the drive from Miami.
“This is one of our bucket-list items,” said Lavilla. “We first heard they were going to compete in California and we were seriously thinking about going then. We checked the website every day and saw Bradenton, and what’s a three-and-a-half-hour drive?”
Lavilla’s husband is big Bjornsson fan while she tends to root for Shaw. But like strongman fans everywhere, there is no rivalry.
“I like and respect them all,” Lavilla said.
Two more days of competition remain. Saturday’s final qualifying round will take place at Manatee Public Beach, in Holmes Beach, beginning at 9 a.m. The finale will take place at the same location on Sunday, beginning at 8 a.m.