Hundreds of people packed into the 500 block of Old Main Street to watch the kick off to this weekend’s World’s Strongest Man Competition and at least one of those competitors was able to easily spot his fans.
Dozens of fans sported black T-shirts with “Thor” on the backs, representing themselves as fans of Iceland native Hafthor Julius Bjornsson, who was the final “Mountain” in the HBO mega hit series “Game of Thrones.”
But more important to his devoted fans, Bjornsson is the defending world champion.
Eddie Noriega traveled to Bradenton from Texas to watch it all play out and was proud to be wearing his “Thor” shirt..
“It hits home for me because I have been an athlete and played college ball,” said Noriega who stood could have easily been mistaken as a competitor himself. “It’s just really cool watching these athletes perform amazing feats of strength. I am a Bjornsson fan because he has been so dominate since early on in his career.”
Later on Thursday morning, it appeared Bjornsson was injured during the second event, the Giants Medley, which included a super yoke and a farmer’s walk. Bjornsson stopped while he was carrying the super yoke and walked away with medical staff.
American Rob Kearney finished and won the event, as some in the crowd cheered “USA, USA” and many more voiced concerns about Bjornsson getting hurt.
Thursday’s kick off event was pulling monster trucks down the street. Weighing in at over 30,000 pounds, the event wasted no time showing fans what’s to come.
About 25 people started the competition on Thursday in an effort to compile enough points to make it to the final 10 by Sunday when a new — or possibly a repeat— champion will be crowned.
They come from all over the world to compete and from all over the world to watch. Some fans were sporting shirts bearing the United Kingdom flag to support their athletes. The event has been held around the world particularly in Europe. This is the first time it’s been held in Bradenton.
An event spokesperson said, “Bradenton is perfect and it’s great we are going to have some really nice beach settings the rest of the weekend.”
The events move out to Anna Maria Island on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the next round of events taking place at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach at 9 a.m Friday. The event moves to Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach at 9 a.m. Saturday. The finals start at 8 a.m. Sunday at the Public Beach.
While the event is drawing athletes, fans and media coverage from around the world, it’s especially exciting for hometown fans. Palmetto resident Megan Ramsey said her family regularly watches the competition on television.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this is person,” she said.
Staff writer Jessica De Leon contributed to this story.