Last year we saw what could be the beginning of a trend in cross-over athletes in the strength game. Specifically, those who were competitive in one sport, but crossed over to strongman usually via an injury in the original sport. American Brian Shaw won the 2011 Worlds Strongest Man event in North Carolina. Shaw, a former collegiate basketball player stands 6’ 8” tall. He also breaks the long lanky basketball stereotype by weighing in regularly over 420lbs. Well, he now has company. The massive Shaw can now look someone dead in the eye when he is competing. Iceland's Haptor “Thor” Bjornsson stands 6’ 9” and topped the scale at the Worlds Strongest Man at 430lbs last fall. The affable 23 year old bank security guard will be competing alongside nine other invitees at the 2012 Arnold Strongman Classic.
Bjornsson, a former basketball player from Iceland met fellow Icelander and strongman phenom Benedikt Magnusson at his local gym and the rest, as they say, is history. In 2010 and again in 2011 Bjornsson won the Strongest Man in Iceland, Iceland's Strongest Viking and in 2011 his fourth place finish at Polands Giants Live gave him a wild card invitation to the 2011 Worlds Strongest Man. There he showed his true potential by winning several qualifying heats and landing a spot in the coveted finals in his very first WSM contest.
Without a doubt, a persons genetic makeup pre-determine who may or may not be suitable for competing in a particular sport. The average NBA player is 6’ 7” and weighs a smidge over 200lbs. How about an NFL lineman? 6’ 3” and right at the 300lb mark. How about the Worlds Strongest Man average? Running some quick numbers with the top 40 guys in the world and I came up with 6’ 3” and 320lbs. A bit bigger than the NFL guys and a bit shorter than the roundballers.
Thanks for taking a few moments to let us get to know who the Icelandic Giant really is... You placed 2nd behind Matesz Baron at the Arnold Amateur in 2011 thus earning your pro card. Did you know that you would perform that well?
I didn't know whom I was competing against and how I stood compared to them. I trained very hard for the Arnold Amateur and did my best.
You qualified for the Worlds Strongest Man last year by placing 4th at Giants Live in Poland. Were you nervous or excited about the opportunity?
A little bit of both. I was so excited to get the invite but at the same time I was really nervous cos(sic) I was going to compete against the biggest names in Strongman.
You competed at Worlds Strongest Man in 2011 in North Carolina. What was your experience like competing in your first WSM?
It was great to be able to compete against the best. I learned really much from the other guys. It was a great experience.
What was your take on America and how we view the sport of strongman compared to the way Europeans see the sport?
I like America a lot. I find the people very friendly and I always have a great time while traveling in the U.S. I don't know how it is in other European countries but in Iceland strongman is not as popular as in America. It is not covered by the media, even though you are competing in the biggest strongman competitions of the world. The interest of the sport seems to be increasing by the public though, and we have a great turn out on competitions and when it is being shown on TV it gets high ratings.
How has training for the Arnold going? Are you excited to see the very heavy apparatus they will be using or do you have some concern?
Training for the Arnold has been going well, but the standard in strongman is always getting higher and higher and the guys are always getting stronger and stronger. I am definitely coming into the Arnold in the best shape I have ever been in.
Again, thanks for your time and the American fans of strongman certainly can't wait to meet you in Columbus. You and Brian Shaw will certainly be BIG personalities at the Arnold!
Thank you and see you in Columbus!
With recent videos and photos circulating of a massive and chiseled Derek Poundstone who is certainly hungry to avenge missing last years event to an injury, Brian Shaw looking to continue his momentum from last year, Mike Jenkins wanting to prove he is no joke and the rest of the 10 man field... only begs to ask: how will the massive 23 year old newcomer fair in such a deep talent pool? It is arguably the strongest field ever assembled in Columbus. With cool gray skies forecast for the Columbus area, Thor will certainly feel at home, but will the other athletes and the apparatus be as hospitable?