The World’s Strongest Man 2017 marked the end of a friendship between two warriors that had initially garnered each others respect. Having battled alongside each other for five years in a race to be crowned the strongest man on Planet Earth.
Both men had toiled in the runner up categories for a number of years in an event dominated by the American giant Brian Shaw, and Lithaunian brute Zydrunas Savickas.
Eddie Hall’s ascendency to the throne culminated in 2017 with a titanic battle in the searing heat of Botswana.
A narrow one point margin handed Hall the title that he had craved like no other throughout his existence, much to the chagrin of his now sworn enemy Hafthor Bjornsson.
Eddie controlled the entire event from the offset, scoring high across each of the eight disciplines, It seemed as though this was his time, his moment had arrived.
Hafthor finished runner up once again and later threw shade on Hall’s victory, inferring that the contest was rigged in his favour after being denied a 15th rep in the Viking press by referee Magnus Ver Magnusson. Who controversially ruled that he had double dipped in an effort to gain an extra repetition, costing him a precious point.
Hall surpassed Hafthors total with relative ease however, gas still seemingly left in the tank, which would suggest that Hafthor’s petulance would only serve to make him seem bitter for his rivals success.
The Beast had also become the first man to ever deadlift 500kg the year previous, a Herculean feat that had never even been attempted.
Watched on by his childhood hero Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hall wrenched the Olympic bar from the ground, the iron plates contorting it’s shape, Hall stood tall as his nose began to bleed, refusing to budge against the irons will.
He had accomplished the unthinkable and will always be the man who broke down the barrier that many thought was impossible.
With both of his career aspirations conquered, Hall decided to retire from competition, citing both health reasons and a need to spend time with his family. The dream he had harboured since giving up swimming for strongman as a teenager had come to fruition and he felt it was time to step away for the next generation of athletes.
Enter Hafthor Julius Bjornsson, the Icelandic superstar has not only found fame for his superhuman exploits in strongman competition, but also for his predominant role in HBO’s Game Of Thrones. Starring as The Mountain, a frightening blood thirsty guard of the Lannister family.
Without question his stardom has attracted many more spectators to the sport which until recent years had almost a cult like following rather than the mainstream success it enjoys today.
These giants have to sacrifice everything in their being to reach the pinnacle of their profession, eating 10,000 calories per day is seen as routine in their world. Mammoth training sessions that strain and stretch every sinew in the human body is required to be the best.
In this regard I feel that this is where Hafthor may have lost his edge to Eddie in previous years. I do not doubt everything that he has given, but it was never quite enough in an era where The Beast stamped his authority across the realm of strongman.
Filming schedules, travel commitments, and mental fatigue will surely have a detrimental effect by not having 100 percent of your energy and focus on the task that lies ahead.
Success and failure is often decided by the most fractional margins in any elite level competition and I feel that Hall gained the upper hand in that five year period due to his sheer dedication and full blooded commitment, with no external distractions to concern himself with.
Bjornsson finally claimed the World Strongest Man’s golden trophy in 2018, one year removed from Hall’s retirement. The perennial runner up at last stepped onto the Champions pedestal, becoming only the 2nd Icelandic athlete to capture the prize after Magnus Ver Magnusson.
Without a shadow of a doubt, it is perceivable that Hafthor could go on to dominate the sport for many years to come as he seems to only get bigger and better as time passes us by.
His new deadlift record of 501kg in his own gym has courted controversy and like many others I believe it should be carried out in a contest setting, as it is impossible to recreate the tension and pressure that a live audience can generate.
But if the relative ease that he seemed to perform the lift is anything to go by then I would suggest that even greater things are on the horizon for this superhuman monster.
However, for Hafthor to cast aspersions on Hall’s accomplishments leaves a sour taste in the mouth. For a sport that had been forged on mutual respect since its inception, it does not bode well when a man who is destined for such great heights cannot accept defeat graciously.
To place doubt on a fellow competitor’s life of sacrifice leaves a stain on the sport in my view, and as far as Hall is concerned I believe his achievements speak for themselves and he doesn’t need to enter into the mud slinging that is present across various social media platforms.
Eddie’s name will always be entrenched in the public mind’s eye as the first man to deadlift half a tonne, much like Roger Bannister will never be forgotten as the first man to run the sub 4 minute mile.
Hafthor will surely go on to raise the bar both metaphorically and physically in strongman, with his fame and brand ever increasing in a sport that has finally received the respect and adulation it deserves.
I look forward to his impending deadlift record attempt in a competition setting which I feel is vital to cement his expanding legacy.
Rivalry is a crucial element in any sport, it entertains us the fans and often pushes the opposition into raising their performances to bold new heights which us as spectators can only sit back and admire.
In this case however it has quickly degenerated into a public slanging match, as the trading of insults has wrongly taken centre stage over both men’s colossal exploits.
In a world that has been turned on its head by such unprecedented events, a display of mutual respect from both camps would likely be welcomed with open arms.
Thanks for reading!
For further articles click on any of the links down below or by using the menu button at the head of this page.