GAME Of Thrones superstar and World's Strongest Man Hafþór 'Thor' Björnsson hammered the opposition at Leeds First Direct Arena at the weekend to retain his European strongman crown - winning it a record fifth time.
The 6ft 9ins and 30st larger-than-life giant Icelander lived up to his name and fearsome reputation of the warrior he plays called Te Mountain in the hit TV series.
At the peak of his superhuman strength he again proved too big a mountain to climb for the rest of the world class line-up and after just four of five events he had done enough to be 2019 Europe's Strongest Man.
"I love it in Leeds. That's why I come back every year. The crowd are great and cheer me on. Next I'm going to be training to for this year's World's Strongest Man contest," said the Viking king in an exclusive chat backstage.
VIDEO: Watch our exclusive Europe's Strongest Man 2019 highlights and chats in the video above
They lifted logs, flipped giant tyres, dragged chains and gripped hold of the Pillars of Hercules - a spectacular new showpiece which threatens to pull the strongmen apart as they are try to hold two giant pillars upright, for as long as possible.
Veteran Mark Felix, just days from is 53rd birthday, gave inspiration to every middle aged strongman fan when he held the Pillars for an establishing world record of one minute and 22 seconds - almost half a minute more than Thor.
But Björnsson was already unbeatable in his quest for the European title after two first and second event places. It usually always comes down to the final event, the Atlas Stones, but after lifting three of five huge stones, against Poland's Mateusz Kieliszkowski, he watched his nearest rival win the event and take overall second place, a repeat of last year's World's Strongest Man.
Third place on the podium went to last year's Europe's Strongest Man runner up 'Georgian Bull' Konstantine Janashia, 28.
Morecambe muscle man Graham Hicks, recently crowned Britain’s Strongest Man, who was not fit enough to compete for the European title but he celebrated an impressive new British Log Lift record of 214kg - almost 34st - previously held by retired former World Strongest Man, now fan favourite show host, Eddie Hall.
Hicks, aged 33, by day a British Aerospace systems support worker, who services Eurofighters when he’s not lifting logs or carrying cars, was disappointed - as was cartwheeling Iron Biby, of Burkina Faso - not to set a new world record for the log lift, currently 228kg held by strongman legend Zydrunas 'Big Z' Savickas.
Biby won the event with the second heaviest log lift in history, of 220kg.
Of missing out on the log lift world record, or winning the event, Hicks said: "I'm a bit disappointed overall. I attempted 220kg. I had it locked out. I just didn't stabilise it. I didnt have the full build up I wanted for this show. I haven't been training heavy a lot. Just literally six weeks build up for this show.
"I'm more disappointed because I did 220kg in training.
"My goals for the future are to retain the British title then get the world log lift record. They are both realistic goals, especially the log lift now. There's only two people have pressed 220kg logs and I was a fraction away of having it. I had t locked. I just didn't stabilise it. It was great referring. If I had got the down come hand and I watched the video back I wouldn't have been happy that I had got it."
The dad of two, expecting his third child this summer, also revealed he is putting family first so will not planning to take part in any more strongman competitions this year - including the World's Strongest Man finals.
Hicks, a four times World’s Strongest Man competitor, twice runner up at Europe’s Strongest Man and third in 2014, added "My wife is due in 12 weeks so that's the next big step for me and my focus now. I don't think I'll do any more comps this year, just keep myself in relative shape.
"I've spoken to the World's Strongest Man organisers. The unfortunate thing for me is it is two weeks before her due date and unfortunately I'm in the position at the moment that I'm the only person that can care for my kids, if she goes into labour. We don't have any support that way. She wants me to go, she keeps telling me. But I've made my mind up. Family first. It's ot my profession."
Four times World’s Strongest Man winner Brian Shaw, USA's near 7ft and 35st colossus from Colorado, was unfit to take part as planned in the log lift first event of the night but made a guest appearance and vowed to go for the world record at the next Giants Live event at the 2019 World’s Strongest Man Qualifying Tour at the SSE Arena Wembley on July 6.
Eddie Hall made a brief competitive comeback when he took on legendary Lithuanian strongman Vytautas Lalas in an arm wrestling competition after the main event - and narrowly lost. It sparked fan calls for arm wrestling to be reintroduced into strongman competitions.
Organiser Colin Bryce said: "What another great night we've had. Thor really was a mountain too big to climb for the rest, retaining his crown and winnng the Europe's Strongest Man title for a record fifth time. Graham Hicks lifted a new British log lift title and Mark Felix showed at almost 53 you can still set a world record. Amazing. Leeds we will be back as long as they will have us. Thanks for the support."
BUY TICKETS: Tickets for Giants Live Europe’s Strongest Man 2020 at Leeds First Direct Arena on Saturday, April 4, are now on sale. Call 0844 248 1585 or visit www.firstdirectarena.com.
Tickets for all Giants Live events including World’s Strongest Man Qualifying Tour at SSE Wembley on Saturday, July 6, Manchester Arena, Saturday, September 7 and Britain’s Strongest Man 2020 at Sheffield FlyDSA Arena on Saturday, January 18, are available via www.giants-live.com.