From strongman competitions to the CrossFit Games, these modern-day Vikings have conquered the competition.
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As captain of the Iceland national soccer team, Gunnarsson has led his country to unprecedented success on the international football stage. The nation made its first appearance ever at a major tournament after making it into UEFA Euro 2016, where the team took down England in one of the biggest surprise upsets of all time. The midfielder plays professionally in England for Cardiff City, so he will be able to remind the Three Lions of Iceland’s victory for years to come.
The Icelandic titan can call himself one of the most accomplished lifters ever—Ver Magnússon won the World’s Strongest Man competition four times and is an eight-time winner of Iceland's Strongest Man. Hailing from Egilsstaðir—a town with just 2,257 people—Ver Magnússon previously held the world record for a tire deadlift at 981 pounds and took home the Europe's Strongest Man title two times. And don’t forget about Ver Magnússon’s Coors Light commercial that shows how he used his incredible strength to find himself a cold beverage.
Aptly nicknamed “Thor’s Daughter” on account of both her last name and her absolutely heroic strength and endurance, Thorisdottir claimed back-to-back wins at the CrossFit Games in 2011 and 2012, becoming the first two-time “Fittest Woman on Earth.” Hailing from Reykjavik, where she co-owns her own CrossFit Affiliate, she also has a pair of silver medals at the Games first in 2010 and again in 2014, after she recovered from a devastating spine injury. Even with her fierce competitive spirit, though, “Iceland Annie” also has a reputation for a cheerful personality—her motto is TRAIN, WIN, SMILE, REPEAT.
Image: Screenshot from The World's Strongest Man YouTube Video
Sigmarsson made history as the first winner of Iceland's Strongest Man, but he accomplished quite a bit more than that in his career. Standing 6’3” and nearly 300 lbs at his peak, the bodybuilder was also the first man to win the World's Strongest Man contest four times—his first coming in 1984 before winning three of four competitions with back-to-back titles in 1986 and 1988 and then again in 1990. Before passing in 1993 due to heart issues, Sigmarsson set multiple records in the deadlift, including in the one-handed deadlift.
Thor Björnsson rocketed to fame in his role as Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane in Game of Thrones, but the enormous Icelandic strongman wasn't always so huge. In fact, the 6'9" Björnsson's started off as a basketball player, until a bad knee injury cut his career on the hardwood short. But when legendary strongman Magnús Ver Magnússon recommended he try strongman competition, Björnsson started stacking on size, and a world-conquering career followed. Now close to 400 pounds of lean muscle, Björnsson is a six-time Iceland's Strongest Man, two-time Europe's Strongest Man, and frequent Arnold Strongman Classic and World's Strongest Man competitor, and the world record holder for fastest 20m refrigerator carry—and an even stronger Instagrammer. He eats roughly 13 pounds of food a day when he's in strongman training.
At first, Davidsdottir was a strong but unspectacular entrant to competitive CrossFit, parlaying her track and gymnastics background into solid finishes at the 2012 and 2013 Games. But after barely missing out on a place at the 2014 Games, Davidsdottir pushed her training to the max on her way becoming the “Fittest Woman on Earth” in 2015. When the Rekjavik native isn’t crushing WODs at her adopted home of CrossFit New England, she’s keeping up her (equally strong) Instagram game.
Sigmundsdottir is one of the best competitive CrossFitters on the planet. At only 22, she conquered the Meridian/Europe region in 2015, and did it again in 2016, surpassing even Annie Thorisdottir and Britain’s Sam Briggs. (She nearly captured the 2015 Games, too, before eventually falling behind fellow Icelandic competitor Katrin Davidsdottir.) Like the other “Dottirs” who dominate CrossFit—it’s such a trend that Rogue Fitness actually created a “Lift Like a Dottir” tank top—Sigmundsdottir is known for her sunny disposition. Icelandic women, it seems, truly love to throw barbells around.
The 6’5’, 350-lb giant took home Iceland's Strongest Viking in 2006, but before that he was more focused on being a powerlifter. Taking some inspiration from Jón Páll Sigmarsson, Pétursson focused more on strongman competitions, eventually taking the title of Iceland's Strongest Man two years straight from 2009-2010. Pétursson’s personal record in the deadlift is nearly 860 lbs, and he's also has participated in the World's Strongest Man competition multiple times.
Guðmundsson may not be as famous as his CrossFit countrywomen, but he’s definitely one of the fiercest competitors in “the sport of fitness.” He placed third in the 2015 CrossFit Games behind Ben Smith and Mathew Fraser—powered by his first-place finish in that year’s devastating Murph—and utterly crushed the competition at the Meridian Regionals in 2016.
Hailing from Hafnarfjörður, Magnússon is arguably one of the strongest humans on earth. He currently holds the WPO world record for the heaviest raw (that is, unassisted) deadlift at 1,015 pounds, and claimed the title of Iceland’s Strongest Man in 2003 and second place in 2004 and 2010. Viking strength runs in the family—his brother is fellow strongman Magnús Magnússon (not to be confused with Magnús Ver Magnússon).
Image: Screenshot from The Strong Man Base YouTube
Haraldsson took home Iceland's Strongest Man title four straight years from 2005-2008 before finishing runner up to Stefán Sölvi Pétursson in 2009. The 310-pound strongman—who hails from Reykjavik, which we highly recommended you visit—impressed many by taking those four titles after not finishing in the top three from 2002 to 2004. Haraldsson never took home the World's Strongest Man title, but he qualified for the competition three different times.