Between 1988 and 1996, eight of the twelve World’s Strongest Man titles were won by Icelanders. Four of those were won by the great Jon Pall Sigmarsson, the rest were won by the man who took up his mantle; Magnus Ver Magnusson. Indeed, Magnusson is one of only two men to have won the title three times consecutively, the other being Bill Kazmaier. He is also in a select group of men to have won four titles, along with his predecessor, Jon Pall, and also Brian Shaw, Zydrunas Savickas and Mariusz Pudzianowski. His status as one of the true legends of World’s Strongest Man is beyond doubt; twice more he stood on the podium and he has captured a huge array of other major titles, including powerlifting, where like many strongmen, he developed his pure strength in the early years of his development.
His stature, although impressive at 6’ 3’’ and close to 300lbs, was not unusual in a an era that included Manfred Hoeberl and his twenty-five inch arms, as well as the seven foot Dutchman, Ted van der Parre, and the casual observer, in Tenerife back in ’91, would have been forgiven for not fancying the first-timer’s chances. However, the man who would go on to dominate strongman in the 1990’s, was about to defeat Henning Thorsen by a considerable margin and take his first world title and in doing so display a blend of athleticism and pure, static strength, that few could hope to match. Always a favourite in carrying events and tests of dynamic strength, Magnusson would frequently dumbfound his competitors by beating far heavier and stronger men (on paper) in classic powerlifting-style events. But it was arguably his mental strength that was most influential in Magnusson amassing such a huge number of titles. Mistakes, such as his slip-up in the Husafel stone carry in the ’92 WSM event, handing victory to van der Parre, were few and far between. Magnusson became renowned for his measured and consistent approach.
Magnusson would have to settle for second place again in ’93, when Britain’s Gary Taylor took the title in Orange, France, but in the mid-nineties the Icelander’s grip on the most coveted title in strongman was very secure indeed. Victories over Germany’s Manfred Hoeberl in Sun City in ’94, South Africa’s Gerrit Badenhorst, in Nassau in ’95 and Finland’s Riku Kiri in Mauritius the following year were all in addition to a plethora of other titles. These included eight Iceland’s Strongest Man titles between 1988 and 2004, two Europe’s Strongest man titles in ’92 and ’94, A Pure Strength title in ’89 with his Icelandic teammate Hjalti Árnason, a le Defi Mark 10 title the same year, A World Muscle Power title in ’95, as well as many other competition wins, too numerous to list. In fact, by his own admission, in the early years of his strongman career Magnusson would use competitions to improve his technique for events like log lift and Atlas stones as unlike modern strongman competitors, he lacked the equipment to practice on. Instead, he relied on regular powerlifting and Olympic lifting movements, as well as more specific exercises that mimicked some of the events. In later years, Magnusson acquired the necessary equipment in his gym, Jakobol; the nest of giants, in Reykjavik and was able to master the techniques that made him so successful in such a wide range of events.
In just as surprising a fashion as he had won his first World’s Strongest Man title, Magnusson was eliminated in the heats of the 1997 contest, held in Las Vegas. It marked the end of an era for both Magnus’ and Iceland’s supremacy in the sport. It would not be until 2018 that another Icelander, Hafthor Bjornsson, would top the podium. It is perhaps no surprise to anyone that Bjornsson’s success was influenced considerably by Magnusson, who mentored him in his early years, for Magnus has never strayed far from the sport; organising competitions, running Jakobol Gym and refereeing and appearing at many major shows around the world. In 2018, Magnusson was appointed official referee for WSM, a just reward for an implacably fair and uncompromising judge, who is do greatly respected by the competitors.
Magnusson’s admission to the World’s Strongest Man Hall of Fame is in recognition of one of the sport’s most prolific winners. A truly ruthless competitor, he was able to dominate at a time when the sport was emerging from its infancy and the competitors were becoming increasingly professional. Like so many sporting greats, Magnusson had that rare ability to make things look easy and at times, almost effortless. Inspired by his predecessor, Jon Pall Sigmarsson, in turn he has inspired another generation of strength athletes and Vikings to strive for the World’s Strongest Man title.