Eight muscular young men from across the British Isles gritted their teeth and stiffened their sinews in a bid to be crowned the Junior UK Strongest Man on Thursday.
The competitors – including two from Northern Ireland – wowed onlookers at Writer’s Square in Belfast as they vied in trials ranging from lifting a golden 125kg-plus (276lb) bar, to carrying a 184kg (406lb) lump of stone for 65 feet.
It was the first of five days of similar competitions.
The UK’s Strongest Man follows on Friday and Saturday at Crumlin Road Gaol, and the Master World’s Strongest Man Championship is at the same venue on Sunday and Monday.
Competitors at Thursday’s event were aged 16-23, and hailed from Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales.
At they lined up at 1pm in the shadow of St Anne’s Cathedral, a man beat a ceremonial sword upon a shield, heralding the start of the contest.
The first challenge involved loading two vast tractor tyres onto a frame, then getting the competitors to hoist it on their shoulders and walk forward roughly 30 feet.
The weight was around 440kg – close to 1,000lb.
First up was Matthew McCoy, a 20-year-old factory worker from Randalstown.
Backed by much encouragement, he managed to make it across the line – but others who followed struggled, with one managing to shuffle it forward just a couple of feet before being forced to give up.
Asked how long he had been training Mr McCoy, who weighs almost 19 stone, said: “For this show? Four months, six days a week.
“I’m quietly confident. We’ll see in a couple of hours.”
Asked if he would not prefer more typical young men’s pursuits like visiting the pub, he said: “It’s very enjoyable to do all that there. But this here is for wellbeing. At the end of the day, you might feel a bit sore but every day you get stronger.”
The type of sport is simply referred to by competitors as “strongman”.
Ryan Boreland, a 20-year-old, 20-stone Coleraine doorman, said it was probably the main contest of its kind for all of Britain and Ireland.
He said friends and family “thought it was a bit of fun, a bit of a phase” – but he has made it clear that he is in the sport for the long haul, adding: “It’s the title I’m here for.”
Glenn Ross, 43, who organises the contests under the name ‘Ultimate Strongman’, said: “Obviously the juniors are very important – they’re the future of strongman.”
By close of play, it seemed Mr McCoy’s confidence was well placed – with 40 points, he was the overall winner.