Eyglo Fanndal Sturludottir became Iceland's first major weightlifting champion at the European Junior and Under-23 Championships ©EWF/Isaac Morillas

Iceland has a global reputation in strength sports and a long list of champions dating from the 1980s, including the Game of Thrones superstar known as Thor and two of the biggest names in CrossFit, but until this weekend it had never had a major weightlifting champion.

That changed at the European Junior and Under-23 Championships in Durres, Albania, when the 21-year-old medical student Eyglo Fanndal Sturludottir won the 71 kilograms title by a wide margin.

Her success in the under-23 competition earned Eyglo an interview on national television.

"They came to my home this afternoon, when I got back to Iceland," Sturludottir told insidethegames.

"I think weightlifting is going to get bigger here, it’s going to become more visible how you can get started in the sport, how you find a club and a coach.

"We have a very good community in Iceland, good competitions, we all have a lot of fun."

Until now, Iceland’s strength sport winners had been in the World’s Strongest Man, powerlifting and CrossFit.

Thor, whose full name is Hafthor Julius Bjornsson, has more than four million social media followers and is one of three Icelandic men to have been crowned the World’s Strongest Man since the 1980s.

Three winners of Iceland’s sportsperson of the year came from powerlifting, which has one of the best-funded sports federations in the country.

Sturludottir has now made her mark in weightlifting - and has had help along the way from two of the most popular women in strength sports, the multiple CrossFit Games winners Annie Thorisdottir and Katrin Davidsdottir.

Those two have a combined following of more than three million on Instagram.

Eyglo Fanndal Sturludottir, centre, on the podium at the European Junior and Under-23 Championships ©EWF/Isaac Morillas
Eyglo Fanndal Sturludottir, centre, on the podium at the European Junior and Under-23 Championships ©EWF/Isaac Morillas

"I think Annie is part-owner of the gym where I train, she trains there all the time and Katrin does too when she’s in Iceland," Sturludottir said.

"They have both helped me a lot."

Thorisdottir and Davidsdottir had both been CrossFit Games winners when they decided to compete at the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships in Houston, Texas in 2015, finishing 33rd and 37th in the women’s 69kg.

Sturludottir may not be able to match their social media numbers but she will be hoping for a higher finishing position at this year’s IWF World Championships in Colombia in December.

Her performance in Durres, a six-from-six personal best of 97-120-217, would have won a medal at the Asian Championships which finished in Bahrain last week.

Before that, she will compete in Cyprus next month at the annual small states competition.

Like many before her, Sturludottir was a gymnast before she took up weightlifting, and arrived at the sport via CrossFit.

"I prefer the Olympic lifting, it suits me better," said Sturludottir, whose medical studies will cover six years, with more time for a specialism after that.

She has made steady progress from the Nordic Juniors, and has added 20kg to her best total in 13 months.

It all means that the Iceland Weightlifting Federation, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in three months, finally has a continental champion.

Asgeir Bjarnason, a former President of the National Federation and a key organiser of the Nordic Youth and Junior Championships which Iceland hosts next month, said: "Around 2010, weightlifting had a bad image and the sport was dying here, all the people with valuable knowledge were leaving.

"But that has changed, largely thanks to Ingi Gunnar Olafsson, our national coach, and now we have some good youth and junior lifters coming through.

The Netherlands had its first junior female champion at under-23 level through law student Nikki Lowik ©EWF/Isaac Morillas
The Netherlands had its first junior female champion at under-23 level through law student Nikki Lowik ©EWF/Isaac Morillas

"There has been a definite increase in the number of females taking up weightlifting.

"Being female and strong did not always get you the level of respect you get now, but there has been a change in perception and weightlifting has become more popular.

"Iceland has had the world’s strongest man, it has had champion powerlifters, our women have won the CrossFit Games four times but we have never had a senior ‘podium person’ in weightlifting before Eyglo.

"We’re pretty excited about it."

There was another landmark moment when the Netherlands had its first female champion at this level.

Nikki Lowik, a 21-year-old law student, won the women’s 76kg for under-23s with 97-114-211, also a career best.

Like Sturludottir, Nowik came to weightlifting from gymnastics and then CrossFit.

The European Weightlifting Federation (EWF) has welcomed a proposal by team officials from Armenia and Turkey not to allow athletes to bring flags during the medal ceremonies if both nations are on the podium.

It follows a confrontation in the men’s junior 96kg between Garik Karapetyan, the Armenian winner, and Emre Ozturk of Turkey.

Their behaviour was "against the values of sport," according to Antonio Conflitti, the EWF President.

The two nations have a longstanding enmity.