STRONGMAN Bolton returned to Victoria Square this weekend, with hundreds of people gathering to watch the athletes lift eye-watering weights.

About 40 athletes battled the hot conditions to take part in Bolton’s Strength and Fitness festival, which included the first ever Strongwoman competition.

In a special World War One themed event, challenges included lifting a 120kg car axle, pushing a seven-ton Army truck and hoisting a two-ton artillery gun for as long as possible.

Wayne Fulton, from Burnley, took first place of the men’s experienced category, while Joanne Montgomery, of Newcastle, topped the women’s section on Saturday.

They competed in blazing sunshine and temperatures up to 29C.

Jamie Byrne was crowned the winner of the novice competition on Sunday.

Bricklayer Simon Corns competed in the novice section for the first time after months of training for the event.

The 38-year-old spotted the event on YouTube and decided, after competing in cycling and triathlon competitions, to give it a go.

He had put on two stone in muscle in the process.

Mr Corns, from Smithills, who came eighth out of 18 competitors, said: “I watched Strongman on YouTube when it was held at St James’ school and thought I’d give it a go.

“Training for it has meant lots of reps and heavy lifting.

“The crowd have been really good. It’s a great event and a good boost for the town centre and the economy, especially as it’s on the weekend after Ironman.”

Organiser Andy Seddon, director of Angry Anvils Ltd, said it was brilliant to see the event grow every year — and thoughts have already turned on where to stage next year’s event.

He said: “It has been brilliant. We worried about whether to hold it on Sunday because the town tends to be quiet, but I can’t believe all the people who turned out to watch and support.

“The newcomers have been amazing and given it one hundred per cent.”

The Mayor of Bolton, Cllr Martin Donaghy, officially opened the event on Saturday morning.

He told the men: “You’re better lads than me, lifting weights like that in heat like this.”