Big Z, Zydrunas Savickas, from Lithuania is one of the strongest men in the history of the competition. He holds more world records and has broken more, usually his own, for strength than anyone else. He’s won WSM three times, losing in 2013 to the athletic Brian Shaw from the United States. In this heat everyone, the other competitors and the commentators, were under no illusions that he would go through in one of the two top spots and earn his place in the final.
The real fight was for that second spot and a chance to be in the top ten. England has two men in the race, the man with arguably the strongest back in the world, Mark Felix, who is also the oldest man in the competition. However, I should point out he’s only 47, so he’s not that old, but if I look even half as good at his age, I’d be a happy man. The other Englishman in this heat is Laurence Shahlaei, who last year had to pull out due to injury which was a big disappointment. But he’s back, he’s much leaner having lost two stone, but he looked incredibly determined and had a lot to prove to himself. Well he did not disappoint. He’s been injury free for a while and he actually beat Big Z in a couple of events.
There were a couple of events that were favourites for Loz, including the Superyoke. In competitions over the last few years he’s won 9 out of 10 of the events, so going into he was confident. Nick Best, the second eldest in the whole competition at 45, put in a blistering time, but nearly passed out as he forgot to breathe. However, Loz smashed his time, and in direct competition against Big Z, left the champion far behind. Again in the deadlift, no one could manage all seven, the weight was just ridiculously heavy, and Loz had the benefit of going last. So he knew he had to lift six as fast as possible and he put in a brilliant performance which paid off. He was 0.02 of a second faster than Big Z giving Loz a second win.
Big Z remained consistently excellent though, and although some of the other competitors put in good performances, he was always just ahead on points and went on to win the heat. After a slow start Felix picked up the pace, bested some of the younger athletes and came in third, but it looks as if he just missed out on one of the wildcard positions to go through to the final. This year twelve are competing, the top two in five heats and then the two highest on points after that. Sadly this meant we wouldn’t see Felix for the rest of the competition but he remains an impressive figure.
Loz earned his second place, but he was careful in the last event, the Atlas Stones, and like Big Z he did just enough to get through and left some energy in the tank for the final. After winning one event Big Z said he was running at 80-90% and was saving his energy for the final. Tactics definitely plays a key part in the competition and now the others are learning not to push themselves too hard until it really matters.
With one more heat to go, which includes former WSM champion Brian Shaw, I think his spot is guaranteed and it will come down to who is going to take that second spot. The final is nearly here and I think it’s going to be a great year.