The final heat and last year’s World’s Strongest Man Brian Shaw was always going to be the leader. It was no surprise then that he won the top spot, but he played a very careful game, doing just enough to win but he didn’t push himself too hard. In that Californian heat he knew it would sap his strength and with the final just around the corner, he needed to keep back as much energy as possible.
On Fingal’s Fingers he was watching Martin Wildauer, from Austria, to see how much he did and if he should attempt the final weight or not. Wildauer didn’t manage it so Shaw just left it alone. Equally by the time we got to the final event, the Atlas Stones, Shaw had enough of a lead that he didn’t even compete, and just watched from the sidelines, so he went through with a small points margin, but it was a very carefully calculated strategy that he hoped would help him in the final.
There was another Englishman in this heat, Graham Hicks, who did pretty well against some of the veterans of the sport like Shaw, even keeping up with the big man on the overhead log press for a while. Wildauer made a couple of really bad mistakes in some of the early events and it looked as if he was going to end up far down the rankings. However, when we got to the squat lift he did something remarkable. No athlete, in any heat in this year’s WSM, has managed to lift all seven. Most who made it to six just had a little attempt and then stopped. Others just did six reps as quickly as possible and walked away like Shaw, confident that no one could do it. Wildauer beat every other athlete in the entire competition as he lifted seven, held it there for a couple of seconds looking pleased and then lowered it. This served in in very good standing and helped bump him up the ranks in the heat. Ultimately he did enough and performed much better after that to earn himself a spot in the final.