This year’s final was always going to be a battle and it turned out to be, right up to the last second in the last event. With three times World’s Strongest Man, Zydrunas Savickas, hoping to reclaim his title from last year’s winner, Brian Shaw, who also wanted to win his third WSM. Then there was Hafþór Björnsson who is an incredibly powerful and young competitor who came third last year. He performed very well in his heat and seemed faster and stronger than ever before, so he was always going to be nipping at the heels of the two champions. That’s not even counting the rest of the competitors who all beat other people to earn their place in the final.
The first event was a loading event, but not like we’d seen in the heats, as the athletes had to load three giant tyres onto a platform. The weight itself was probably not that much of a problem for them, but the tyre itself was cumbersome, and they were running on sand to make it even worse. England’s Laurence Shahlaei was making good time, but then his first tyre slipped and fell off the platform, which cost him important seconds to set it right. Others learned from his mistake and were careful to stack the tyres and position them on the platform. In the end it was Thor who came in first with Big Z and Brian Shaw right behind him.
The second event, the overhead medley, was never going to be a favourite for some men, and as expected some didn’t manage to lift both the dumbbell and the axle overhead. It was England’s Eddie Hall and Laurence Shahlaei going head to head who looked as if they would be the first two to complete the challenge, but surprisingly Hall stumbled on the second lift of the axle and Shahlaei took the lead. However, then the biggest men came onto the mat and going head to head, the two giant Americans, Brian Shaw and Mike Burke, completed the medley in record time, with barely any time between them. However it was then Thor and Big Z’s turn and they both beat the time set by the Americans, with Big Z just pipping the Icelandic by two seconds.
The keg toss. This is another standard of strongmen competitions, but they made it even harder this year by raising the bar even more. The weight is the same but with the higher bar it meant the fastest man had to give it a little extra each time to clear it. Brian Shaw said he practised at home with a higher wall and so far his time from the previous year was the fastest by three seconds. He blew the competition out of the water by clearing all eight barrels in 16.59 seconds, a new record. Surprisingly Big Z fluffed this one, and a couple of his barrels did not clear the bar on the first attempt, but it was more about his angle than lack of strength. That cost him precious seconds and he came in 4th. Shaw looked set to win until Thor’s attempt which was less than half a second faster. Shaw looked stunned and the Icelandic was ecstatic.
The truck pull. In the heats they’ve been pulling a twelve tonne truck. For the final they doubled the weight! Two identical trucks, linked together. Most athletes couldn’t manage to move it very far, and it was down to England’s Terry Hollands to show them how it was done, moving both trucks in a remarkable time of 43 seconds. In the end he was just beaten by Brian Shaw and Thor, earning Big Z a 4th place spot in this event.
Then came the squat, the massive axle bar with huge weights and they have to squat until the metal clangs. No shortcuts, no half measures, no strange apparatus, just pure muscle. This was a favourite event for Eddie Hall and he set the bar with a massive 14 reps which earned him second place in this event. Brian Shaw seemed to be struggling but still did 10 reps, Thor had to stop at 7, but this was also a favourite event for the big man, Big Z. He went to 15 reps and probably could have done more if required.
Coming into the final event, the Atlas Stones, the pack had started to separate. Big Z, Thor and Brian Shaw were enough points ahead of everyone else that those three were on the podium, the question was, in what order. Thor has the title of King of the Stones, as he remains almost unbeaten on them, so Shaw knew he had to move incredibly fast to hold onto his title. Big Z is so impossibly strong though and has done this so many times, as long as he didn’t make any mistakes he might regain his title.
The final result. Brian Shaw put in a great performance and a good time of 24 seconds, which Big Z beat by one second and Thor beat by four seconds. So even though Thor won this event the points meant that Big Z regained his title, making him a four time champion and the World’s Strongest Man for 2014. Thor came in second and Brian Shaw third on the podium.
Overall it was a blisteringly good final, the competition for those top three spots has never been closer or fought so hard. Next year is going to be even more interesting, as Thor is so close to winning, and is still so young he could come back even stronger. But equally Big Z will be trying to earn a 5th title, something that few men have ever achieved. The bump to third place for Shaw will no doubt motivate him to train even harder and come back stronger next year.
Looking beyond the top three from 2014, Mike Burke continues to impress and is fast becoming a favourite of mine, as he came in 4th this year, improving his position on last year by one spot. Eddie Hall was stronger and he earned his first spot in a WSM final, so that was a step up for him. His plan was to be in the top 5 in the next couple of years and it’s achievable. I believe this was Terry Hollands’s last WSM, but he retires on a respectable 5th place and the 9th time he has been in a final.
A great final, a great year for strongman and I am looking forward to the competitions and regional events in Europe and the UK.