Spoilers ahead if you’ve not watched it yet.
So this year, the final rested very much on the broad shoulders of one very large man.
In the run up to this year’s celebratory 40th anniversary event I saw a number of surprises. And even having known for months about who would win (due to someone spoiling it online) the final was still a surprise in many ways.
Big Z is a legend. A four time champion. He’s been in the sport for a long time and was just not at his best this year due to recovering from a recent injury. He still showed some of his old magic, here and there, but he was not on form and not a serious contender from the first event.
With him out of the running I wasn’t sure who would end up on the podium. Martins Licis is a remarkable guy. Only his second year and he ended up in the final again. He reminds me, in some ways, of Brian Shaw’s old training partner, Mike Burke. He appeared on the scene a few years ago and was steadily improving. He’s as tall as Brian and seemed to be getting better and better. Licis has youth, energy and so much passion. Strongman is definitely a growing sport and in ten years time, when some of the legends might have to eventually retire, if he is still competing, and if he hasn’t won already, Licis will be on top. Him and the Polish giant, Kieliszkowski, are definitely the future.
Like Mark Felix, Nick Best from America shows that age is sometimes just a number. He won his heat and qualified for the final for the first time. A brave performance but at this level the power is incredible and he just didn’t have it in comparison to some of the others.
Thor has been on the podium since 2012. Every year he was pipped to the post by Big Z or Brian Shaw as they passed the title back and forth between them. Every year he fights hard and every year he’s just inched out. He seemed to be on form this year, despite a virus that left his face half paralysed. It had no impact on his strength which he proved when he and Eddie Hall were the two men left standing in the deadlift. But I always thought it was going to fall to Hall as he has the world record. Brian Shaw came in 3rd, seemed to hurt himself and wisely didn’t go up to the final weight.
There was a bit of controversy in the Viking Press, which having now thought about it, I think the end result was fair. As Eddie Hall had won the previous event, he was allowed to go last. Arguably he has some of the strongest shoulders in the competition and as such he asked what had Thor did, as he was in the lead, and so Hall did one one rep to win the event and then stopped with time to spare. It was only after his performance that the Icelandic coach came forward to contest Thor’s result, which if allowed would have put him on par with Hall. It seems a bit petty to me, as if they’d done it earlier, Hall would have just done two more reps as he still had plenty in the tank and hadn’t even started using his legs.
Moving away from that, some of the other athletes continued to impress me, including Janashia who definitely has a lot more to give as he’s still a young man. Big Loz did well in some of the events but it was Kieliszkowski who surprised me the most. He’s the lightest man in the final and yet he was the fastest in the plane pull. Amazing stuff.
In the end, the podium looked to be set. Thor, Shaw and Eddie Hall. It really came down to who would come out on top. I was ultimately delighted when Eddie Hall won becoming the first Brit to win the title in a long long time. He’d definitely earned it and last year he did very well with an injury and still made it to the podium.
The final surprise of the night came when after winning Eddie Hall said on camera that we would never again see him at the World’s Strongest Man. His goal was to win it, and he’d achieved it. He now wants to spend more time with his wife and children, being a husband and a father. He was very emotional and given all that he’d sacrificed to achieve his title I can’t blame him for getting a bit upset. A remarkable feat.
So, WSM 2018. Who will win? If Big Z is back on form, he stands a chance. If Shaw comes back hungry to win a 5th title he could win. If Licis continues to improve he could land on the podium. If Thor focuses and keeps pushing he could win. Terry Hollands has shredded the fat and looks lean and mean. The question is, does he now have the strength without his power belly and the cuddly factor? I guess we’ll see in some of the regional events that lead up to WSM. There are so many new faces coming up now, like Rob Kearney from America, that one of them could surprise everyone and land on the podium, upsetting the apple cart.
The sport has never been bigger and I’m delighted to see the crowds getting larger every year. I’ve been a fan my entire life and now I’m glad to see so many other people getting into the sport.