Tag Archives: Thor

World’s Strongest Man 2017 – The Final

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.

 

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World’s Strongest Man 2014 – Heat 2

In this heat the competitors were dominated by one man, Hafthor Bjornsson. The huge Icelandic is still a young contender compared to some, and yet it seems as if he has been around for ages. He’s been on the podium twice in the last two years coming in third, and this year he said he is even stronger. He’s young, hungry and very determined so I predict he will be on the podium again this year.

In this heat he blew the competition out of the water in some events and was knocked into second place in others after some amazing performances by J F Caron, the French Canadian, and the deceptively strong Dave Ostlund, the American. Ostlund has been off our screen for a couple of years due to injury, but the absence has not left a big gap between him and the competition. He had impressive performances in a few of the events, which meant there was a real battle for second place and a spot in the final. In the end it went to Caron, but there are two wildcards now in the final, for those who came in third, so hopefully Ostlund will be there as he certainly deserves to be.

I love watching this competition every year, and I know they are lifting enormous weights, and yet some part of me forgets. In both heats I’ve been reminded of how dangerous the competition is. In heat 1 Frankie Scheun of South Africa had to withdraw due to injury, and in this heat the mighty American Robert Oberst, had to drop out due to tearing something in his leg. Superhuman is a word bandied about a lot, but these guys make fantasy a reality.

After Bjornsson put in a great performance in the Squat lift, JF Caron did it even faster, winning the event. Also in Fingal’s Fingers, the Icelandic was doing very well but he couldn’t relax as Ostlund was right there, only a few seconds behind him. The competition really is getting tougher every year which means the final is going to be even more explosive and hopefully unpredictable.

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Comics are a medium not a genre

I thought this post was apt as Saturday 3rd May is Free Comic Book Day. A date where shops order a quantity of special comics which they then give away free. It generates a lot of business for them and it attracts a lot of people, some of whom will hopefully be new readers. So if you’ve not tried comics before, now is the time to try.  Also if you’re not convinced about comics, keep reading.

Comics are a medium not a genre. I’ve said it many times already and no doubt I will continue to say it many more times in the future. For those who don’t read comics, for those who’ve only become aware of them via other media, in particular films, it can seem like comics are just superheroes. But it’s worth repeating, comics are a medium, not a genre.

During the last fifteen years or so, comic book movies have gone from those that don’t appear to be based on comic books at all, such as Blade, Road to Perdition, A History of Violence, The Losers, RED, right up to billion dollar box office smash hits with larger than life characters in bright costumes, like The Avengers, Nolan’s Batman trilogy and the X-Men franchise. It’s a wonderful and amazing time to be a comic book fan as now we can enjoy seeing these characters all over the world, and watch as people discover them for the first time. The films might even attract a few new readers to the comic book medium, but sometimes there’s still that moment of surprise that comics are more than superheroes.

If you walk into a bookshop, a Waterstones in the UK, or Barnes and Noble in the USA, you wouldn’t expect every title on the shelf to just be crime, or history books, or biographies. It’s exactly the same with comics. For every single genre you can think of, and many you’ve probably never considered before as they mash-up different elements, there is a comic book. Superheroes dominate the US and UK comic book market, and I have a theory about why this is which I will come back to, but in other countries superheroes are seen as just one of many genres, not the main focus.

Comics are an important medium. There, I said it. Over the years I’ve heard many stories of how children first learned to read with comics and how it helped create a love of stories and reading in general. That has to be something that is cherished and encouraged. We all start out with picture books as very small children with only a few words, which then progresses to fiction and non-fiction for school work. But comics are not a poor man’s novel, it is a unique medium which I’ll address in a bit.

Comics can and have been used to tell some of the most important stories in modern history. Art Spiegelman chronicled the experiences of his father, a Polish Jew, during the Holocaust and his life at Auschwitz. It is one of the most moving stories I’ve ever read and in 1992 it was the first comic book to win a Pulitzer Prize. Yes, THE Pulitzer Prize for an outstanding work of journalism or literature. Only last year Top Shelf Comics published March, a graphic novel memoir about US Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis who has been fighting for equality for over 50 years. March includes his memories of the Civil Rights Movement, including the 1963 March on Washington, and it is his first-hand account of the struggles over the years. It is an important piece of literature that just happens to be in comic book form.

Of course comics don’t have to be about heavy subjects. They can be light fun, entertaining, humorous, silly and entertaining. From coming of age stories, to romance, to horror, to westerns to crime to science fiction and fantasy. I grew up reading superhero comics, but now I read all sorts, such as Saga, an intergalactic space adventure, reminiscent in some ways of Star Wars, or Sixth Gun, a pulpy horror western, or Grandville, an anthropomorphic steampunk crime adventure series. I still read and enjoy superheroes, but like any other medium I don’t just stick to one genre. The possibilities with comics are endless.

Comics are also a unique medium. They’ve existed in one form or another for thousands of years and a creative team on a comic book (writer, penciller, inker, colourist, letterer) can create stories in such a way that it can’t be done in the same way in any other medium. Scott McLeod is a cartoonist and comic book theorist who has written several non-fiction graphic novels about this that detail different aspects of comics, from their ancient history to their rapid evolution. He breaks down and explains some of the elements that make comics unique and a remarkable medium. Understanding Comics is the first of his books and the best place to start if you’re interested, then he moved on to Reinventing Comics which looked at how much comics had changed since he first started writing Understanding Comics. The medium is also constantly evolving and being reimagined by creative people who even now do things on the page that I’ve never seen before.

Going back in time a little, and focusing on the American market, comic books in multiple genres used to be common. During the 1970s, Marvel published among other things horror, western, war, martial arts, and humour comics. These days both Marvel and DC, the two biggest publishers in the US market are synonymous with superhero comics. They do a little in other genres, but superheroes are their bread and butter. They feed into all of the other areas, from film and TV to computer games, merchandise, toys and even clothing. But it all comes back to those iconic heroes. So why are we still obsessed with them?

I have a theory, and it’s not an original one, so I’m not claiming I came up with it first, but of the many ideas I’ve heard it seems the most plausible to me. Superhero comic books are the equivalent of modern myths and legends. I grew up reading the likes of Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, Greek and Roman myths and legends, folk tales from all around the world in fact, and these parables and mythological stories are being replicated in comics. They are the ongoing adventures of larger than life characters. Some superhero characters are direct figures from mythology in modern day, such as Thor and Hercules, some are obvious analogues such as The Flash as Mercury, Aquaman as Poseidon. Some are not as clear cut and they represent ideals such as Hope, Justice and Equality, but these basic principles, wrapped up in an interesting character never go out of fashion. There are other reasons we love superheroes, but I believe this is a key element.

I realise that getting into comics can be difficult and intimidating. But this weekend is the perfect opportunity to try if you’ve not done so before. If you have a local comic shop go along and talk to the person behind the counter. Tell them the kind of genres that interest you, the type of stories you like, even the type of TV shows and books you read. They’ll be able to point you in the direction of a few different places to start. Getting into superhero comics can be difficult, with over 75 years of character history in some cases, but there again they can give you some good jumping on points. If you don’t have a local shop, then I’m happy to make suggestions myself. So tell me what kind of stories you enjoy, in any medium, and I’ll try to pair you up with some comics to suit your interests. There’s a lot going on in comics and if you’re reading them then you are missing out on some amazing stories.

 

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