Tag Archives: wsm results

World’s Strongest Man 2015

Below are my thoughts on the Heats and then the Final for this year’s World’s Strongest Man competition, so stop reading if you want to avoid spoilers.

The Heats

This year the heats were dominated not by any one person but something far worse. Injuries. I think on some level I’ve become quite blasé about some of the impossible feats that the athletes perform. I see them lifting huge lumps of wood, stone and metal. I hear the numbers and comparisons (5 people, 2 fridges, six cows) and I’ve stopped actually thinking about the reality of that. The fifty or so men who compete are the strongest in the world. That’s out of 7 billion people. Just think about that. You can compare the skills of other athletes and debate their ranking, one footballer against another, but it’s all opinion and up for discussion. There’s no debate here. One is just stronger than another. It’s black and white.

What they do is superhuman. 99.9% of the population cannot do it. Even those guys and girls you sometimes see in the gym who are ripped – they can’t do it. They’re just not strong enough. Also during the heats there were a couple of segments this year where they spoke to one of the doctors. In it he said, their muscles can take it, because they’re very big guys who train to do this all year, but their tendons cannot, and they tear or just rip off the bone. Just writing that makes me feel slightly sick. This is not a sport that most people can do and reach the top.

Injured competitors this year included Graham Hicks, Benny Magnusson, Mateusz Baron and one of my favourites, Laurence Shahlaei. Big Loz looked to be in good health and he was all fired up but then he tore a bicep. Hopefully all of them will be back next year, fit and healthy.

Heat Winners

There were a couple of heats where I wasn’t surprised by the winner. Big Z,  Brian Shaw and Thor all dominated their heats. The timeless Mark Felix proved why he is still one of the best in the world as not only did he win his heat, but he performed a remarkable feat on the deadlift. He remains the best in the world at it and he can beat everyone from Big Z to Brian Shaw. He is just that good. Jerry Pritchett from the USA did exceptionally well as did JF Caron from Canada, earning themselves a spot in the final ten. The real surprises for me were Mikhail Shivlyakov and Matjas Belsak. The smiling Russian is fairly slight compared to some of them but he proved to be an incredibly tough competitor. Equally Belsak is a young man and already he is extremely strong, standing toe to toe with some of the veterans. They’re both worth watching in the future.

Mike Burke and Eddie Hall both did themselves proud to get through, although I was disappointed to hear Burke announce this is his final year competing. I can understand why but I always enjoy watching him compete so I’ll miss him next year.

The Final

Given the very close result last year, this year they made the Atlas Stones count for double points. It makes sense as last time it came down to half points and seconds. As it happens, this year it was not too different, both in terms of the final result and the difference between the top 3 men on the podium. Looking beyond the top 3 for a minute, I think Eddie Hall did himself proud coming in 4th, as he has focused himself 100% on WSM. He’s been able to give up his day job and just train. It’s really paid off as one of his worst events, the Atlas Stones, turned out to be one of the best for him this time. He’s stronger and more athletic, which is so critical as there are always loading or carrying events. So there’s always a balance between static strength and being fast and strong at the same time.

This year’s winner was Brian Shaw. I think it came down to him being hungrier than Big Z. Despite him being the heaviest competitor Shaw is also one of the most athletic. He really does have the whole package and while there are some areas Big Z will probably always dominate where he has world records, like the Log Press, Shaw is no slouch. He did incredibly well on the deadlift and the weights they were all lifting this year were very impressive.

Thor was on fire this year and in the end he was only half a point behind Big Z to get 3rd place again. None of the top 3 are slowing down and I’m really not sure what is going to change over the next few years unless one of them suddenly retires, which seems unlikely. They are all so close, the only upset I can see is if Thor somehow trains like a madman and becomes just so strong he knocks one of the other two into 3rd place.

I couldn’t call the result for 2015 and I’m not sure what is going to happen for the 2016 results. The competition is as fierce and exciting as I’ve ever seen it and after all this time I still love watching it and look forward to it every Christmas and New Year. Now all I have to do is try to avoid the results for 5-8 months of the year again so I can watch it at Christmas this year without any spoilers.

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World’s Strongest Man 2014 – The Final

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.

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