Tag Archives: Zydrunas Savickas

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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Thoughts on World’s Strongest Man 2013

As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts I’m a big fan of strongman events, and in particular the World’s Strongest Man. It’s the only sport I’m actively interested in (although I do enjoy the Olympics and have a passing interesting in Wimbledon) and it’s a sport I’ve followed for about the last 30 years. Ever since I was knee high to Geoff Capes and he came to our town for an event. I wanted to grow up to be just as tall and him, and some wishes do come true, because I did.

For about 350 days of the year I have to endure endless talk in almost all areas of my life about Football (huge yawn), Cricket, Snooker, Formula 1 (dullest thing ever), Rugby (I do enjoy watching the occasional game) and countless other sports that don’t interest me. So, now it’s my turn to probably bore you as I talk about the 2013 final of the World’s Strongest Man.

Derek Poundstone

Derek Poundstone

This year the event was held in Sanya in China. It was filmed in August I think, but we don’t get it on TV until December. It’s been this way for years, so I don’t complain, and quite frankly I’m just glad it’s on TV these days and is easy to find. The competition is always held in an interesting and exotic location which brings its own challenges. Sanya is by the sea, but it’s incredibly hot and wet. I don’t think any of the competitors in the final come from that kind of climate. Even the west coast Americans were struggling as they’re used to a hot and sometimes arid heat, so every athlete was constantly struggling to stay hydrated. As if the competition and the heavy weights weren’t tough enough already.

Strongman events are becoming more popular every year. When I was a boy there weren’t many and they were difficult to find. Now there are several events in the UK throughout the year and in the run up to the final. The regional qualifier events, whereby the top 2 or 3 athletes qualify for WSM, are also being shown on TV, which is great too. So first there are the qualifiers, whereby it comes down to the top 50 strongmen in the world, and then 5 heats, where the top 2 from each going through to the final, knocking it down to 10 competitors.

Mark Felix

Mark Felix

A quick note on the athletes. Despite the growing popularity of the sport, the majority of athletes work full time in normal jobs and train for strongman events in their own time, weekends and evenings, away from their families. These men are dedicated far beyond most athletes (I’m looking at you football), who earn hideous amounts of money for, in my opinion, doing very little. I respect strongmen far more than them, who just keep going, despite injuries and they do it for the love of the sport. Some athletes are sponsored by companies and are able to dedicate themselves to their training, but they’re very much in the minority. Derek Poundstone (shown above) from America is a police officer in Connecticut, Lloyd Renals is a NHS physio therapist, Krzysztof Radzikowski from Poland is a high school PE teacher, Mark Felix is a plasterer. These are ordinary guys who can do something extraordinary. They are real world supermen who can pull trucks and planes.

Zydrunas Savickas

Zydrunas Savickas at Europe’s Strongest Man 2012 in Leeds

This year, the WSM final, was probably one of the most interesting and the winner came down to the last event and the last second. If you don’t want to know who won, then skip the rest. For three out of the last four years, Zydrunas Savickas, or Big Z as he’s known, has won the title of World’s Strongest Man. He’s a monster of a man from Lithuania who has broken a lot of world records and his power is utterly astonishing which has made him a legend in the sport. In 2011, Brian Shaw from the USA, a tall and athletic strongman managed to beat Big Z. He took back the title in 2012, but this year the top two spots were dominated by these big men. Shaw broke a world record in the deadlift event in order to beat Big Z in one event and yet he struggled with the overhead medley which Big Z won. They continued this back and forth until it all came down to the final event, the Atlas Stones, which epitomises strongmen competitions. Brian Shaw led on points overall, but it was down to who was the fastest and this year Shaw won. Looking back I think his overall performance was stronger than Big Z and perhaps Shaw was hungrier because he lost the title in 2012. Despite a problem with one arm, he seemed stronger and fitter than ever before. Of course this only increases the pressure on Big Z to push himself even harder next year to try and reclaim the title, or we might see Shaw win his third title, and equal Big Z in the number of WSM wins.

Mike Jenkins

Mike Jenkins

The other athletes were remarkable, in particular Mike Jenkins who seemed to be getting stronger and stronger, and Mike Burke, a relative newcomer, and a very affable and down to earth American who I like very much. Most people, when asked, do you think you can win, will say yes. Burke was incredibly modest and said no, not yet, maybe one day. His goal was to be in the top 5 spots and he achieved it. Hafthor Bjornsson was much leaner and 20kg lighter this year after coming third last year, and again this year his performance earned him the same spot. But he was only one point ahead of Jenkins. Unfortunately this year the event was touched with tragedy, as Mike Jenkins passed away in November. I knew this going in to watch the heats and final, so it was gut-wrenching to see him doing so well and end up as one of the top 5 strongmen in the world in 2013. I was also very disappointed to see Terry Holland suffer with some back problems in the final. Until then he’d been doing very well, beating Big Z in one event and coming only a second behind Shaw in another. He, Laurence Shahlaei , Mark Felix and newcomer Eddie Hall were England’s best hopes for 2013, but sadly only Terry made it to the final ten.

There are a lot of new names and faces coming into the sport, big young men who are incredibly strong and very driven. We’re now on the cusp of some of the older guys stepping down and yet I really relish seeing someone like the American Nick Best showing some of the younger guys how it’s done and beating them with strength, grit, and willpower. He and Derek Poundstone qualified for the WSM heats this year in their regional event.

I don’t like the football, but I can understand the passion. Recently someone heard me talking about strongman events and WSM for the first time, and she was amazed at my enthusiasm and the way I rattled off the names and achievements. But then again, after so many years of watching, and more recently attending events, I do know a thing or two. WSM was brilliant in 2013 and going forward things are only going to get tougher and more exciting. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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