While I’m not too fond of Christmas these days, one thing I always look forward to in December is the World’s Strongest Man competition! Strongmen from around the world come together to compete in various events to determine just who is the World’s Strongest Man. I’ve been watching this yearly event since I was a kid, with memories of Magnus Samuelson winning in 1998 and me and my brother cheered him on with our own “Magnus Samuelson” chant, where he would shout Magnus and I would shout Samuelson! Over the years the competition has grown, with the athletes getting bigger, better and stronger each year, and the events getting harder. And all of that makes for one hell of a show!
Now, before we get to the final, where the 10 strongest men in the world compete for the title, we need to get through the qualifiers! We didn’t get these on TV until recent years, so having them shown now is great for me. Before, we’d simply get the top 30 guys competing in heats, with 10 men going through into the final. Now we get these “Giants Live” qualifying events, each taking place in different parts of the world, with qualifying spots up for grabs for the top 2 or 3 guys! Of course this isn’t the ONLY method of qualification, as there are tons of strongman events that take place all over the world all year round, but it’s still better than nothing!
So here we are at the Fitexpo in Melbourne Australia for the first Giants Live qualifier of 2014! Let’s take a quick look at the competitors!
Rob Frampton – England (2 x World’s Strongest Man Competitor)
Jeremy Hogg – New Zealand (New Zealand’s Number One)
Eben Le Roux – Australia (WSM Competitor in 2011)
Benedikt Magnusson – Iceland (WPO World Record holder in Deadlift)
Gerhard Van Staden – South Africa (WSM Competitor 2013)
Warrick Brant – Australia (2 x World’s Strongest Man Competitor, Australia’s Strongest Man)
Joel McLeod – Australia (Western Australia’s Strongest Man)
Mark Van Der Haer – South Africa (3rd at South Africa’s Strongest Man)
Frankie Scheun – South Africa (2 x Southern Hemisphere’s Strongest Man)
Hafthor Bjornsson – Iceland (3rd at World’s Strongest Man 2012 and 2013, plays The Mountain on Game of Thrones)
I do know the majority of the guys competing here, however honestly, none of them are particularly noteworthy beyond Hafthor “THOR” Bjornsson, who has taken 3rd place overall in the last 2 years at WSM, plays The Mountain in Game of Thrones, and is truly a giant strongman, who in my opinion will be #1 within the next few years. He’s certainly the man to beat in Melbourne, and I doubt anyone is going to do it.
EVENT 1 – FARMERS WALK
150kg x 2 weights that must be picked up and carried 45m!
This event is usually a very difficult event for newer/less experienced strongmen, and today proves that point as few of the competitors are unable to even finish the course. However as we get to the more experienced athletes, the course doesn’t seem quite as bad, but don’t let that fool you! It doesn’t mean the other guys aren’t any good, it just means the ones who finished the course are THAT good! Disappointment for England’s Rob Frampton who didn’t manage to finish the course, as he ran out of time right at the end. I always like to cheer on fellow Englishmen in these events, but realistically Rob Frampton has never been one of the top English competitors so I wouldn’t have expected a fast time from him anyway. A shocker in the first event as THOR actually only comes in second place, beaten out by Gerhard Van Staden of South Africa, albeit by a few hundredths of a second!
A good start for Van Staden, but you have to believe that THOR will bounce back and claim first place in the end! At least, I think he will! Also, I just noticed an 11th name there, Same Pennell. He wasn’t announced at the start of the show so… no idea lol.
EVENT 2 – DEADLIFT
330kg bar to start, weights increase, last man standing event.
The world record is 442.5kg, set by Brian Shaw last year in the World’s Strongest Man final! Benedikt Magnusson is said to be one of the best ever in Deadlift, and says he will break the record if pushed to it! Some impressive lifts here as a number of guys reach personal bests with 400kg lifts, and even an Australian record too! THOR makes 400kg look fairly easy, which is super impressive as the Deadlift tends to be a smaller man’s event, as they don’t have to lift the bar as far up as the bigger man, and THOR is the biggest strongman right now.Magnusson was still impressive at 420kg and looked good for more, while most others were beaten at the weight. THOR continues to impress as he managed 420kg too, but wasn’t as comfortable as his fellow Icelander. They go straight from 420kg to 445kg, which will be a NEW WORLD RECORD if someone can successfully lift it. Magnusson is up first and…
We have ourselves a new world record in the Deadlift! And this is just the qualifiers!!! Brian Shaw looks to have some serious competition in this event, I only hope Magnusson can qualify and give us the chance to see the two men go head to head! THOR bows out at this weight, despite claiming he thinks he could do it if he tried. Sometimes though, it’s best to save energy for other events, and another second place for THOR keeps him in good points.
After the first two events, this is how the leader board is shaping up:
EVENT 3 – CAR WALK
Lift and walk a car 25m!
We go from an event favouring the smaller man to one favouring the bigger man, as one of the key elements of this event is keeping the car balanced while you walk with it. Taller men are able to lift it higher off the ground, preventing it from potentially hitting the floor and slowing them down or putting them more off balance. Of course it doesn’t guarantee the bigger men the best places, but certainly gives them the advantage going in! Rob Frampton comes into this event in 8th place overall, and manages to shatter the current leading time by over 14 seconds! His most impressive showing so far in this competition, and that’s followed up by a horrible run by Van Standen who didn’t get the balance right and ended up going off course and having to drop it, reposition it and pick it back up. THOR is up last, and despite being the favourite here, still only comes in second place, leaving England’s Rob Frampton with his first 1st place finish so far!
Another second place for THOR keeps him in first, 5 points ahead of Brant in second place. The first place win for Rob Frampton moves him up into 6th place, and isn’t far from a potential top 3 place if he can continue his good performance!
EVENT 4 – LOG LIFT
140kg weight for repetitions with a 60 second time limit.
140kg isn’t much for these guys, but for me? I’m currently lifting 23kg for reps lol! Ok, I usually do 100-200 reps in a day, but still, I’m not sure I could manage ONE 140kg rep right now! Unfortunately Marc Van Der Haer had to retire from the competition with an injury during this event, leaving us with 10 men now, though apparently only 9 of them count as Sam Pennell still seems to be completely ignored. The best result so far is 6 reps, and we are left with the mighty THOR and England’s Rob Frampton! Rob is confident here, while THOR is at a disadvantage being so tall. However he is HUGELY powerful and that might just balance out the height issues! Rob is having problems with the grip, while THOR easily gets to 6 with 15 seconds left, and show boats to the crowd before getting a 7th lift for his first event win!
After 4 events now, THOR is still firmly in first place, and poor Rob Frampton’s relatively poor performance in the last event puts him further away from a top 3 position with the points, despite remaining in 6th place.
EVENT 5 – STONE TO SHOULDER
Lift a 142kg Atlas Stone from the floor to your shoulder as many times as possible in 60 seconds!
A difficult event due to the size of the stone, making it difficult to grip and then hold on the shoulder for a rep. Usually the athletes lift these stones onto a platform, so taking it up further and holding it on your shoulder isn’t the easiest of tasks! Rob Frampton again disappoints with only 3 reps, while Frankie Scheun takes the lead early on with an impressive 7 reps! Oh my, Warrick Brant made a BIG mistake on his first attempt, as it rolled up OVER his shoulder and back to the floor! However he does comeback from that with 6 reps, tying for second place so far. Had he not made that mistake, he probably could have taken the lead, which is a huge shame for him. THOR is last, and yes, he IS good at this event. Even though he has to lift it up higher than anyone else, his huge arms allow him to easily hold the Stone in position. With 10 seconds left he’s on 7, and easily reaches 8 for another win! Impressive as hell!
With just one event left, THOR is 9 points ahead of his nearest rival, while poor Rob Frampton moves down into 7th place. Brant and Scheun look to take the other two qualifying positions, though theoretically Van Staden could be in with a chance if he does extremely well in the final event and Scheun makes a big mistake.
EVENT 6 – MEDLEY RACE
3 kegs at 127kg, 100kg log and 115kg log all must be carried down a short course and loaded onto a platform in 75 seconds!
The final event, and certainly a difficult one. Strength and endurance are key here. The weights are nothing for these guys, but having to run down a course with multiple implements will drain their energy quickly, and the logs are very wide, making them difficult to carry, especially for the smaller guys. Frankie Scheun almost finishes all 5, but runs out of time on the last log. THOR and Brant are up last, and you just know THOR is going to blast through everything here! He’s tall, he’s strong, and he’s in incredible shape. Brant needs to beat Scheun or at least be only 1 place behind in order to maintain his second place AND win the Southern Hemisphere title! THOR finishes the event in under a minute, and while Brant misses out on getting the last log up, he ends up only being 1 place being Scheun and remains in second place and does indeed get that SH title!
So here are the overall results after all 6 events!
No doubt in anyone’s mind that Hafthor Bjornsson would take the win here. He was impressive throughout, despite not winning every event like was probably expected. However he did take 3 second places and then 3 first places, getting stronger as the competition went on. Plus, I have a feeling that perhaps he wasn’t giving it 100% the entire time. A heavy favourite, and in a class above the majority of the other strongmen in the event, he had to know he was qualifying no matter what, and it would make sense for him to hold back here and not waste too much energy and risk potential injury when it isn’t even the finals. I’ve seen many guys do that before in the past and it’s definitely a wise decision if that was indeed what THOR was doing here. Brant and Scheun were both impressive in their own right too, despite seemingly being overshadowed by Bjornsson. Brant took the Southern Hemisphere title by just half a point over Frankie, but there is always a chance for Frankie to out-do Brant later on in the main World’s Strongest Man competition! Finally, how impressive was Magnusson? Moving from Power Lifting into Strong Man will take a little time for him to adjust, but he got a very respectable 6th place ahead of a couple of veterans, and made history by breaking the World Record in the Deadlift, previously help by the current 2013 World’s Strongest Man Brian Shaw!
For people in the UK (not sure about worldwide), this episode can be watched online for up to 1 year! http://www.channel5.com/shows/worlds-strongest-man-2014/episodes/australia-fitexpo-melbourne-qualifier