Yup, it’s that time of year again! Strongman athletes from around the world join together to battle it out to become the WORLD’S STRONGEST MAN!!! The official tournament begins tonight (Sunday 27th December 2015), but a week ago we also had the UK’s Strongest Man and Giants Live qualifying events. Since I was still working my night shift job at the time, I didn’t have the chance to do blog posts on each one, so this year I’ll stick to daily posts on the main tournament, and have this post to talk a little about the other events without going into too much detail. Well, let’s jump right in, shall we?
I’ll start off with the UK’s Strongest Man, since it happened first. Not much to say here beyond the fact that once again Eddie Hall won, making it 5 years in a row for him. And as usual, absolutely NOBODY came remotely close to dethroning him. Yes, Eddie does live up to the “BEAST” nickname, but in all honesty the rest of the competitors in the UK’s Strongest Man are very rarely anyone of actual note, certainly compared to the Britain’s Strongest Man event. Still, can’t take anything away from Eddie who was still able to make everything look easy because he IS that good. With Terry Hollands officially retired now, and Laurence Shaleigh seemingly injured (at least, I think he is…), Eddie is definitely THE British competitor now and genuinely has a shot imo at a podium finish this year and could very well be the first Britain to win WSM since Gary Taylor in… 1992? Something like that, anyway.
Aside from just the UK’s Strongest Man, the group that puts that show together also does a Tag Team and Masters tournament. Tag Team features strongmen teaming up (usually representing their country, but not always) to participate in unique events designed around 2 men, and it’s really fun. We get a nice mix here of lesser known strongmen and more established strongmen, and it’s interesting to see them compete against each other, something we rarely see in the normal WSM shows. The three big teams here though were Team Viking (THOR & Matjaz Belsak) Team Yankees (Mike Burke & Jerry Pritchett), and Team Saxon (Eddie Hall & Mark Felix). All 3 teams had great performances, but it was Team Viking that came out on top, pretty much solely for THOR who honestly could have been on his own. Team Saxon got a very respectable second place, beating out Team Yankees who came third.
And finally from the same group, we got the Masters championship, featuring Strongman athletes from around the world at 40+. Most of them are guys who got into strongman late, but we did have a couple of known names in there, mainly Mark Felix of England who was the second oldest man competing at 49 years old, but oh boy did he not look it. He DOMINATED the competition, coming in 1st place for 4 events, and 2nd place in the other 2. Between this and the Tag Team competition, Felix is looking to be in better shape than EVER, despite his age!
Moving on now, we had the Giants Live qualifier shows, where each event grants the top 3 men a place in the World’s Strongest Man tournament. The first of these shows took place in Sweden, with hometown hero Johannes Arsjo doing his best to not let down his country. However former 2 time winner of the WSM Brian Shaw was also competing, and this whole qualifier was a battle between those two men. In the end it was Brian Shaw who picked up the win, showing everyone why he is a former 2 time winner, with Arsjo having to settle for second place, but showing the world that he is in better shape than ever. Also worth noting from this event was Adam Bishop of Britain who came in 4th, only 2 points short of 3rd place. He looked great and could be a good prospect for the future!
The next Giants Live qualifier took place in Doncaster (which is very near to me, and every year I miss it!), and would host not only Britain’s Strongest Man, but ALSO the World Log Lifting Challenge! Big Z, the current WSM and quite possibly the GREATEST Strongman of all time, came over to compete in this event to see if he could a) hold on to his record and b) possibly BREAK his own record of 227kg! The challenge gets down to 4 men; Big Z, Eddie Hall, Graham Hicks and Dimitar Savatinov as we get into the 200+ kg range!!! Dimitar gets 200kg and goes no further, while Eddie and Graham each lift 211kg to make a NEW British record, and gives them joint first with Big Z who manages 211kg, but skips a 220kg attempt (which both Eddie and Graham failed), jumping to 228kg in an attempt to break his own world record, but fails. Great showing from Eddie and Graham!!! After that, the Giants Live show continues as not only do we have a qualifying spot on the line for the top 3, but also Britain’s Strongest Man on the line! Eddie Hall once again shows why he is called the BEAST, but picking up Britain’s Strongest Man title once again AND coming in 1st place for this Giant’s Live event. Mark Felix though once again showed that he is in the best shape of his life, coming in third place overall for a qualifying spot and taking 2nd place in Britain’s Strongest Man. Krzysztof Radzikowski of Poland took 2nd place for a qualifying spot, but being Polish obviously meant he was not competing in the Britain’s Strongest Man competition.
Iceland would play host for the third Giant’s Live qualifier, and THOR is out to prove once again that he is the best VIKING in the world right now and could very well be the next Viking champion, following in the footsteps of 2 all time great Jon Pall Sigmerson and Magnus Ver Magnuson. As you would expect, THOR took 1st place in impressive fashion, though it did take him a few events to really kick into high gear and start winning. Second place went to none other than MARK FELIX who once again looked incredible. It’s truly amazing how, at 49 years of age, he’s having perhaps his best year ever in Strongman. I cannot wait to see how he does in the main World’s Strongest Man competition!!!
Europe’s Strongest Man in Leeds was the next Giant’s Live show, and like last year, it starts off with the Dead Lift Challenge! Last year we got a new world record, followed by Eddie Hall matching the record but dropping the bar instead of controlling it to the floor, meaning his lift didn’t count! Since then, Eddie has gone on to break the record in front of none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger!!! Can he keep hold of his record this year, and can he maybe even break it? Well… yes. Yes he can! 463kg is the NEW Dead Lift World Record! Second place with 450kg was THOR, who has improved IMMENSELY in this event and definitely had to be commended. Terry Hollands made a guest showing here, coming out of retirement for the event to replace and injured athlete. Unfortunately, having been out for a year, he wasn’t on good form and didn’t perform well, but it was great to see him again. After the Dead Life Challenge, we continued on with Europe’s Strongest Man! Like last year, the Dead Lift took it out of a few men, including once again Eddie Hall, forcing him and others to retire from the competition this year. Real shame as I think Eddie could have given THOR a run for his money. Of course it was THOR who won yet again, with Krzysztof Radzikowski having another great competition coming in second place. Third place was a joint win for Dainis Zageris of Latvia… and England’s MARK FELIX who continues his roll!
And later tonight we get the first Heat for the World’s Strongest Man!!! Super excited for it this year! Big Z is back defending his title, but will age have finally caught up to the greatest strongman ever? Can Brian Shaw finally get back on top? Will THOR improve on his second place finish from last year and finally bring the title back to Iceland? And will Eddie Hall and Mark Felix represent England in a way we haven’t seen since the 90’s? Right now I’d put good money on all those men taking the top 5 spots overall, but of course anything could happen!