2 down and 3 to go! Only 6 spots remain for the WSM Final, and we already have some HUGE names that have qualified, including THOR and Brian Shaw! So who are the men vying for the next 2 places?
- Dennis Kohlruss (Germany) – 2ns place Germany’s Strongest Man 2017
- Luke Stoltman (Scotland) – 5x Scotland’s Strongest Man
- Robert Oberst (USA) – 5th WSM appearance
- Brian Benzel (USA) – 2nd WSM appearance
- Graham Hicks (England) – 2nd place Britain’s Strongest Man 2018
- Zydrunas Zavickas (Lithuania) – 4x World’s Strongest Man 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014
The man on paper to watch out for is of course Zydrunas Savickas. He is a 4 time champion, and a 10 time podium finisher. However, at 42 years old and some very bad injuries over the last few years, Big Z’s time might finally be up. Graham Hicks, the 2nd best Brit right now, is definitely a contender, and the American Robert Oberst is always one to watch out for. Iron Biby, an incredible presser and a popular newcomer, has had to withdraw from the competition due to health issues. Bryan Benzel will replace him.
Event 1 – Load & Carry
150KG sacks, 150KG Farmer’s Walk. 12m course. Load, then carry. You know the deal already! Stoltman leads the way for the first heat here, with Oberst catching him up and overtaking him in the Farmer’s Walk when Stoltman drops the weights and has to pick them up again. Despite his age, Big Z is the man off to the faster start, but Benzel is keeping pace with him and it’ll all come down to the Farmer’s Walk. Benzel is able to take first place ahead of the 4 time champion, with Z finishing in 3rd overall. Hicks is unable to finish the Farmer’s Walk section of this event.
Event 2 – Kettlebell Toss
8 massive kettlebells have to be thrown over a 4.75m bar in the quickest time possible! Already gone so far are Benzel, Kohlruss and Hicks, with Hicks currently leading the way with 5 in the quickest time. Z and Oberst could do very well in this event, and Stoltman certainly has the height to give this one a good go. First up then is Oberst, and while he throws the first kettlebell way into the air, he DOESN’T get it over the bar. That extra throw might cost him good points here and he’ll run out of energy fairly quickly. If he can do at least 6 he’ll finish ahead of everyone else so far. Yes! That 6th is over and he runs out of time to do any more. Big Z now, and he’ll have to hope he does better here than he typically does when its a barrel throwing event. He misses the second and third kettlebells at first, and seems to be very stuck atm. He runs out of time with only 4, currently placing him in 5th. One of his worst performances ever, sadly. Can Stoltman come in and make this event look easy now? So far he’s getting them over straight away, and he gets 6 over in a faster time than Oberst for 1st place, but he gives the 7th a go anyway. Great result for him!
Event 3 – Squat Lift
7 squat reps, with each rep going up in weight. 270KG at the start to 360KG at the end! For some reason time doesn’t matter any more, so its all about reps. Oh wait, only the final rep is timed. Ok. 3 men have been and gone, with Benzel currently in 1st, getting all 7 reps done! Big Z is the first man we see, and he used to be one of the best in the world at this event and many others. Can he still pull out a great performance in 2018? Yes he can! All 7 in 33.10 seconds and he looked comfortable all the way! Nice to see he CAN still have events like this. Now for Graham Hicks who stands a chance of beating Z, and he definitely has speed on his side. And he does! 31.43 seconds and Hicks moves into first! Only Stoltman left, and I doubt he’ll worry either Big Z or Hicks, but he could get all 7 up in a decent time for 3rd. He was on track for a very fast time, but couldn’t get the 7th rep done.
3 events down and 3 to go. Lets see who places where over all so far!
Well, this is definitely one of the more interesting heats in a while! 4 men tied for 1st place, and Big Z down in 5th but still only 2 points behind! Kohlruss probably isn’t going to make a charge from here, but as it stands, any of the other 5 men are in with a chance to go into the final, and even avoid the 6th event!
Event 4 – Bus Pull
A massive bus weighing 13 tonnes. No arm over arm here, its classic pulling instead! Hicks, Kohlruss and Benzel have all been, with Benzel leading the way with just over 41 seconds. Hicks is in last so far which is not a good result for him. We join the action with Oberst, and he’s a massive man who should be great at this event. He slips a little at the end, but 39.46 seconds is good enough for current 1st! Luke Stoltman goes next, but misses ou on Oberst’s time and even Benzel’s. Lastly is Big Z, a man known for being a tremendous puller be it truck, plane or bus. He needs to take 1st here to make up for the last place in the kettlebell event. He’s going really well and takes 1st with a time of 37.28 seconds! Just what he needed!
Event 5 – Overhead Press
Hicks is one of the best pressers in the world. Oberst is one of the best pressers in the world. Zydrunas USED to be THE best presser on the planet. However, after his neck/shoulder injuries a couple of years ago, his immense pressing power just hasn’t been the same. He still needs to pull out a big performance to make it to the final with everyone else being so close. The log they’ll be lifting is 160KG, and they have 60 seconds to get as many reps as possible. Graham Hicks goes first, head to head with Dennis Kohlruss. Hicks is in 5th place right now, so like everyone else he needs as many reps as possible. Luckily for him this is one of, if not his best event. He gets 6 reps, then when going for a 7th, he falls over and looks to be hurt. Not good, I just hope it was nothing serious. Kohlruss finishes with 5. Now for Stoltman against Benzel, and I couldn’t call this one. The 4th rep from Stoltman looks difficult, and I don’t see him doing another, but he proves me wrong! Benzel is stuck on 4, while Stoltman squeezes out a 6th rep right before time is up! That was a fantastic performance! And now, we have Oberst against Big Z. Its make or break for the 4 time champion. Big Z gets off to a good start, while Oberst makes a mistake and drops the log before the referee gives him the lift, forcing him to do his 1st rep all over again. 20 seconds to go and Z is on 6, so he just needs one more to take the lead, but instead he gets 2 more! 8 reps and another event win, and Big Z is back in the game for sure! Oberst had a hard time here, and that might cost him.
Great result from Big Z. Hicks, Oberst and Stoltman all equal in 2nd place confuses the hell out of me and my basic maths skills, so lets check the overall scores to see just who is where going into the final event!
Big Z officially enters into the WSM Final, and perhaps to the surprise of many, Stoltman finishes ahead of Hicks, leaving him and Oberst to battle it out for the qualifying spot!
Event 6 – Atlas Stones
Stoltman and Oberst are big men, and both are well suited to this event. If I had to pick a winner, I’d probably pick Oberst, but Stoltman has been surprising me throughout this heat and wouldn’t be an upset if he wins. A slip from Oberst allows Stoltman to take the lead with the first 2 stones, but he quickly catches up, and it all comes down to this final stone! Oberst gets it up and qualifies for the WSM Final, while Stoltman can do nothing but look on. Next year, he absolutely should be considered a favourite to make it into the final based on his performance here!
So there we have it. Big Z and Robert Oberst are in the final. Stoltman can be very proud of his performance here, and could do well in the next couple of years if he can avoid any injuries.