World’s Strongest Man 2021 – Heat 1

Heat 1

The qualifiers are out of the way, and now its time for the best of the best to compete against each other in 5 Heats to determine who the 10 best are. And then those 10 face off in the finals to decide who is the WORLD’S STRONGEST MAN!!!

Competing in this heat are:

  • Brian Shaw – 4x World’s Strongest Man
  • Aivars Smaukstelis – 8th Place WSM 2020
  • Travis Ortmayer – First appearance in 10 years
  • Maxime Boudreault – Competed in WSM 2020
  • Gavin Bilton – 2x UK’s Strongest Man

Any Heat with Brian Shaw in basically guarantees he will take one of the two qualifying places. The only question is who joins him. Smaukstelis made it to the finals last year so he will be a favourite. Boudreault and Bilton are probably the least likely to go through, while Ortmayer is a total wild card. He’s been away for 10 years, and after suffering some serious personal issues, he is making his comeback in 2021. His desire to make it to the final once again might be too much for the others to handle, and it could be the two American’s going into the top 10.

Event 1 – Loading Medley

In past years, this event would have favoured Brian Shaw, however in more recent years his excess weight has slowed him down immensely. While I haven’t seen him compete since last year, I do know he was working on losing weight and getting fitter to improve his chances. If he succeeded, I think he’ll run away with this one. Ortmayer was great at these events back in the day too, so looking forward to seeing what he’s capable of in 2021. Kicking us off are Boudreault and Ortmayer. They are neck and neck after 3 implements, so it will all come down to the frame carry. Boudreault sets off first, and despite dropping it a couple of times, he gets over the line while Ortmayer is unable to finish the course. A bad start for him, but he has plenty of events to redeem himself. Smaukstelis and Bilton are the next pairing, and I’d give Bilton the advantage in the loading part due to his size, while Smaukstelis could take him on the frame carry. Smaukstelis was looking to prove me wrong when he dropped the second barrel, allowing Bilton to catch up. Neither man gets very far with the frame at all, showing us just how good Boudreault was, and how Ortmayer wasn’t actually too bad! Brian Shaw is last out, and has to go it alone which just feels odd to me. Not only as I think there should be 6 men in each heat to avoid this in any event, but also because its rare one of the BIG competitors have to go it alone unless they are at the bottom of the scoreboard. Still, going last does give him the advantage of knowing what he needs to do; finishing the frame carry isn’t entirely necessary as just second place will net him decent points and he can make up points in other events if need be. He does finish the course, but not in the fastest time so still just 2nd place.

Event 2 – Squat Lift

Seems we only see the Squat Lift in the main WSM competition these days. A shame because I like seeing it. Oh well. Shaw as usual is a favourite for the event, but he may just do enough for good points again and not go all out. Aivars has been and gone already and managed 10 reps, followed by Bilton who only managed 5 reps. At least he didn’t injure himself like last year. Ortmayer gets his turn as we join the action for the first time. He was last seen doing this event 10 years ago, before getting injured and disappearing. He sadly only manages 3 reps, but like Bilton, doesn’t get injured again so that’s a major positive. Shaw takes his turn next and I’d expect 11 reps and no more from him. In a bit of a surprise, he only gets 10 reps, so now it comes down to Boudreault. Very slow and very steady from him, and I’m not sure he’ll manage 11 reps. In fact, he doesn’t even make 10; he seems to almost black out at 6 reps. That will help Shaw in the overall standings, as well as improve Smaukstelis’ points as he finished last in the previous event.

Event 3 – Fingal’s Fingers

Those 5 giant fingers, all increasing in weight, need to be turned over 180 degrees in the quickest time! Ortmayer is first, and gets 4 in a time of 31.75 seconds, which could end up being a very good result. Bilton and Boudreault are next, both finishing 4 fingers as well, but over 40 seconds each! We join the action with the final 2 men; Shaw and Smaukstelis. Shaw not getting 5 would be a surprise unless he gets 4 in a quicker time than Ortmayer. He certainly manages 4 in a quicker time, but Boudreault is keeping pace with him, forcing the big American to do all 5. They finish 1st and 2nd.

After 3 events, Brian Shaw is on top where we would expect him to be. Ortmayer perhaps not doing as well as he’d have hoped, but simply getting here after 10 years is a massive achievement anyway! Boudreault and Smaukstelis are the ones battling it out for the 2nd qualifying place atm, and while Ortmayer could still take it, I don’t see Bilton being a threat.

Event 4 – Overhead Medley

Another event that favours Brian Shaw, and honestly I don’t know how the rest will do here. Bilton went first, getting all 4 in 49.84 seconds. I honestly wasn’t sure he would have finished all 4, but he did and that’s awesome! We join in on the action with Ortmayer and Boudreault going head-to-head. Boudreault flies through all 4 in a faster time than Bilton, while Ortmayer is struggling on the 2nd implement and cannot manage it. Shaw and Smaukstelis now, and Shaw SHOULD win this one. The real question here is how well Smaukstelis will do. Both are neck and neck until the third object where Smaukstelis actually goes ahead of Shaw, but the final implement is too much for him. Shaw gets the win as expected!

Event 5 – Pickaxe Hold

The penultimate event will be a very difficult one for sure. Boudreault and Smaukstelis will absolutely want to finish in 1st to do whatever they can to make the final along with Brian Shaw. First to take the challenge is Ortmayer. He too will need 1st place to be in with any chance of going into the final event as the 2nd and 3rd place athletes will compete there for a spot in the final. Whoever is 1st overall after this event goes straight through (and its likely going to be Brian Shaw). Ortmayer struggles and drops it at 20.28. Bilton and Smaukstelis are next and both get just over 30 seconds, but its Smaukstelis with the faster time of the two. I believe that basically guarantees Smaukstelis and Boudreault going into the stone-off. Shaw simply needs 1 point aka taking part, and after a few seconds to earn that point he gives up to save energy. Boudreault it seems has to beat Ortmayer and he indeed manages it to go into the final event. Brian Shaw has qualified for his 13th final IN A ROW.

Event 6 – Stone Off

*sigh* I was hoping they would stick to a more traditional Atlas Stones event like they did last year. But no, its some more weird crap. 6 stones, starting at 140KG, to be passed over a bar to the other competitor, similar to how they did it a few years ago but instead of passing 1 stone back and forth until someone can’t do it, they have to do multiple stones? I… I don’t entirely know yet. Just gotta watch and see. Both are going well, passing 4 stones to each other. The 5th stone is 200KG and Smaukstelis manages it easily. Boudreault seems to struggle a little but gets it, as they both move on to the 210KG stone. Smaukstelis gets it, and its up to Boudreault. If he too gets it over, and he does, they have to continue passing THIS stone until one man cannot continue. With less than a SECOND to go, Smaukstelis passes it for a second time, and Boudreault throws it right back with ease. A third pass isn’t a possibility, and its the French Canadian that makes the final!

And the confirmation there for Shaw and Boudreault. Shaw looked good as expected here, but he always saves something for the finals so its a little impossible to predict just how well he’ll do there. Boudreault looked good throughout as well, but honestly I don’t expect a particularly high placing in the final for him. But still, being in the final still makes him one of the TOP 10 strongmen on the planet!

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