Time to find out which 2 Strongmen will join Tom Stoltman, Pavlo Kordiyaka, Luke Stoltman & Oleksii Novikov in the finals!
Graham Hicks – England – World Deadlift Champion 2023
Mitchell Hooper – Canada – Arnold Strongman Classic winner 2023
Mateusz Kieliszkowski – Poland – Multi-time runner up at WSM & ASC
Mathew Ragg – New Zealand – 2nd at World Tour Finals 2023
Spenser Remick – USA
Aivars Smaukstelis – Latvia – 3rd at Europe’s Strongest Man 2023
HE IS BACK. The Terminator of Strongman himself, Mateusz Kieliszkowski! Four years he’s been gone from WSM, with only a couple of competitions in that time due to injures keeping him out. His big return at the ASC earlier in the year saw him place 2nd behind Mitchell Hooper, and apparently he still wasn’t 100% then. If he is 100% now, NOBODY is going to stop him making the finals. Which is bad news for the rest of the group as Mitchell Hooper, the rookie wonder who had an incredible first year as a pro between 2022 and 2023, is also likely to make the finals here. Hicks is big and strong, but I feel he had too many weaknesses that will prevent him making the final this year against this group of athletes. Ragg was very impressive at the WTF… however that actually took place AFTER WSM, so I have no idea what to expect from him here. Smaukstelis placing 3rd at Europe’s earlier in the year was very impressive given the competition, so you can’t forget about him. Spenser Remick has yet to make a real big impact in these big shows, so he’s the least likely imo to even get to the stone off at the end, but I’ve seen bigger upsets over the years to know not to totally rule it out! This could be the most exciting heat yet!
Event 1 – Loading Race
5 implements, all varying distances from the platform, need to be lifted and loaded in the quickest time possible! First up are Smaukstelis, Kieliszkowski and Hooper, and this will be one helluva battle! A big surprise now and Kieliszkowski is making mistakes on the first couple of objects, while Hooper is racing ahead of everyone. Even Smaukstelis is in front of the Polish Terminator, who used to be the best of the best in this type of event. Is it just nerves being back at WSM? Only time will tell. Now its time for Ragg, Hicks and Remick. Ragg is looking on form here, perhaps showing that his performance at the WTF later in the year wasn’t a one off. Remick is about 8 seconds behind, while Hicks runs out of time on the final object. His massive muscles might give him great static strength, but any running event is always a challenge, especially on sand.
Event 2 – Deadlift Machine
6 barrels, loaded one at a time after a rep, making the overall weight go from 280kg to 380kg. Most reps wins! Hooper and Hicks should be wonderful at this, while Kieliszkowski is known to be an awful deadlifter, and having already got off to a bad start, his WSM dreams might end quicker than expected here. Up first then, its Graham Hicks. He absolutely has the power for this event, but how much energy will he have to get as many reps as possible? He is the first man to get 7 reps aka all barrels in the machine, but will that be the winning number against the likes of Hooper? Kieliszkowski is next and manages 4 reps, a good result for him, but bad in this company. Remick went one better with 5 reps. Now to see what Ragg is able to do. 6 strong reps, then a lot of effort into the 7 and… he gets it! Tied with Hicks atm, and that is something to be very proud of. Can Smaukstelis do any better? 5 for him, basically ensuring Kieliszkowski is going to finish last in this event, because Hooper is still to come and I don’t see him doing less than 4 reps. He too gets all 7, then goes for one more to ensure another 1st place finish all on his own!
Event 3 – Log Ladder
5 logs weighing between 125kg and 180kg must be lifted in order in the quickest time possible. This is where Kieliszkowski can gain some points back, as at his best, he could beat anyone in this event. However we also have Hooper and Hicks who are very good at this, and who knows what the rest are capable of! First up its Remick facing off against Kieliszkowski. The first lift looks very good, as does the second. Third looks ok, and the 4th is a bit of a struggle, and he doesn’t really try on the 5th. Remick gets the same, but in a slower time. What used to be his best event, isn’t going to be good enough in this heat imo. Smaukstelis and Hicks go head to head next. Hicks making these look easy, and Smaukstelis isn’t too far behind either. Hicks gives the 5th one a great shot, but can’t quite get it. Smaukstelis fails at it too, but his time is better than Kieliszkowski so he places 2nd so far with Hicks in 1st. Lastly we have Ragg and Hooper. Hooper is QUICK, getting 4 in under 30 seconds, then shows off some major power on the 5th for another event win! And if that wasn’t impressive enough, Mat Ragg also lifts all 5, with his 5th lift looking easier than Hooper, but in a slower time.
Halfway now, so lets check up on the points!
Hooper, like last year, has won everything so far. To everyone’s surprise, Kieliszkowski is dead last, and unless he comes first place in the next 2 events and Smaukstelis finishes in the bottom… 3, I think, he doesn’t have a chance of making it to the stone off. Very disappointing to see the return of one of my favourites not going as expected. Meanwhile Ragg is looking great, living up to the hype I had for him based on something he will go on to do AFTER all of this! Hicks still in with a shot at the stone off too, but I’m not sure the next couple of events will favour him.
Event 4 – Conan’s Wheel
So far this event has upended the scoreboard for every competition its been in. However, I can’t say I feel it will do the same here. It might give Kieliszkowski a shot at making some decent points, but other than that, I expect the placements to be roughly the same afterwards as they are going into this event. First up was Remick, finishing in 470 degrees. Kieliszkowski managed 538 degrees, which is not the result he wanted or needed. Seems he might be dealing with a knee injury now as well. Smaukstelis is current leading with 575 degrees. Now the turn of Hicks, who isn’t build for this type of event. He is really struggling, and finishes at 425 degrees only. Now for Ragg, who will go on to beat Hooper in this event at the WTF (and place above him overall too!), so I know he is good at this event. 628 degrees for him, and only Hooper to go. More great points for the New Zealander! Hooper now, and he too is good at this event, but can he beat Ragg on this day? The event is not looking as good for him as expected, but somehow still manages to take 1st place! 4 in a row! I think that means Hooper is into the finals already.
Event 5 – Kettlebell Toss
7 huge kettlebells ranging from 20kg to 30kg have to be thrown over a 4.5m bar in the quickest time. Another event that USED to be great for Kieliszkowski, but even if he dominates it and wins, his chances are sadly over. All comes down to Ragg, Smaukstelis and Hicks. Hicks needs big points, and needs Smaukstelis to make a big mistake. Kieliszkowski is up first, and it seems this event is still HIS event. In fact, he becomes only the THIRD PERSON EVER to get the 7th bell over! Unfortunately, as I said, its too little too late as he is unable to qualify. At least he was able to go out in style! Remick was next, with only 5 in 24.31 seconds. He too is unable to make it to the stone off. Now for Hicks, who really needs at least 6 over in a fast time to stand a chance. However the 5th bell proves too much of a challenge, and I think that’s the end of Hicks’ run to the WSM final. Smaukstelis now, and even if he comes last he goes into the stone off. 6 in a good time guarantees the stone off! Ragg now and he wants to make sure he finishes 2nd overall to have the advantage in the stone off. He looks TREMENDOUS in this, but that 7th bell defeats him like it has everyone except for Shaw, Shivlyakov and Kieliszkowski! Now for Hooper who has already made the final, and I’d expect one over like Novikov did. Nope! Hooper is going for it, getting 6 over in an insanely fast time, but missing the 7th and not wasting his time or energy going for another shot.
Lets see the points and confirm who is going where:
Hooper of course is into the final, winning 4 events in a row, then finishing 2nd in an event he didn’t even need to compete in. Ragg finishes 2nd so he gets the stone off advantage, while Smaukstelis beats out Hicks for the other stone off place. Kieliszkowski does well to claw his way up to 4th, finishing on a high. I just hope he can go away, rest up, and finally come back at 100% next time!
Event 6 – Stone Off
We have the castle stones, ranging from 140kg to 200kg, but instead of placing them on a platform, the athletes have to pass them over a bar to each other. Once they both pass a stone over to each other once, they move onto the next stone. This continues until either 1 guy fails to put it over the bar in the allotted time, or they get to all 5 stones and continue passing the heaviest stone until one man is unable to do it. My money is on Ragg winning this, but I have no idea if it’ll be on one of the stones for the first time, or on reps when they make it to the final stone. Both men are passing the stone back easily, but Ragg seems to just take a little longer to do it. Will that come back to haunt him, or will his slow and steady pace win the race? All stones have been passed so now they take turns passing back the 200kg stone until one fails. 3x it has been passed so far, then Smaukstelis seems to have potentially hurt himself and its Ragg who goes into the final! One great battle!
Hooper looks UNSTOPPABLE now. However, he looked like this in the heats last year, then didn’t quite live up to expectations in the final. However I think with a year of experience under his belt, his performance in the 2023 final will be very different for him. Ragg looked good too, but he is in some elite company going into the finals, and we still have 4 men left to qualify!