Heat 4, and only 4 more places in the final left, with 2 of them decided here!
Brian Shaw – USA – 4x World’s Strongest Man (2011, 2013, 2015, 2016)
Adam Bishop – England – Britain’s Strongest Man 2023
Kevin Faires – USA – 7th at World’s Strongest Man 2020
Rauno Heinla – Estonia – 2nd World’s Strongest Man Appearance
Gabriel Rheaume – Canada – 10th at World’s Strongest Man 2022
Jaco Schoonwinkel – South Africa – 1st World’s Strongest Man Appearance
Brian Shaw is looking for his 5th WSM title in his FINAL appearance at WSM. It has been 7 long years since he last won, with him coming very close again just 2 years ago. Last year he struggled in the heats and was middle of the pack for most of the final, but was able to bust out a few good performances near the end to solidify a 4th place finish. I have no idea what kind of shape he’s in coming into the heats as he rarely does any competitions outside of WSM and his own Shaw Classic which I have not caught up on from last year still. All I know is he will have to give it everything he’s got here with a confident Adam Bishop who won BSM earlier in the year, along with Rheaume who actually beat out Faires last year to make the final. Faires hasn’t made the final since 2020 but he’s been very close on a couple of occasions so don’t count him out. Heinla and Schoonwinkel could either do well or occupy the bottom of the leaderboard depending on the day, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Event 1 – Loading Race
5 implements, all varying distances from the platform, need to be lifted and loaded in the quickest time possible! The first 3 athletes to take it on are Schoonwinkel, Rheaume and Shaw himself. He definitely looks FITTER than last year, and that should help him here. Schoonwinkel is actually the one leading right now, which is a surprise. He does indeed finish 1st in this 3 way, with Shaw struggling a little lifting the final object but gets it loaded no problem. Rheaume runs out of time and doesn’t get too far with the final object. Not the best start for him. Now for Heinla, Faires and Bishop. Bish SHOULD be the better of the 3 here, but my predictions only seem to come true 50% of the time it seems! Bish gets off to the better start, with Heinla catching as Faires really struggles on the 2nd object. So much so, the 2nd object falls off, meaning he has to put it back on for it to count. Meanwhile Heinla comes through with the event win, as Bish cannot manage the final object before time ran out. Certainly an interesting first event!
Event 2 – Deadlift Machine
6 barrels, loaded one at a time after a rep, making the overall weight go from 280kg to 380kg. Once upon a time, Shaw was king of the deadlift, and he likely has more experience than anyone else on this particular machine too. However his overall power has gone down as he’s gotten older, so a win probably isn’t expected for him here. Bish on the other hand is amazing at reps when it comes to deadlift, and doesn’t exactly have a bad max weight lift either! Heinla is a former deadlift champion too! First up was Kevin Faires who managed 5 reps, then Rheaume who also got 5. Now for Bish, who should be capable of doing more. 7 reps for him, and he gives an 8th rep one helluva try but he’s not able to get it. Still, not many have gotten 7 reps on this machine so far this year! Now for Shaw, and he is able to match Bishop on 7 reps… and even go for another to take current 1st place! That might be his best deadlift performance in YEARS! Heinla now, and he has an incredible max lift. He is racing through the first few reps, and he too makes it to 7. A bit of a rest, and he is able to match Shaw on 8 reps! Not often we see Bish outside of the top 2 with deadlift for reps, and we still have one more athlete to go! Schoonwinkel doesn’t seem to have the technique fully down on this deadlift machine, but he is able to power through and gets the reps done. 6 reps to place him ahead of 2 men, and that is a great effort! Give him a chance to practice more at this event and who knows what he could do!
Event 3 – Log Ladder
5 logs weighing between 125kg and 180kg must be lifted in order in the quickest time possible. Nobody in this heat stands out to me as a premier log lifter, so I’m not expecting anyone to lift all 5… but I do like to be surprised! Rheaumue and Faires went first, with 3 for Rheaume then 3 for Faires too but in a slightly faster time. We join the action with Bishop against Schoonwinkel. Bish is taking his time, using as much technique as possible, while Schoonwinkel is showing some great power just pressing everything with relative ease. A missed attempt at the 3rd log puts Bish behind, and he is unable to get to 4. Schoonwinkel is able to get 4 and has a damn good attempt at a 5th too. Current first place for him with 4 reps, while Bish was too slow to beat the previous 2 men for 3. Shaw against Heinla time! Both men doing well, with Shaw really looking like his old self on the first 3. Heinla attempts the 4th log first but doesn’t make it, while Shaw is able to get it and moves on to the 5th. Sadly he isn’t able to get it up, but he does finish in 1st with a faster 4 than Schoonwinkel!
Halfway through, lets see the scores!
Shaw didn’t get off to the best start in the first event, but 2 event wins in a row see him on top for now. He is absolutely looking better than he has in a good while now, driven by the fact this is his last attempt at winning 5 WSM titles! Heinla is looking good in 2nd place, with Schoonwinkel surprising me by only being half a point below him. Bishop, Faires and Rheaume definitely not having the competition they would have hoped for, and it will take a great effort for them to get into the stone off now. The next event might very well be the start of a comeback for one of them though!
Event 4 – Conan’s Wheel
Here it is once again, the brutal and challenging Conan’s Wheel that likes to screw up athlete’s chances of winning! Sadly it seems to screw up the chances of Adam Bishop, who only manages 292 degrees. Unless the other 5 athletes mess up worse than him, I think his chances of making the final are over already. Rheaume managed 476 degrees, followed by Faires who got 636 degrees. Time to join the action again with Heinla, who is sort of in the middle of not having the best body for this event but not having the worst either. 572 degrees is probably a good result for him, but with 2 men left to go it might not be ideal. Schoonwinkel next and he apparently has plenty of confidence in his ability in the event, so we just have to watch and see! Seems he had a right to be confident, finishing with a distance of 713 degrees! Last then, its Brian Shaw. According to the commentators, this is the FIRST TIME EVER Shaw has done this event. 411 degrees is all he manages, which sends him down to 5th place in the event. Luckily it shouldn’t effect his overall standing too much, plus one of his favourite events is up next!
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. Only 3 men have ever gotten all 7 over… and Brian Shaw is one of them! Which is good because he dropped down to 3rd place after the Conan’s Wheel. First up is Gabriel Rheaume, who only managed 3. Then Bish who got 6 over, but its too little too late for him. Faires only managed 5, and that’s the end for all 3 men and their chances of getting into the finals. It all comes down to the next 3, starting with Shaw! 6 over in a fast time, then the 7th goes over on the second attempt! That might be what takes him into the finals without another stone off! Heinla is up next, and he gets off to a terrible start, getting the angles all wrong on the first 2 bells. Shaw and Bish had gotten 6 over in the time Heinla managed 2. Only 5 for Heinla, and it looks like he’ll have to go into the stone off now. Schoonwinkel is out last, and he is the only man now who can send Shaw into the stone off rather than straight into the finals! A good 5 bells over in a good time, then a 6th after a second attempt, and that ensures HE goes into the finals rather than Shaw!!!
Time to check in on the scores to make sure who goes where!
Despite having a much better competition than the heat last year, Shaw is once again in the stone off rather than straight through to the finals. Schoonwinkel has had a fantastic showing, so well done to him. Heinla has to be pleased with his performance too, as he makes it into the stone off as well! Very disappointing for 3 former WSM Finalists in Bish, Faires and Rheaume who didn’t make it this year.
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. Last year Shaw was in the stone off as well, against Bobby Thompson, and only had to lift a single stone to win. I doubt he’ll have it as easy this year, but the odds of him losing a stone off are, frankly, slim to none. 4 stones each and neither man looks in trouble. Looks like it’ll come down to reps on the massive 200kg stone. And yeah, that’s what is happening now. Heinla definitely looking the worse of the two, but he’s not giving up. 3 times he’s lifted and passed the 200kg stone, and Shaw is able to match him with ease. 4 times each now, and it might be the height of Shaw that comes into play as its much easier for him to put it over the bar than Heinla. SIX lifts now for Heinla, and he really is looking tired. Shaw on the other hand, beyond looking very sweaty, is passing them over like the first stone still. And its over. Heinla is unable to pass it back for a 7th time, and Brian Shaw makes another final, his final final, having to work harder than ever before to do it!
Schoonwinkel and Shaw are the two men joining the others in the final then! A great showing from newcomer Schoonwinkel, while Shaw looked better than he has in years, and still had to fight for the place in the final. Tomorrow its the last 2 spots up for grabs, and then we can finally move on to find out who will be WORLD’S STRONGEST MAN 2023!!!