June 15, 2021
SETTING THE SCENE
The 2021 SBD World’s Strongest Man, the 44th edition of Strongman’s most prestigious competition, gets underway today with the 1st day of the Qualifying Round.
25 athletes will compete for 10 coveted spots in the WSM Final.
Two athletes from each group will qualify for the WSM Final:
- Leader in the standings after 5 events
- Winner of the 6th and last event, Stone Off
WHAT WE ARE HEARING
It was announced Monday that 2020 WSM Finalist, Graham Hicks (GBR) was forced to withdraw from the 2021 SBD WSM, with a left groin injury that he suffered while training squats for WSM.
Gavin Bilton (GBR), the only Welshman in the field, has been moved to Group 1 to take Hicks’ place. Bilton, who was originally in Group 5, is making his 2nd WSM appearance. Last year, he injured his rib during the Squat Lift in the Qualifying Round, but remained in the competition, finishing 5th in his group.
Another athlete making his 2nd “World’s” appearance, Ervin Toots (EST), will be competing in Group 5 to fill the spot left by Hicks’ withdrawal. Toots was originally a reserve for this year’s WSM. The Estonian was forced to withdraw from the 2020 WSM (torn right quad) sustained in the 2nd event, Squat Lift.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Aivars Smaukstelis (LAT) will be an athlete to watch out for in Group 1. Smaukstelis, who lists Medleys as one of his best disciplines, set the second-fastest time across all groups in the Loading Medley during last year’s Qualifying Round.
Brian Shaw (USA) is coming to this year’s WSM 15 lbs lighter than he was last year. Will that help him in the Loading Medley? The 4-time Champion certainly thinks so, as he looks to feature his hard work & set the tone early. At 2020 WSM, Shaw was 4th (of 5) in the Loading Medley in his group, nearly 14 seconds behind Smaukstelis.
Meanwhile, Gavin Bilton (GBR) lists Medleys as his weakest event. Bilton claims that his size (6’6″ / 420 lbs) “makes moving somewhat trickier”.
For Brian Shaw (USA), it will be the first time since his rookie year in 2008, that he takes on the Squat Lift in the Qualifying Round. However, Shaw told us that he is looking to win this event.
Maxime Boudreault (CAN) delivered a gutsy performance in the Squat Lift during the 2020 WSM Qualifying Round, grinding out 7 reps while his nose bled profusely.
This event could be an intimidating experience for Gavin Bilton (GBR), who suffered a rib injury in the Squat Lift last year.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Maxime Boudreault (CAN) & Gavin Bilton (GBR) are both looking for their first ever event win in the WSM Qualifying Round … On the other end of the spectrum, Brian Shaw (USA) has won 39 Qualifying Round events during his long career.
By competing in the Loading Medley, Travis Ortmayer (USA) will set a record for most years between WSM appearances (10 years; last appearance: 2011). The record was previously held by Vidas Blekaitis (LTU), who competed at WSM twice, 8 years apart (in 2003 & 2011).
In Group 2, 2020 WSM Runner-Up, Tom Stoltman (GBR) will expect big points in the Loading Medley. The younger Stoltman was the fastest across all groups during last year’s Qualifying Round, and he also won this event in the 2019 WSM Final. Evan Singleton (USA) is another athlete who mentioned that he was “really looking forward” to the Loading Medley.
This event could be more difficult for 55-year-old Mark Felix (GBR), who was unable to complete the Loading Medley last year in Bradenton, FL.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Of the 3 athletes who are favorites for the 2 spots for the WSM Final, Trey Mitchell (USA), Evan Singleton (USA) & Tom Stoltman (GBR), 2 are elite stone lifters: Mitchell & Tom Stoltman. Mitchell is known for def. OIeksii Novikov (UKR) in a marathon Last Man Standing event in the 2019 Qualifying Round on the beach in Bradenton, Florida, USA. Meanwhile, Tom Stoltman is simply known as “The King of Stones.” He has won his last 7 Atlas Stones events in competition & he completed all stones in each event. He has not lost an Atlas Stones event since 2019 Giants Live: Wembley (July 6, 2019 – London, GBR). That loss came to Martins Licis (USA) by just 0.32 seconds.
Evan Singleton (USA) told Brian Robins during his Research Interview, how he hoped his group would play out: “Me winning the group. Tom (Stoltman) & Trey (Mitchell) in the Stone Off. (Joked): That’s my incentive for winning the group (getting to watch Tom Stoltman vs Mitchell in Stone Off), Finals are secondary (laugh).”
Mark Felix (GBR) could make up some points in the Deadlift (for reps). Felix was undefeated in the Deadlift at WSM from 2004 to 2013, winning the event 10 times out of 10. In 2020, he showed that Father Time had not caught up to him yet, tying for the victory in his group.
Trey Mitchell (USA) also feels that this could be a good event for him. Mitchell managed 2 reps of
882 lbs / 400kg during the 2020 World’s Ultimate Strongman “Feats of Strength” Series, which should carry over very well to the Deadlift (for reps) at WSM. Mitchell won the Squat Lift in his group last year.
This event could be more difficult for Evan Singleton (USA), who was last in his group in the Deadlift during the 2020 WSM Qualifying Round, and Johnny Hansson (SWE), who struggled at it in his 2 previous WSM appearances.
Eythor Ingolfsson Melsted (ISL) may find the Frame Carry portion of the Loading Medley quite difficult. Ingolfsson Melsted has struggled with his grip before, and he is trying to improve it. He told us: “I train my grip strength all the time and do lots of hot and cold therapy to reduce the swelling in my forearms and hands.”
Luke Richardson (GBR) & JF Caron (CAN) both won their Loading Medley event in their Qualifying Round at 2020 WSM – perhaps these two will battle it out for the event win in group 3!
JF Caron (CAN) will be looking forward to the Squat Lift. Caron tied for 1st place in this event in the 2016 & 2020 WSM Qualifying Round. Luke Richardson (GBR), who was Champion – 2018 IPF (Int’l Powerlifting Fed.) Junior World Men’s Classic Championships, could put some pressure on the 9-time Canada’s Strongest Man.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Last year, Luke Richardson (GBR) eliminated Robert Oberst (USA) in the Stone Off … “O.B.” will be looking for revenge. In fact, if Oberst & Richardson met in the Stone Off for the 2nd straight year, it would be the 4th straight WSM that Oberst competed in an Atlas Stones “showdown” event, all against Brits.
Robert Oberst (USA) – Last 3 WSM app.
In Atlas Stones “showdown event” in Qual. Rd.
2018: Won Atlas Stones Showdown def. Luke Stoltman (GBR)
2019: Lost Last Man Standing to Adam Bishop (GBR) > Conceded during 2nd lift (right bicep)
2020: Lost Stone Off to Luke Richardson (GBR)
> 2021: In same group w/ Luke Richardson (GBR)
Adam Bishop (GBR) has done well at Loading events over the years. During last year’s Qualifying Round, Bishop took 2nd place in his group in the Loading Medley.
Our only WSM rookie, Chris van der Linde (RSA), is an unknown quantity, but he lists the Farmer’s Walk as one of his best events. Will that carry over to the frame carry portion of the Loading Medley?
Epic Deadlift (for reps) Battle In Group 4?
Group 4 features multiple world-class deadlifters (for max). Will their tremendous static strength work with 350kg / 772 lbs for reps?
Group 4 – Deadlift (for max) Personal Record
- Jerry Pritchett (USA) 465kg / 1,025 lbs
- Adam Bishop (GBR) 440kg / 970 lbs
- Konstantine Janashia (GEO) 440kg / 970 lbs
- Terry Hollands (GBR) 435kg / 959 lbs
- Chris van der Linde (RSA) 420kg / 926 lbs
Last year, Jerry Pritchett (USA) won his group in the Deadlift during, while training partners Adam Bishop (GBR) & Terry Hollands (GBR) settled for a tie for 1st place in their respective groups. Konstantine Janashia (GEO) could also be in the mix in this event.
Bobby Thompson (USA) has been working on getting his speed up to where his strength is, in training. In the 2021 WSM Athlete Questionnaire, Thompson described himself as “not the most agile athlete.”
Kevin Faires (USA), Oleksii Novikov (UKR) & Luke Stoltman (GBR) will all be looking forward to the Loading Medley. The three of them did very well in this event last year & Faires lists it as one of his best events.
Bobby Thompson (USA) is very confident. He told us this week: “I will (win) walk away w/ Deadlift”. Thompson won the Deadlift event at the 2021 World’s Ultimate Strongman: Strength Island (March 13, 2021 – Riffa, Bahrain), beating five 2020 WSM finalists.
Defending WSM Champion, Oleksii Novikov (UKR), set a world record for the 18-inch partial deadlift (1,185 lbs / 537.5kg) during the 2020 WSM Final. All eyes will be on him in this event.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 16
QUALIFYING ROUND – DAY 2
Three groups will begin Wednesday’s action with the Fingal’s Fingers, where 5 long & heavy poles have to be toppled across a course.
In Group 1, Brian Shaw (USA) is sure to be a favorite. Shaw, a very complete Strongman, has thrived in Fingal’s Fingers over his career, winning the event in 4 out of 6 tries. Another tall competitor, Gavin Bilton (GBR) told us that he is looking forward to taking on Fingal’s Fingers, specifically targeting that event because of his size.
Group 4 also features some giants, with 4 men measuring 6’3″ or more. Out of that lot, only Konstantine Janashia (GEO) has ever attempted Fingal’s Fingers, back in 2016, where he placed 3rd in the event during the Qualifying Round.
Defending champion Oleksii Novikov (UKR) is known for being a very adaptable athlete. Could that help him tackle Fingal’s Fingers? In Group 5, the tallest competitor is Ervin Toots (EST), who is 6’4″. Could his height be an advantage?
The Train Pull discipline has not been held since 2003 in Victoria Falls, Zambia, when the event was held in the Qualifying Round and in the WSM Final.
Group 2 features some heavy competitors, such as Tom Stoltman (GBR) & Johnny Hansson (SWE), who both weigh in at over 385 lbs. This could help them as they try to get a massive train car moving at the California State Railroad Museum.
This event could be a great opportunity for Robert Oberst (USA) in Group 3. “O.B.”, who narrowly missed out on a win in the Monster Jam Truck Pull during the 2019 WSM Qualifying Round, will look to put his 6’7″, 400 lbs frame to good use.