June 16, 2021
QUALIFYING ROUND – DAY 1 RECAP
Yesterday, during the 1st day of the Qualifying Round, last year’s Runner-Up, Tom Stoltman (GBR) impressed everyone with his agility and grip strength as he posted the best time across all groups in the Loading Medley. Stoltman had also dominated this event during last year’s Qualifying Round.
Some old favorites also delivered big performances. 4-time WSM Champion Brian Shaw (USA) and 8-time WSM Finalist JF Caron (CAN) are currently in the lead in their respective groups.
Shaw tied for the Group 1 win in the Squat Lift with Aivars Smaukstelis (LAT), both men managing 10 repetitions of the 318kg / 700 lbs apparatus. After his performance, Smaukstelis, who was the first athlete to squat in his group, said “I needed 10 more!”, but as it turned out, 10 reps was enough to tie for
In Group 3, Caron did what he is so good at, both “Strongman math” and conserving energy when he recorded 11 reps, just enough to take the event win. The Canadian, who was the penultimate athlete to squat in his group, figured that Robert Oberst (USA), who was going after him, would not beat 11 reps, and Caron was right once again.
A great battle is developing in Group 5 between the man who finished 7th in 2019, Luke Stoltman (GBR), and the man who finished 7th last year, Kevin Faires (USA). In the Loading Medley, the two were paired together and Faires blazed past him in the frame carry to win the event. Stoltman and Faires were also battling in the Deadlift (for reps) – both men tied with 6 repetitions along with Oleksii Novikov (UKR). And today, the two rivals will likely be paired together in Fingal’s Fingers!
HEADING HOME: AND THEN THERE WERE 5
Three athletes representing Great Britain have now been forced to withdraw from this year’s “World’s”. After Graham Hicks (GBR), who withdrew on June 13, before the competition got underway (groin injury), Luke Richardson (GBR) and Terry Hollands (GBR) have also called it quits.
There are now 5 athletes left competing for Great Britain: Gavin Bilton (Grp. 1); Mark Felix & Tom Stoltman (both in Grp. 2); Adam Bishop (Grp. 4); Luke Stoltman (Grp. 5).
Richardson, who was trying to become the youngest champion in WSM history – he will turn 24 on Sunday – will not be able to reach a 2nd straight WSM Final. “The Future” suffered a left bicep injury (left distal bicep tendon rupture) during the first event, the Loading Medley. “Obviously gutted as I felt in a really good position to improve on last year’s performance but it was not to be this time”, said Richardson on Instagram.
Terry Hollands had been off to a good start yesterday and would have been sitting in 2nd place in Group 4 going into today’s action, but withdrew from his 15th World’s Strongest Man appearance (2nd all-time, breaking tie w/ Zydrunas Savickas) due to a pre-existing left bicep tear that was worsened by familiarization & the Loading Medley. Hollands stayed in the contest to help his training partner, Adam Bishop (GBR) in the 2nd event, the Deadlift (for reps).
In an interview after the Deadlift, “Big Tel” had important news to share: “This year was always potentially going to be my last year, and I think it’s finally time for me to call time on my World’s Strongest Man career. […] I’ve enjoyed every year I’ve been to World’s Strongest Man, and I really appreciate everything the sport’s given to me.”
Hollands will go down as one of the greatest British strongmen ever. He wraps up his WSM career with 9 appearances in the WSM Final, including 2 podium finishes (3rd place – 2007 & 2011).
There have been 2 in-competition withdrawals after Day 1 of the Qualifying Round, Luke Richardson (GBR) and Terry Hollands (GBR).
MOST WITHDRAWALS IN SINGLE QUALIFYING ROUND – IN COMPETITION WSM HISTORY
Entire competition: 6 (2003)
Single group: 2
(1995 Group 5; 2000 Group 4; 2002 Group 4; 2003 Group 2; 2003 Group 5;
2009 Group 1; 2015 Group 3; 2016 Group 1, 2017 Group 1)*
2004: Also 2 withdrawals in Qualifying Round, out of 12 athletes*
(* Not separated into different groups)
> 2021 WSM
Entire competition: 2
Single group: 1 (2 groups)
> Group 3: Luke Richardson (GBR)
> Group 4: Terry Hollands (GBR)
WHAT WE’RE HEARING
Chris van der Linde (RSA), last place after 2 events in Group 4, spoke to countryman & 6-time WSM athlete (2013-2017, 2019) Gerhard Van Staden this morning (CA time) and Van Staden gave van der Linde some support and motivation. “The Ox” was “irritated” with himself after day 1.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Fingal’s Fingers, a WSM original, named after the mythical Scottish warrior, gets underway today. Athletes must raise, then topple long & heavy poles across a course. Fingal’s Fingers returns to WSM for the first time since 2017 in Gaborone, Botswana, where it was also an event in the Qualifying Round. Notably in 2017, Brian Shaw (USA) recorded the best performance of any athlete in the 2 groups contesting this event (5 fingers in 45.93).
5 best times ever in Fingal’s Fingers at WSM (by any weight)
2009 Final Zydrunas Savickas (LTU) 28.69
2007 Final Sebastian Wenta (POL) 30.92
2009 Qual Rd Zydrunas Savickas (LTU) 31.06
2007 Final Mariusz Pudzianowski (POL) 31.15
2009 Qual Rd Brian Shaw (USA) 31.34
Brian Shaw (USA) is sure to be a favorite in this event. Shaw, a very complete Strongman, has thrived in Fingal’s Fingers over the course of his career, winning the event in 4 out of 6 tries. Shaw’s losses? He lost to Strongman legend, Zydrunas Savickas, in the Qualifying Round and in the WSM Final in 2009. In handing Shaw those 2 losses, Big “Z” posted 2 of the 3 best Fingal’s Fingers performances of all-time (see above.)
Shaw said that he plans to dominate Fingal’s Fingers.
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.
Veteran Strongman Travis Ortmayer (USA) has competed in Fingal’s Fingers twice at WSM, toppling all 5 fingers in both attempts (2008 & 2009).
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Young contender Maxime Boudreault (CAN) is only half a point behind group leader Brian Shaw (USA). Boudreault will have to deliver a good performance in Fingal’s Fingers to keep battling with Shaw.
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 down the tracks at the California State Railroad Museum.
This event could prove more difficult for 55-year-old Mark Felix (GBR), who took last place in the Monster Jam Truck Pull in the 2019 Qualifying Round, and was classified 9th (of 11) in the Bus Pull at 2017 Europe’s Strongest Man.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Two Americans, Trey Mitchell (USA) & Evan Singleton (USA) are tied for 3rd place. Can they make a move in the Train Pull in an attempt to catch Mark Felix (GBR), who is currently 3 points ahead of them?
Johnny Hansson (SWE) will have to step up in this event. The 2020 Sweden’s Strongest Man champion can’t afford to fall too far behind going into Thursday’s events, the Overhead Medley & the Pickaxe Hold.
This event could be a great opportunity for Robert Oberst (USA) to make up some points. “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.
Mikhail Shivlyakov (RUS) will not be looking forward to the Train Pull. The former Russian Marine was last in his group in the 2019 Monster Jam Truck Pull, and finished 13th (of 14) in the Truck Pull at 2019 World’s Ultimate Strongman.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
With Luke Richardson (GBR)’s withdrawal, Group 3 is down to just 4 athletes. With Mikhail Shivlyakov (RUS) typically struggling in Vehicle Pull events, could JF Caron (CAN) pull away from the pack? The 9-time Canada’s Strongest Man champion is currently 2 points ahead of Shivlyakov, with Robert Oberst (USA) & Eythor Ingolfsson Melsted (ISL) both 2 points behind the Russian.
Group 4 features some giants, with 3 of 4 men measuring 6’3″ or more. Out of that lot, only Konstantine Janashia (GEO) has ever attempted Fingal’s Fingers at WSM, back in 2016, where he placed 3rd in the event during the Qualifying Round.
Adam Bishop (GBR) won the Deadlift (for reps) yesterday, but he had to give it his all. Before the competition, Bishop said in his Research Interview that “Doing more reps than you want…could take a lot out of you for the rest of the Qualifying Round.” Will “Bish” be too tired to take on Fingal’s Fingers?
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
The only rookie at this year’s WSM, Chris van der Linde (RSA), has been struggling so far, but he is only 2 points behind Jerry Pritchett (USA), who is currently 3rd. Can van der Linde make his move today?
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) – his height could be an advantage.
As for Luke Stoltman (GBR), “The Highland Oak” feels confident going into Fingal’s Fingers. Before the competition started, the older Stoltman told us that he “got one made to train on in Scotland, and trained well on it”.
Fingal’s Fingers has not always been a kind event to the Stoltman Brothers: In 2016, Luke placed 4th (of 5) in Fingal’s Fingers during the Qualifying Round, and a year later, Tom Stoltman (GBR) suffered a left shoulder muscle tear while trying to topple the 4th finger.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Defending Champion, Oleksii Novikov (UKR) got off to a slow start yesterday… He currently sits in 4th place in the standings, a spot he has never been in during his WSM career, whether in the Qualifying Round or in the WSM Final.
Novikov wants to avoid becoming the 2nd Defending Champion (to return to compete the year following winning the title) and be eliminated in the Qualifying Round. The only time it happened was in 1997 in Primm, Nevada, USA, when Strongman legend and current WSM Head Referee Magnus Ver Magnusson (ISL) finished 3rd in his group, missing the WSM Final by 1 point behind compatriot, Torfi Olafsson (ISL).
Meanwhile, Ervin Toots (EST) is looking for his first ever WSM event win. The Estonian, making his 2nd “World’s” appearance, took last place in both events yesterday. Last year, in his 1st WSM appearance, Toots finished 3rd in the Farmer’s Walk in his 1st career WSM event, before being forced to withdraw with a torn right quad, after the 2nd event of his WSM career, the Squat Lift.
THURSDAY, JUNE 17
QUALIFYING ROUND – DAY 3
On the last day of the Qualifying Round, all 5 groups are competing in the same 3 events.
In Group 1, Maxime Boudreault (CAN) might wake up early on Thursday in excitement for the Overhead Medley! Boudreault is the Canadian record holder in Log Lift (441 lbs / 200kg) and has typically done well in Overhead events. However, Brian Shaw (USA) is also known for his pressing power – it could be a fascinating showdown between these two athletes.
In Group 2, Tom Stoltman (GBR) should do well in the Overhead Medley, but the event could be scary for Evan Singleton (USA) & Mark Felix (GBR). Singleton suffered a torn left bicep in the Overhead Press (Dumbbells) last year, while Felix finished last (or tied for last) in Overhead events in 4 of his 5 most recent WSM Qualifying Round appearances.
The best Overhead battle, however, could come in Group 5. Defending Champion, Oleksii Novikov (UKR) is the world record holder in the 100kg (220 lbs) Dumbbell for reps in 75 seconds, while Luke Stoltman (GBR) holds the British Log Lift record (221kg / 487 lbs). Do not count out Bobby Thompson (USA) either! “The American Nightmare” set a new American Log Lift record (217kg / 478.5 lbs) on April 30, and he will be eager to show the extent of his pressing power.
In this event, athletes will be required to hold a giant pickaxe weighing 27kg / 60 lbs in front of them, with arms fully locked, for as long as possible. Front hold events were once a WSM staple, but they have not been seen at “World’s” since 1992.
In Group 3, JF Caron (CAN) could do well in this event. Caron is known for having very few weaknesses, and he won the Reign Hercules Hold in the 2020 WSM Final.
However, Adam Bishop (GBR) will not be too confident heading into the Pickaxe Hold… In the 2021 Athlete Questionnaire, Bishop told us that the Front Hold was the worst type of event for him. He even said that he would like to cut his arms off at the elbow to make them shorter for the Pickaxe Hold! A few days ago, he told Brian Robins: “Guys with short arms do better, even if [they’re] not stronger.” Tell us how you really feel, Adam!
The Stone Off returns to WSM this year, but with a twist. This time, the athletes in 2nd and 3rd place will have to lift progressively heavier stones until one of them fails to do so.
This “cruel game of hot potato” is intimidating for most athletes, but Tom Stoltman (GBR) is hardly scared. The man known for being “The King of the Stones” has not lost an Atlas Stones event since 2019 Giants Live: Wembley (July 2019). However, he would much rather win his group to avoid wasting energy.
After all, there is another fantastic stone lifter in Tom Stoltman’s group. That would be Trey Mitchell (USA), who qualified for the 2019 WSM Final by beating Oleksii Novikov (UKR) in a Last Man Standing marathon that lasted 5+ minutes & 27 lifts of Atlas Stone over the bar (Mitchell: 14, Novikov: 13). Mitchell and Stoltman will not want to have to face off against one another!