June 17, 2021
OLD BUT GOLD
Yesterday, during the 2nd day of the Qualifying Round, Brian Shaw (USA) delivered a dominating performance in Fingal’s Fingers. Of the 13 athletes who attempted the event, Shaw was the only one who managed to topple all 5 fingers. In 2017, the last time Final’s Fingers was held at WSM, Shaw also recorded the best performance of any athlete contesting this event.
In Group 1, Shaw, currently holds a 3.5 point lead, the biggest lead across all groups. Shaw, seeking a WSM record-tying 5th title (in what some are calling his “drive for five”), is looking to become the oldest Champion in WSM history (39 years, 114 days). Shaw would pass Zydrunas Savickas (LTU), who was 38 years, 258 days when he won the last of his 4 WSM titles in 2014.“The Evolution of Strongman” has won his group in the Qualifying Round every year since 2009, when he was beaten by none other than Zydrunas Savickas.
THE GROUP OF DEATH…
In Group 5, 4 athletes are separated by a single point after 3 events. Bobby Thompson (USA) & Luke Stoltman (GBR) have 11 points while Kevin Faires (USA) & Oleksii Novikov (UKR) are on 10.
Novikov, who became the 2nd youngest WSM Champion in history last year, is unable to distance himself from his 3 rivals. Yesterday, however, he sent an important message by winning Fingal’s Fingers. The Ukrainian was clearly relieved afterwards, letting out some loud guttural roars!
This group featured two thrilling battles in yesterday’s event. In the 2nd heat, Novikov & Luke Stoltman were separated by only 0.48 seconds (less than half a second) on the 4th finger in what was a very close race. Then, in the 3rd heat, Thompson & Faires were so evenly matched that officials had to go to video review to separate them. In the end, Thompson edged out Faires for 3rd place in the event by a razor-thin 0.06 seconds.
Everything is yet to play out in this group and with the Stone Off fast approaching, no one wants to be left behind.
… AND THE DEATHLY GROUP
Only 3 athletes remain in Group 4, and one of them is battling through some painful injuries. Jerry Pritchett (USA) is used to pain, but he demonstrated great courage yesterday by winning Fingal’s Fingers. Afterwards, he explained to Martins Licis that he is dealing with “some sort of injury in my lower back, there is a pinched nerve” and a torn labrum in his hip.
Before Fingal’s Fingers, Group 4 had become the 10th group in the history of the Qualifying Round to feature 2 withdrawals. Chris van der Linde (RSA) had pulled out due to illness.
Tuesday evening, Terry Hollands (GBR) announced that he was calling it quits and retiring from Strongman because of a pre-existing left bicep tear that was worsened by familiarization & the Loading Medley.
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 32016 Group 1; 2017 Group 1; 2021 Group 4)*
2004: Also 2 withdrawals in Qualifying Round, out of 12 athletes*
(* Not separated into different groups)
> 2021 WSM
Entire competition: 3 (See below)
Single group: 2 (Group 4)
> Group 4 (2 withdrawal):
Terry Hollands (GBR)
Chris van der Linde (RSA)
> Group 3 (1 withdrawal)
Luke Richardson (GBR)
A SCANDINAVIAN PUSH
During the afternoon, Group 2 & 3 attempted the Train Push, a brand new event at WSM. In Group 2, Johnny Hansson (SWE) put his massive 386 lbs / 175kg weight behind the caboose, and it worked! Hansson demonstrated his immense power, edging out Trey Mitchell (USA) for the event win. It was the Swede’s 2nd WSM event victory, the first one being the Arm Over Arm in 2018 (Manila, PHI). Hansson might be a healthcare worker, but he certainly knows how to make vehicles move!
Another Scandinavian Strongman, Eythor Ingolfsson Melsted (ISL), found success in Group 3. It was his 1st career WSM event win.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
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 in the past. However, Brian Shaw (USA) is also known for his pressing power – it could be a fascinating showdown between these two athletes.
This event could be more difficult for Travis Ortmayer (USA), who lists the Log Clean & Press, a test of Overhead strength, as his weakest event.
Front hold events were once a WSM staple, but they have not been seen at “World’s” since 1992. Therefore, these athletes have limited experience with this test of endurance… except for Aivars Smaukstelis (LAT), who has competed in multiple front hold events in the Strongman Champions League. Will this help Smaukstelis today?
Gavin Bilton (GBR) may struggle to hold on. At 6’6″, his long arms put him at a disadvantage in the Pickaxe Hold.
The Stone Off returns to WSM this year, but with a twist. This time, the athletes in 2nd and 3rd place after 5 events will have to lift progressively heavier stones until one of them fails to do so.
All of the athletes in Group 1 are confident when it comes time to handle heavy stones, but no one is more certain of their own ability than Brian Shaw (USA). When Brian Robins asked him about a possible participation in the Stone Off, this is what Shaw said: “If I have to do it, It would be a joke…I have trained Atlas Stones more this year, than the last 5 years combined.”
Dating back to 2017, Tom Stoltman (GBR), known as the “King of the Stones”, had been the only athlete who said he was NOT scared of the Stones in the Qualifying Round and that he would qualify because he’s the best stone lifter in the world.
But now, Maxime Boudreault (CAN) feels very good about his chances in a Stone Off in Group 1. Before the competition, he told us: “My goal is to get 2nd or 3rd [in the group] to get to Stone & then I should be good.” Last year, Boudreault had been beaten by none other than Tom Stoltman in the Stone Off, but he had recorded the 2nd best performance in the event out of all the groups. On the Stone Off, he said: “That’s really good for me.”
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
4-time WSM Champion Brian Shaw (USA) is seeking his 13th WSM Final, which would be the most all-time, passing Zydrunas Savickas (LTU). Shaw could also make it to his 13th consecutive WSM Final, which would extend the record he already holds for consecutive Final appearances.
While Aivars Smaukstelis (LAT) wants to reach a 2nd straight WSM Final, Maxime Boudreault (CAN) is seeking his 1st Final appearance. If Boudreault makes it, he will become the first Canadian NOT named JF CARON to qualify for the WSM Final since 2009 (Louis-Philippe JEAN).
Travis Ortmayer (USA) is also in the running. By reaching the Final, the “Texas Stoneman” would set the record for most years between appearances in WSM Final (11 years: 2010 to 2021). This record is currently held by Laszlo Fekete (HUN) (9 years: 1990 to 1999).
Tom Stoltman (GBR) should do well in this event. In the 2019 WSM Final, Stoltman was 5th (of 10) in the Overhead Medley, and he has only gotten stronger since!
The Overhead Medley could perhaps 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.
Holding events are known to be a specialty for 55-year-old Mark Felix (GBR). Felix is the current world record holder in the Hercules Hold, with a time of 1:32.37 set at 2020 Europe’s Strongest Man. During the same competition, Felix was 4th (of 12) in the Forward Hold.
The Pickaxe Hold could be more difficult for his compatriot, Tom Stoltman (GBR). “The Albatross” is known for his large wingspan of 82 inches or 6’10” (measured this year), which will bring the Pickaxe farther away from his chest, making the hold more difficult.
Evan Singleton (USA) & Trey Mitchell (USA) are both known for their intensity and grit… These qualities could serve them well in this seemingly endless battle against the pain.
This “cruel game of hot potato” or “Strongman Tennis” 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 square off against one another!
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Tom Stoltman (GBR) has never won his group in the Qualifying Round – he is currently in a great position to do so. If he makes it to the WSM Final, it would be his 3rd straight.
Mark Felix (GBR) already holds the record for oldest athlete to compete in WSM Final. He set the record in 2015 (49 years, 8 days – Age on 1st day of WSM Final). This year, he could push that record up to 55 years, 63 days on the 1st day of the WSM Final.
Evan Singleton (USA) & Johnny Hansson (SWE) are both looking to make their 1st WSM Final. Hansson is trying to become the first Swedish athlete to reach the WSM Final since 2013 (Johannes Arsjo – 8th place).
Robert Oberst (USA) is well known for his ability in the Overhead events. “O.B.” is the former American Log Lift record holder (211kg / 465 lbs), having set the mark in March 2015. When asked about the Overhead Medley, he said: “That’s my baby…I’d like to blow it out.”
All 4 athletes in this group are highly capable pressers. However, this event has caused problems for JF Caron (CAN) in the past. Last year, Caron finished last in the Log Ladder during the WSM Final, costing him a chance of winning his 1st title.
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.
At the 2020 World Strongman Cup competition in Lithuania, Eythor Ingolfsson Melsted (ISL) placed 3rd (of 11) in the Front Hold, and he feels confident going into the Pickaxe Hold.
However, no one is more confident than Robert Oberst (USA). Oberst will attempt to go “‘Till the wheels fall off”, as he often says! Before the contest, he made his predictions known: “The winner will be 40 seconds and he will be named Robert Oberst.”
If JF Caron (CAN) has to take part in the Stone Off, it should be no problem for him. The Canadian is undefeated in 3 winner-take-all stone lifting challenges.
Robert Oberst (USA) was defeated by British athletes for the past 2 years but this time, he will not have to face one! Mikhail Shivlyakov (RUS) could be worried if he finds himself in a Stone Off: He has an 0-3 record in these events.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
JF Caron (CAN) wants to reach his 9th WSM Final, which would extend his Canadian record. He is also looking for an 8th straight Final appearance.
Robert Oberst (USA) is looking for his 3rd Final, Mikhail Shivlyakov (RUS) for his 2nd, and Eythor Ingolfsson Melsted (ISL) for his 1st.
Ingolfsson Melsted would become the first Icelandic athlete NOT named Hafthor Julius BJORNSSON to qualify for WSM Final since 2011 (Stefan Solvi PETURSSON, Ingolfsson Melsted’s full-time coach: 9th – Wingate, NC, USA).
Konstantine Janashia (GEO) suffered a tricep tear that took him out of action for over a year during the Overhead Medley in the 2019 WSM Final. Has he mentally and physically recovered from the nasty injury sustained while lifting a 220 lbs / 100kg dumbbell?
Last year, Jerry Pritchett (USA) impressed everyone in the Log Ladder, taking 2nd (of 9) in the WSM Final. He wants to make up some points on Janashia, but hip and back injuries will do “The Iron Outlaw” no favors.
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!
All 3 remaining athletes have had good moments in Stone lifting events. Konstantine Janashia (GEO) defeated Mikhail Shivlyakov (RUS) in a thrilling Atlas Stones Showdown back in 2018; Jerry Pritchett (USA) used the Atlas Stones to complete a great comeback in the 2015 Qualifying Round, and Adam Bishop (GBR) has won his last two winner-take-all duels… albeit because of injuries to his opponents.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Konstantine Janashia (GEO) wants to reach his 5th WSM Final in 5 appearances. For Jerry Pritchett (USA), it would be a 4th Final and for Adam Bishop (GBR), a 3rd straight Final.
Defending Champion, Oleksii Novikov (UKR) is the world record holder in the 100kg (220 lbs) Dumbbell for reps in 75 seconds, and he has typically done well in Overhead pressing events.
Luke Stoltman (GBR) holds the British Log Lift record (221kg / 487 lbs), which should be a big help… But 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.
Kevin Faires (USA) will have to work hard to beat any of these 3 athletes, in a group where every point is absolutely crucial.
This event will decide which of the 4 competitors mentioned above will fail to reach the Stone Off.
Oleksii Novikov (UKR) is a very smart, adaptable athlete, and this could help him as he faces this relatively new test of strength. Kevin Faires (USA) is also known for ability to hold on: in 2020, he was 2nd (of 9) in the Hercules Hold during the WSM Final.
This could be a great event for Bobby Thompson (USA). He told Brian Robins that he was “really good at dying last”. In the Pickaxe Hold, where the athletes have to hold on for the longest possible time, dying last is the key.
If he has to participate in the Stone Off, Oleksii Novikov (UKR) will have bad memories of it. In 2019, he lost to Trey Mitchell (USA) in a Last Man Standing marathon that lasted 5+ minutes & featured 27 lifts of Atlas Stone over the bar (Mitchell: 14, Novikov: 13). Nonetheless, Novikov proved his phenomenal endurance in stone lifting that day.
Kevin Faires (USA) participated in a winner-take-all event once in his career, but couldn’t get started. In 2019’s Last Man Standing event, Faires failed on his 1st attempt and had to be replaced by Ole Martin Kristiansen (NOR). Afterwards, Faires said that he had learned from this experience.
This could also be a difficult test for Bobby Thompson (USA), who lists the Atlas Stones as one of his weaker events. Last year, he lost in the Stone Off to Graham Hicks (GBR).
Luke Stoltman (GBR) has been involved in 3 winner-take-all stone battles in his career, losing the first two and winning the last one in a thrilling Last Man Standing against Rob Kearney (USA). Now, his stone lifting is even better – could he knock out one of the above competitors?
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
The Defending Champion, Oleksii Novikov (UKR), 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).
Luke Stoltman (GBR) & Kevin Faires (USA) are trying to reach their 2nd WSM Final, while it would be a 1st Final appearance for Bobby Thompson (USA).
FRIDAY, JUNE 18
The 10 finalists will get a well-deserved rest after competing in 6 grueling challenges (5 if they won their group before the Stone Off).