The Commerce World’s Strongest Man 2016 Roundup
Here 30 of the strongest men on the planet congregated, all with one aim – to be crowned The Commerce World’s Strongest Man 2016. This year taking place in Botswana, we had 5 heats with 6 athletes in each battling for the top 2 spots, securing them a place in The Grand Final.
Heat 1 – Belsak, Oberst, Stoltman, Licis, Felix, Arsjo
Heat one opens with the Loading Race. Contestants have 75 seconds to take three 130kg barrels the length of the course and raise them up onto a platform. Event favourite and World Strongest Man veteran, Mark Felix, has a disappointing start, favouring a technique relying on his famous grip strength. It’s too much for his fingers to bear and he finishes last. World’s Strongest Man newcomer, Martins Licis, secures an impressive 41.01 seconds, putting him in an early lead.
The next event is the Hercules Hold, where athletes must hold up two pillars, each weighing 180kg. The huge American Robert Oberst put on a brilliant display of toughness, taking second place with a time of 42.91 (all while braving a torn biceps muscle). Sadly, the injury forced Oberst to retire from the competition. The Hercules Hold, like the name suggests, favours a powerful grip and offers a chance for the 50-year-old Felix to redeem himself. He does so in emphatic fashion, taking first place with an impressive time of 57.17 seconds. Licis takes third place with 37.29 seconds.
After two events Martins Licis is in first place with 10 points. With Belsak, Oberst and Felix all in joint second with seven points. Stoltman is in fifth with six points and the Swede Arsjo sixth with just five points.
The third event in Heat 1 is Fingal’s Fingers. Athletes have 60 seconds to flip five hinged poles – or fingers – from a horizontal resting position to the other side. Sweden’s Johannes Arsjo seems to have a fire lit under him after the previous two events as he’s the only man who manages to flip all five poles, doing so in a time of 45.43 seconds. Licis and Belsak both manage to flip four, in 31.96 and 33.61 seconds respectively.
The fourth event is the Squat Lift. This classic powerlifting event simply asks competitors to lift 325kg as many times as they can in 60 seconds. Licis comes first for the second time in these heats, managing seven reps. Beating the championship winning powerlifters Belsak and Arsjo. Sadly, Arsjo had to pull out after this event with a groin injury, bringing Heat 1 down to just four men.
The penultimate event is the Dumbbell Press. Athletes have 75 seconds to press 100kg as many times overhead as they can. Matjaz Belsak blows the competition away with 10 reps, beating second place Licis’s respectable six reps.
It means Belsak has brought himself within reach of Licis before the final event. Licis leads with 26 points. Belsak with 22. They’re both followed by Stoltman with 16 and Felix with 12.
The final event is the Atlas Stones, and is worth double points. Athletes must lift five increasingly heavy stones onto five increasingly high platforms. Mark Felix finds his form again and lifts four stones in 28.90 seconds but it’s too little too late. Although he bests Belsak he’s too far behind on points to qualify. Licis lifts all five stones in an impressive 34.51 seconds. Licis and Belsak qualify for the finals.
Heat 2 – Szymanski, Lane, Olav, Bishop, Best, Hall
Heat 2 kicks off with the Loading Race. A race to see who can carry four sacks 74 metres before placing them on a raised platform. Poland’s Szymanski and Britain’s Bishop take first and second place in a razor close finish, separated by two tenths of a second with respective times of 43.57 and 43.72. Eddie Hall comes into the heat with two dislocated fingers on his left hand and, despite the pain, manages to lift all four sacks.
The second event is the iconic Truck Pull. Athletes have to pull 18-tonnes of truck along a 25-metre track. This is an event where weight is a huge advantage. Hall, the heaviest man in this heat – and third heaviest in the competition overall – shows why. He takes the win with a time of 42.91 seconds, nearly a second faster than Szymanski’s second place effort. Jon Lane is the only man who didn’t finish the course, covering 24.23 metres before he simply couldn’t manage any more.
Szymanski’s effort still keeps him in the overall lead going into the third event: the Keg Toss. Athletes have to throw a 15kg keg over increasingly high bars, starting at 5.5 metres. Szymanski’s slightly unorthodox method of almost leaping into the keg before throwing it serves him well – he takes joint first place alongside Britain’s Bishop with an astonishing height of 7 metres.
Eddie Hall holds the world record for the next event, The Deadlift, with 500kg and unsurprisingly is the favourite to win here. But today’s set up is slightly different: each man will have 60 seconds to lift a 375kg car as many times as possible. Bishop and Best put in excellent efforts and both manage 12 lifts. But Hall stays true to his reputation as the best deadlifter in the world and manages 13.
Both Hall and Bishop are now within touching distance of Szymanski’s overall lead. The next event, the Viking Press, sees athletes lifting a 155kg traditional Botswanan canoe overhead as many times as possible in 60 seconds. Hall takes another win with nine reps.
Hall cruises through the Atlas Stones, lifting all five, to take first place. He qualifies for the finals, while Szymanski comes in second.
Heat 3 – Woulfe, Janashia, Björnsson, Devaugn, Hansson, Hollands
Heat 3 opens with a Loading Race. 75 seconds to carry three 130kg barrels across 14 metres. Icelandic giant Björnsson manages all three barrels in 42.68 seconds, 26 seconds faster than his closest rival, Devaughan. If ‘Thor’ keeps this up he’ll waltz into the finals.
The second event, Fingal’s Fingers, really favours the taller athlete. The 6’9 Björnsson amply demonstrates this, using his long legs to help power his way through all five poles in 44.15 seconds, claiming his second victory and showing off some dance moves in the process. Sweden’s Hansson is the only other man to flip all five Fingers and takes second place with 50.52.
Event three, the Keg Toss, is one of Björnsson’s favourites. He holds the record at 7.1 metres so he’s confident he can extend his winning streak to three in a row. The aim is to throw a 15kg keg over an increasing height, starting at 5.5 metres. ‘Thor’ easily wins the event and extends the World Record to 7.15. He’s now sitting on 18 points, five clear of second place Hansson.
Next up: The Deadlift. Athletes have 60 seconds to lift a 363kg car as many times as possible. Hollands is a fantastic deadlifter but his stamina could be the deciding factor here. Will he have enough in the tank to keep going for the full 60 seconds? In the end he performs admirably, powering through nine reps, but it’s not enough. Newcomer Konstantine Janashia outdoes him by one rep to make ten, earning the 24-year-old Georgian his first win. Heat favourite Björnsson manages six reps but is clearly enjoying himself, finishing his attempt with another little dance for the crowd.
The penultimate event is the Dumbbell Press: athletes have to press 100kg overhead as many times as possible in 75 seconds. Björnsson takes the lead with six reps, doing just enough to beat Janashia’s five. Sweden’s Hansson struggles again and comes last for the second event in a row, pushing him down to fourth in the overall rankings. It leaves Björnsson in a huge lead with 28 points overall, Janashia with 21 and nine-time veteran Hollands in third with 17 points.
Björnsson’s place in the final is all but guaranteed, however Hollands is not going to give that second qualifying spot up without a fight. There’s a nail-biting showdown between Hollands and Janashia. Hollands takes an early lead but Janashia begins to rapidly gain on him. A slip from Janashia near the end lets Hollands take it, lifting four stones in 24.15 seconds, beating Janashia’s 25.36. Sadly it’s not quite enough for Hollands to leapfrog Janashia to second place overall. Janashia qualifies. Björnsson makes one final statement to the rest of the competition: he lifts all five stones in 24.15 seconds and makes it look easy. Stunning.
Heat 4 – Caron, Gunnarsson, Benzel, Leicht, Carradine, Shahlaei
Heat 4 opens with the Loading Race: a timed event to see who can carry three 130kg barrels along a track before placing them on a platform. Caron shocked everyone in this event last year by beating Shaw and this year he’s the only man in the heat to manage all three barrels, doing so in 1.01.83. It’s not the fastest time but it’s enough to take the win. Carradine is the shortest and lightest man in the competition and unfortunately for him it’s caused him to struggle in this event. He comes last with one barrel in 23.57 seconds. Europe’s Strongest Man, Shahlaei also has a disappointing start. The heat seems to be affecting him and his lifting technique isn’t working well either. He only managed one barrel in 18.82 seconds.
The Hercules Hold is next up. This test of grip strength and pain thresholds favours the mentally strong. Caron takes his second event in a row, just edging out Shahlaei with a time of 44.02. Shahlaei posts 42.68 and Carradine makes up for a slow start in round one with a respectable 41.68 seconds, taking third place.
After two heats the Canadian Jean-Fancois Caron is first with 12 points and Britain’s Shahlaei has jumped up to second with seven. Leicht, Benzel and Gunnarsson all have six leaving the American Carradine trailing with five.
Event three is the Truck Pull. This huge test of power is incredibly draining and keeping momentum is vital. Shahlaei keeps his hips low and uses his monstrous legs to drive himself forward. He wins the event with an impressive time of 41.66 seconds. Caron’s technique is equally solid but he hasn’t quite got it in him to push past Shahlaei and takes second with 43.60. Benzel and Gunnarsson finish within a hare’s breath of each other, finishing in 48.63 and 48.85 respectively. Carradine finishes in 57.03 seconds, and shows how technique can overcome size.
Up next, one of Shahlaei’s favourite events: the Squat Lift. 60 seconds to manage as many reps as possible. Caron and Shahlaei take joint first, both stopping on four even though they look like they might have a few more reps in them. Gunnarsson manages three, despite apparently being relatively new to squats. That’s good genetics for you!
With two events left Caron is in the lead with 22.5 points, four clear of Shahlaei who has 18.5. There’s a 5.5 point gap between the Brit and the American, Benzel. There’s still chance for things to shift around before the finals.
Event five is the Dumbbell Press and the Dane, Mikkel Leicht, takes the victory with eight reps. Lawrence Shahlaei has clear issues with his shoulder and only manages two, placing him last. It allows Gunnarsson who manages six reps to gain on his qualifying spot. He’s now within a point and a half of him.
It all comes down to the Atlas Stones. After five events Caron is seven points clear, and the real battle now is behind him for the other qualifying spot. Laurence has it for now, but with double points available on the Stones, and Leight within striking distance too, he’ll be feeling anything but secure. In the end it’s only Shahlaei and Caron who manage four stones. Shahlaei wins the event with a time of 28.69 seconds followed by Caron’s 33.56. It’s enough to comfortably send them both through to the finals.
Heat 5 – Van Staden, Gough, Le Roux, Els, Kieliszkowski, Shaw
The main everyone is focused on in this heat is Brian Shaw, who’s looking to post back-to-back wins in the competition. First event up is the Loaded Race. Contestants have 75 seconds to carry four sacks 12 metres and place them on a platform. Kieliszkowski puts on an absolutely blistering performance, taking just 37.02 seconds to carry all sacks. Els comes in second with 47.27 while the American Shaw places third with a time of 48.06.
Shaw will be looking to remind everyone why he’s the reigning champ in the next event, the Truck Pull. He makes pulling 18-tonnes of truck look easy and takes it the full 25 metre distance in just 41 seconds. Polish newcomer Kieliszkowski’s inexperience shows a little here; his technique isn’t quite as solid and he wanders off course slightly but amazingly his raw power compensates and he still manages a time of 42.16. (Just over a second behind Shaw.) The two South Africans, Els and Van Staden are separated by just three tenths of a second. Finishing with times of 50.54 and 50.87.
After two events Kieliszkowski holds the lead with 11 points. Just 1 in front of Shaw. It’s the Keg Toss up next. When ‘Thor’ set the new world record in an earlier heat it was seen as a message to Shaw. But Björnsson won’t like Shaw’s reply: the huge American smashes the record by 10cm, making it 7.25 metres and doesn’t even look like it troubled him. Els, Kieliskowski and Van Staden all manage a respectable 6.75 metres. La Roux managed six but had to pull out of the competition due to injury.
Shaw’s now taken first place as we head into the Deadlift. They have 60 seconds to lift a 375kg car as many times as possible. Shaw manages ten reps and makes them look like nothing. Newcomer – and last minute replacement – Gough looks solid with seven reps, taking joint second with Van Staden. Kieliszkowski finishes outside of the top two for the first time in this heat.
With just two events to go, the Viking Press is first. The position of the press means the top of the lift is behind the contestant’s head, which impinges on the shoulder joint – something that seems to be troubling some of the athletes in this heat. Gough and Els only manage one rep. Van Staden powers through to six but Shaw and Kieliszkowski are the stars again here; each managing nine reps to claim joint first.
Going into the Atlas Stones Shaw is four points clear of Kieliszkowski who, in turn, is four points clear of Van Staden. With Els, Gough and Van Staden only lifting three stones, the two leading men choose to conserve some energy and only attempt four stones each, putting themselves comfortably into the final.
Final – Kieliszkowski, Janashia, Shaw, Licis, Björnsson, Szymanski, Shahlaei, Caron, Belsak, Hall
This year’s final has a fierce line up and there’s a mix of newcomers including Kieliszkowski and Janashia, powerhouses like Shaw, Hall and Björnsson and experienced veterans like Shahlaei.
The final opens with the Frame Carry. The athletes have to carry 360kg along a 15 metre track, before turning around and coming back – a total of 30 metres. With several fast men still in the competition it’s wide open and Kieliszkowski demonstrates exactly what he can do, effortlessly cruising into first place with a time of 17.69 seconds. Georgian newcomer Janashia takes second with 22.82 and Shaw comes third with 28.25. Hall’s dislocated fingers clearly hampered him here and he was simply unable to get a proper grip. He comes last and covers just 0.2 metres. Shahlaei sadly has to withdraw from the competition after picking up an injury.
The second event is the Circus Barbell. Athletes have to clean and press a 163kg circus barbell as many times as possible in 75 seconds. Here Hall manages to partially erase his poor performance in the first round, managing eight reps and coming joint first with Björnsson. It’s enough to move Hall up from last place to six. At the other end of the table, Janashia leads with 16.5 overall points, with Björnsson and Shaw in joint second with 15.5 points apiece. Kieliszkowski slips down to fourth.
Hall has another chance to climb further up the rankings with the next event. It’s the one he’s famous for: The Deadlift. The weight starts at 375kg and whoever lifts the heaviest, wins. The bar the men are lifting is thicker than a powerlifting bar, making it harder to grip. Coming into this the world record stood at 440kg. Caron gets close to that with 435kg but Hall and Shaw both manage 445kg each, winning the event and both breaking the previous world record. They agree to leave the competition there and both take the points rather than risk injury going by pushing further.
After three events Shaw is in the lead with 25 points, followed by Janashia with 23 and Björnsson with 22. Hall’s scraped his way up to fourth place with 20 points. Despite a strong start in event on Kieliszkowski is sitting in joint fifth with Licis, both on 17.5 points.
Event four is the Plane Pull, 40-tonnes of aircraft to go 25 metres. That’s over double the weight of the Truck Pull. No one manages the full distance but three men come achingly close. Hall manages 24.25 metres, Shaw pulls 24.53 despite stumbling and Björnsson finishes just 10 cm short of the goal to win first place with a distance of 24.9 metres.
The penultimate event is the Kettlebell Throw. The athletes have 60 seconds to throw seven kettlebells ranging in weight from 20-30 kg over a 4.8 metre bar. Björnsson storms up to the sixth kettlebell but his confidence in his abilities means a slightly misjudged throw costs him dearly. He gets the sixth over but doesn’t make the seventh that would have been easily in his grasp. It opens the way for Shaw to take advantage of going last and use a more measured approach. Despite not managing to clear the final kettlebell he beats Björnsson’s time to take first place.
Heading into the final Atlas Stones, Shaw is in the lead with 44 points. Björnsson in second with 41. Janashian is in third with 36 points but Hall is hot on his heels with 35 points. The stones in this event weigh between 150 and 210 kg. They add up to a total weight of a whopping 900 kg. Martins Licis is the first man to lift all five stones, doing so in 34.80 seconds. Hall goes head-to-head with Janashian for the battle for third place. Hall takes it, lifting all five stones in 29.68. He gets his first podium place in The World’s Strongest Man.
The final battle is between Björnsson and Shaw. If Shaw lifts all five stones in under 34 seconds then he retains his title. In the end Björnsson finishes quicker than Shaw but Shaw has done enough to retain the title, making him The World’s Strongest Man 2016. He’s now tied for second all-time WSM victories and is America’s most successful strongman. Björnsson takes second and Hall third.
What a year, what a competition! Let us know your favourite moments of WSM 2016 below…