The World’s Strongest Man 2015 Roundup
For the first time since 2002 the WSM Finals were held in Malaysia, just south of Kuala Lumpur in the city of Putrajaya. Boy was it hot!
Here 30 of the strongest men on the planet congregated, all with one aim – to be crowned The Commerce World’s strongest Man 2015.
We had 5 heats with 6 athletes in each, read below to find out what happened as they battled for the top 2 spots in each heat; enabling them to qualify for The Grand Final.
There was a twist for 2015 – double points were available in the Atlas Stones, meaning nobody was going to be safe heading into the final event.
Heat 1 – Shaw, Caron, Bishop, Oberst, Baron, Forsmark
The opening event of the first heat kicked off in dramatic style. Two-time champion Brian Shaw was expected to cruise through as the winner of The Loading Race, but it was in fact Canadian JF Caron who took maximum points.
Up next was the Deadlift – under intense sunshine, Shaw got his revenge on Caron as he secured 8 reps to the Canadian’s 7; leaving the two tied at the top of the overall leaderboard with 11 points. Robert Oberst, rather surprisingly, finished last here. Elsewhere, new contender, Brit Adam Bishop equalled his personal best deadlift of 370kg … 3 times!
Oberst re-grouped in the next event and shared the win with Shaw as he lifted 4 reps in the Circus Barbell. Polish star Baron withdrew from the competition at this stage with an injury, fracturing a foot.
The kegs were replaced by kettlebells in Malaysia, but despite the change of apparatus it was the same old story for Brian Shaw – he blitzed this event, continuing his amazing run of form in the explosive throwing events.
7 kettlebells were thrown effortlessly over the height, and the American proved to be the only athlete who managed to do that in all the heats! Oberst secured 2nd place here – and was looking in a confident mood as his resurgence continued. And the news was even better for him as Bishop beat Caron into 3rd place by two hundredths of a second.
The penultimate test of strength in the opening heat was the 17.5 metric tonne Truck Pull. Shaw cruised through, despite the intense heat and humidity, and was the only one to complete the 25metre course, finishing in 46.48 seconds.
Forsmark, the Giant from Sweden, finally got his momentum going as he finished 2nd, but Oberst’s qualification hopes took a hit as he finished behind Caron. On the leaderboard Formark and Oberst were level on 16.5 points, just behind the top 2 of Shaw and Caron who had 28.5 and 21 respectively.
With Shaw looking comfortable, he took the Stones in his stride and easily placed 3, with Forsmark managing 4; putting a lot of pressure on Caron who stepped up next. The Canadian was in the driving seat, and as the rain started to get worse Caron was composure personified as he lifted 4 stones in a quicker time than the Swede to secure his spot in The Grand Final. Oberst finished his heat on his knees, out of breath and seemingly injured. Shaw and Caron were through to the weekend.
Heat 2 – Bjornsson, Kobylarz, Savatinov, Hicks, Nagy, Thigpen
The 2nd Heat saw Hafthor Julius Bjornsson as the firm favourite, looking to get into his stride quickly to banish the nightmare of coming so close to winning the title in 2014. In his heat, Bjornsson was the only one who had qualified for The Grand Final before, so the signs were there for an Icelandic domination.
The Loading Race was Bjornsson’s win with a 17 second gap to Savatinov in 2nd place. The hear spelled disaster for Graham Hicks as he dropped the 160kg tyre on his foot early on, meaning a trip to the medical tent.
Then, our first look at the Norse Hammers. Ranging in weight from 161 to 172kg, these 3 heavy implements would prove to be the nemesis of many strongmen in Malaysia. In all the Heats, only Bjornsson managed to flip all three.
“They were very heavy, and I felt it,” he said between gasps for breath after his run. “Those should be called Thor’s Hammers!” and who are we to argue?
Rafa Kobylarz finished 2nd here to keep his qualification campaign alive, but it was disaster again for Hicks as it appeared he aggravated the injury he sustained in the previous event. Another who succumbed to the Norse Hammers was Josh Thigpen who collapsed under the weight of the first hammer as the lights went well and truly out for the American.
The Squat Lift was next at the Putrajaya Marina, but it was far from plain sailing for Graham Hicks. He managed 2 reps of the 320kg weight but looked uncomfortable as his left leg gave away a little. After the event Hicks retired from competition.
Bjornsson, complete with squat suit unlike the 2014 final, completed 5 reps and briefly took the lead. Then up stepped Josh Thigpen who up until now was having a grim time of it in Malaysia, but he went on to produce one of the grittiest and gutsiest performances of 2015 and managed 6 reps to win the event. In the overall standings, Thigpen was now just one place, and one point, behind Savatinov who was in that all important 2nd qualifying spot, and Bjornsson was looking comfortable up at top.
The Basque Circle was next, complete with 279kg of pineapples! After great attempts by Rafa and Savatinov, it was Bjornsson who took his 3rd event win out of 4. Thigpen failed to capitalise on his winning momentum, and finished 4th in front of Nagy. It meant Savatinov occupied 2nd spot with 15 points, and behind him on 13 was Rafa and Thigpen – still firmly within striking range.
The Dumbell Press was the penultimate event, and all was to play for. Thigpen though decided to sit this one out with bursitis in his right elbow which was a huge blow to his dreams of The Grand Final. Rafa Kobylarz set the temp with 4 reps and put pressure on the Bulgarian Savatinov, but it was the former Circus Strongman who blitzed the field with 8 reps! That did his qualification hopes no harm at all. As Bjornsson stepped up to the dumbbell, lightning struck across the sky (I kid you not) – although the Thor on the ground kept cool by tearing his shirt apart after 2 reps, seemingly reserving strength for the stones, and maybe the Grand Final too.
The Atlas Stones battle was for the one final place on offer between Rafa and Savatinov. The Polish star completed 4 stones in 36 seconds, and the Bulgarian breezed through with the same amount but 8 seconds faster to become the first strongman from his home nation to reach The Grand Final where he would join the mighty Hafthor Julius Bjornsson.
Heat 3 – Big Z, Shahlaei, Shivilyakov, Best, Magnusson, Nystrom
Many fans called this ‘The Group of Death’ once the heats had been announced. Without doubt Zydrunas Savickas was the overwhelming favourite to qualify, but what about that 2nd spot? Unfortunately, this heat ended up heavily depleted as athletes received injuries galore.
The Loading Race saw Z take maximum points, albeit in a fairly slow time. Shahlaei took 2nd place, which was much improved on his 2014 run in this event. Things were looking up for Shahlaei!
“2nd place is awesome as I was last in this last year” beamed the Brit.
But then came the Norse Hammers. It would mark the end for Shahlaei’s qualification hopes as the 2nd hammer fell as he tore a bicep. An emotional Shahlaei looked defeated but we can be sure he’ll be fighting back again soon. Big Z won this event, and Shivlyakov was quietly creeping up the leaderboard ahead of Magnusson, Nystrom and Best who occupied last place.
The Squat provided drama next – Best and Nystrom both had their fair share of difficulties with the 320kg weight – 0 preps for them. The Russian Shivlyakov smiled his way through the squat with 6 reps, and then Big Z stepped up and blasted that total away with 9. The charismatic Bennie Magnusson had a chance to get his campaign back on track here, but seriously injured himself after just 1 rep. He fell back, howled, and grasped his right quad area.
6 guys were now down to 4. Big Z and Shivlyakov were now looking very comfortable, and had a big lead over Nystrom and Best. The 4 time champion and the Russian went on track to secure 1st and 2nd places in the next 2 events, the Dumbbell Press and Truck Pull, and they took it easy on the Atlas Stones where they confirmed their spots in The Grand Final.
The Group of Death really did claim a few victims in 2015.
Heat 4 – Zageris, Felix, Radzikowski, Pritchett, Van Staden, Lysenko
A great heat. First up is the Loading Race (Barrels), Zageris wins with a time that’s only just behind Thor’s triumph is heat 2. The deadlift saw 49 year old Felix perform the best he ever has during the WSM heats winning Deadlift (remains undefeated) and Basque Circle – the only minor hiccup was a disappointing Kettlebell throw where he finished last – but bounced right back with a win in the circle to make it through to the Finals.
Zageris leads the group going into the Atlas Stones, where he capitulates, and Pritchett’s amazing run secures his spot to the final. Pritchett has been 5th, 3rd, 3rd, 4th, 3rd in the first 5 events with Zageris 1st, 3rd, 3rd, 1st and 2nd and in the final event Pritchett’s 1st place and Zageris’ last makes all the difference. Two points separates 2nd place Pritchett and 3rd place Zageris in the end.
Heat 5 –Burke, Szymanski, Hall, Belsak, Caruso, Hansen
Mike Burke is consistent throughout, winning the Loading Race (tires) with an incredible sub 40 time. Hall has a slow start in his worst event, but won the next 2 events to take the lead in the group. Belsak challenged but faltered in event 5 – the Truck Pull and Szymanski also challenged hard. Hall beat Szymanski by 0.3 seconds in the Truck Pull which although wasn’t decisive, gave him the edge.
Going into the final event it really was very open though with just 5.5 points between the top 4. Burke and Hall finish 1st and 2nd in the Atlas Stones elevating them to the Final. Belsak finished 3rd with 3.5 points behind Hall whilst Szymanski was a further 1.5 point behind him.
An amazing start by Hafthor on the Super Yoke, but this would be the only event he would win. Shaw wins the Deadlift for Reps and Truck Pull events to put himself in a commanding position at the half waypoint. Big Z makes his much-awaited move in the Power Stairs and then Log Lift for Max, winning both events to take the overall lead by half a point. He attempts the world record in the Log, but falls short, this event was tough with Felix not even registering a lift.
The battle is on between the top 3 for the title with just 2.5 points between them, what a climax we are in for. Hall has clawed himself back and now just 3.5 points behind third place. On to the Atlas Stones and Hafthor registers a hugely disappointing result! In the duel, Shaw wins after Z makes a huge error, he slips at one stone that costs him the title. Making Shaw the 2015 World’s Strongest Man and three-time champion.
Eddie Hall finished 4th overall after a strong performance – 4th in the Super Yoke was a good start, 2nd in the Deadlift which moved him into a podium spot. 4th in the Truck kept him in the mix but he dropped out of the top 3, and then he faltered on the Power Stairs where he finished 6th. He re-grouped in the Log Lift and finished joint 2nd giving him an outside chance of a podium spot – he clinched 2nd in the stones just 0.3 behind winner Shaw. It wasn’t enough to clinch the last podium spot.
Hafthor came in 3rd place making it his fourth time in the top three at the WSM competitions, coming in just 0.5 points behind second place Big Z.
What a performance from them all and what a competition, roll on 2016!