By Ryan “6-Pack” Lapadat. Photos by Sam Jones and Classic Productions
The Arnold Classic
The First major Strongman competition of the 2013 season was one of the biggest. The Arnold Strongman Classic is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the World. Only the highest caliber athletes in the Sport of Strongman are invited to compete. The 2013 line up was a murderer’s row of contenders.
The massive Brian Shaw was returning in a bid to reclaim his title. In 2011 he joined the list of greats to win the Arnold Strongman Classic. It was also that year that Brian won the World’s Strongest Man tournament. However, the following year he suffered an unfortunate injury and had to settle for a disappointing 4th place finish in both the Arnold Classic and the World’s Strongest Man. Determined to regain form in 2013, the Arnold Strongman Classic would be the first major tournament for Brian to make his mark.
The ever-popular Derek Poundstone was returning to the Arnold Classic for a chance to capture the title a third time. Poundstone came close the previous year, missing his mark by one placing, settling for second. The three time America’s Strongest Man was motivated to not let his chance at a third title slip a second time.
“Misha” may not sound like an intimidating nick-name, but Mikhail Koklyaev of Russia is a real life monster. At 6’4”, and 350 pounds, “Misha” has won numerous Powerlifting and Strongman titles. Coming into the Arnold Strongman Classic he was a favorite.
Among the 10 athletes competing, there was one TV star in the making. Fans of the popular HBO series, Game of Thrones, will soon see Hafþór Júlíus “Thor” Björnsson play ‘Mountain’ in the upcoming 4th season. The casting seems appropriate as Björnsson is 6’9”, 420 pounds, and the previous year came third at the World’s Strongest Man competition. It gives new meaning to the phrase “born to play that role”.
Absent from the competition would be Lithuania’s Zydrunas Savickas. Savickas is widely considered the greatest Champion the sport of Strongman has ever seen. He holds the record for winning the Arnold Strongman Classic six times. In his place, representing the small country of Lithuania, will be the very capable Vytautas Lalas. Also not competing would be the 2012 Arnold Classic Champion Mike Jenkins. The American had placed second in 2011, won the tournament in 2012, and would have been a favorite to place in 2013.
The competition was stretched over two days. Day one consisted of lifting the Manhood Stones and Log Presses. Some Strongman competitions have been criticized for having events that relied on increasingly more speed and agility. The Arnold Strongman Classic prides itself with holding events that have the heaviest implements to lift. Only pure strength can win. So heavy and grueling was the two first events that two top competitors (one of them being previous Champion Derek Poundstone) dropped out due to injury.
By the end of the first day Brian Shaw, “Misha” and Lithuania’s Vytautas Lalas were all tied for first with 17 points each.
Day two would see the giants clash in the tire deadlift and 264 pound circus dumbbell lift for reps. Brian Shaw pulled ahead of Vytautas Lalas and “Misha” with a World Record tire deadlift of 1122 pounds! Mark Felix shocked many by also pulling 1122 pounds, then breaking the short lived new World Record by then deadlifting 1128 pounds. Lalas kept the contest close by deadlifting 1117 pounds.
The last event is when the contest was decided. Brian Shaw tied American Mike Burke by lifting the tricky 264-pound circus dumbbell 3 times. “Misha” out did Shaw by lifting the dumbbell 4 times, but still did not cover enough ground to move up a placing. Vytautas Lalas did Lithuania proud by setting a new Arnold Strongman Classic record with 5 reps!
In an upset, Vytautas Lalas walked away $60,000 in prize money and the biggest win of his career.
Europe’s Strongest Man
Six thousand fans at the Headingley Stadium in England got what they paid for as Zydrunas Savickas would claim the Europe’s Strongest Man title in June, with fellow Lithuanian Lalas right behind him in second place. Hafthor Bjornsson (The Mountain) of Iceland took a forth place, beating out all competitors in the Atlas Stones event. Presently he is considered the “King of the Stones” as it appears no one in the World is capable of beating him in the event. Krzysztof Radzikowski of Poland managed an impressive third place, improving on his 4th place finish earlier in the year at the Arnold Strongman Classic.
By late August the dust had settled and the World was once again ready to crown the …
…World’s Strongest Man
2013’s World’s Strongest Man competition took place in Haitang Bay, Sanya, China. While Sanya China may not seem like a hot bed for Strongman competitions, this would actually be the second time the city has hosted the sports biggest tournament (the other time being in 2006). The World’s Strongest Man tournament takes 30 athletes from 18 countries and has them compete in 5 qualifying heats. After 3 grueling days of battle, only 10 of the strongest men in the World will make the final. Just making it to the finals of the tournament is a tremendous accomplishment.
The top two competitors from each heat moves on to the finals. Hafthor Bjornsson (The Mountain) of Iceland won the first heat and kept the legend of Iceland strongmen going by qualifying for the finals. Arnold Strongman Classic winner Vytautas Lalas won the second heat to advance to the finals. He would not have to compete against his countryman Zydrunas Savickas unless both men made it to the finals. Until then, he could cheer his teammate on in heat 4. The third heat was won by 2011 World’s Strongest Man winner Brian Shaw. Brian had tasted defeat to Lalas at the Arnold Classic and was looking to even the score. Increasing the small country of Lithuania’s chances of leaving with some hardware, Zydrunas Savickas advanced to the finals by winning heat 4. Russian strongman, “Misha” took heat 5 by narrowly beating American Mike Jenkins by half a point. Mike Jenkins would also advance to the finals.
The first event for the first day of the finals was the Frame Carry event. Mike Jenkins took the lead by winning the event, while tournament favorites Zydrunas, Lalas, and Brian Shaw all had a disappointing performance.
In the truck pull, a measure of normality was restored as Brian Shaw came to life and took second with a 41.8 second pull. Zydrunas Savickas’ 45.7 second pull was good enough for 4th place. Bjornson took the event with an impressive 40.3 second haul of the truck.
The Yoke event provided Brian Shaw with more opportunity to seize the lead on points as he took first, just barely edging out Zydrunas Savickas. Lalas, Mike Jenkins, and Bjornsson (Mountain) came in 4th, 5th, and 6th respectively.
Day 1 came to a close with Brian Shaw in the lead with 25 point. Bjornsson (Mountain) was in third place with 22 points, Zydrunas 4th place with 21 points, Mike Jenkins’ 20 points put him in 5th, and Lalas trailed in 7th place with 17 points. “Misha” had to retire from competition due to injury having completed only the first event.
Deadlifts for max would start the second day’s competition.
Bjornsson (Mountain), Mike Jenkins, and Lalas would all deadlift 880 pounds, tying for 3rd place. Zydrunas Savickas displayed his powerlifting prowess with aridiculously heavy 924-pound deadlift. However, the deadlift of the day went to 6’9”, 450 pound, Brian Shaw. The monstrous man deadlifted an amazing 979 pounds to win the event.
The Overhead Medley allowed defending World’s Strongest Man Champion Zydrunas Savickas to regain some ground by snagging first place while his main threats to the title all fell in the rankings.
The rankings going into the final event from first to forth place were Brian Shaw, Zydrunas, Mike Jenkins, and Bjornsson (Mountain).
The final event would be the Atlas Stones. For any Game of Thrones fans who are reading this, they could not have picked a better event for Bjornsson to make a final rally for the podium.
With stunning speed and strength, Bjornsson heaved the mighty boulders onto their platforms at a startling pace. At only 23.31 seconds it was all over. The “King of the Stones” remains in his throne. Brian Shaw took second place over Zydrunas Savickas by a controversial 0.1 seconds (could it get any closer?)
In the end Brian Shaw regained the World’s Strongest Man title, and successfully rebounded from a tough 2012 season. Zydrunas, always a title contender if not Champion, took second, while Bjornsson took his spot on the podium in third place. Mike Jenkins narrowly missed the podium by one point.
In sad news, on November 28th of 2013, Mike Jenkins passed away at the age of 31.