Luke Richardson, the man they call “The Future,” is very much back in the present after running away with England’s Strongest Man. In the second instalment of Giants Live’s Weekend of Strength, the Doncaster Dome crowd were treated to a dominant display by a man who appears to have put his tribulations behind him and has returned to his absolute best.
After spending two years in the wilderness, following a spate of injuries, Richardson’s win was an emphatic one and was reminiscent of the form that took him to the 2020 Europe’s Strongest Man title. After five events, he finished 9.5 points ahead of second placed Kane Francis, who in turn was just a half point clear of Paddy Haynes who had been heralded as the dark horse coming into this contest. Haynes recorded event wins in both the Axle Deadlift and Power Stairs and looks to be a very bright prospect indeed.
Richardson’s performance got off to an excellent start after a shared victory in the Log Press with Jack Osborn. The Junior British record holder has a 205kg training lift under his belt, and is a renowned presser, so Richardson was quietly satisfied with his equal 1st. Going into the Axle Deadlift, Luke may have felt confident of taking victory but, like many in attendance, was surprised at the pulling power of Haynes, who was the only man to reach double figures. Richardson was forced to share the runner-up spot with the Miracle Man, Mark Felix, on 9 reps.
With a healthy 6-point lead already established, Luke stamped his authority on the proceedings with an explosive win in the Sandbag Steeplechase. Launching the 150kg sandbags metres beyond the hurdle he defeated Haynes by over 2 seconds and backed-up his first event victory with a second-place finish in the Yoke. Kane Francis took his only win of the contest and was just over a 10th of a second quicker than Richardson.
Just like the women, the day before, the competition climaxed with the Power Stairs. With an 8.5-point lead, Richardson needed only to complete the run of four weights to guarantee the overall victory. The real battle lay in the tussle for second and third, with Francis, Haynes and Smith separated by just 2 points.
Haynes, who was in 4th, needed a big performance and having won this event at the European Championships would have been hopeful of making up the 1.5 point deficit to Paul Smith. Smith’s difficulties on the Stairs had cost him a podium at Britain’s in January, and despite the big improvements he has clearly made in this area, his 6th place finish lost him five points to Paddy’s event win and a podium place slipped away once more.
Francis retained second place with a characteristically consistent and competitive performance. He is the possessor of few weaknesses but lost most of his points in the Deadlift. Mark Felix finished 7th overall, proving unable to recover from his inability to lock-out a rep in the Log Press – his perennial Achilles heel.
Ben Williams appeared to tear a biceps in the Sandbag Steeplechase and was forced to withdraw after event 3, whilst John Harker, the largest man in the field, at 6-foot 6-inches, showed a great deal of promise after placing 8th overall in his first big contest, just 0.5 points shy of Felix’s total. His best placing was 4th in the Power Stairs, but he also performed strongly in the Steeplechase.
Andrew Flynn and Jack Osborn both put together highly respectable performances; Flynn’s 8 reps in the deadlift earned him equal 4th, and he matched that finish in the Steeplechase and the Yoke Carry. Osborn’s win in the opening event was the highlight of his night with his next best result a 5th in the Yoke.
The three podium finishers are assured invites to Britain’s Strongest Man in January, though it’s probable that one other athlete from this contest will receive an invite. On the evidence of Richardson’s winning performance, he will be a hard man to beat in Sheffield next January. Much has been said of Luke’s potential and it’s true that as a powerlifting world champion, no other British strongman has entered the sport with so high a base level of strength. He is still just 26, and if he can remain healthy it’s certain he will add many more titles to this England’s Strongest Man crown.
Event 1: SBD Log Press
It was tight at the top in the opening event, with the top seven men separated by just two reps in the 140kg Log Press. Jack Osborn and Luke Richardson completed a winning 9 reps each, gaining them a 2.5 point lead over the three men maxing out on eight. Shane Nye made an excellent start to the contest, equalling Paul Smith, and Kane Francis, whilst both Josh Brown and Ben Williams looked solid on 7 reps.
Mark Felix came very close to locking out a single rep, holding the log overhead for several seconds, but not achieving enough elbow extension to convince referee Dave Warner to give him a down signal. John Harker looked as if he too would not score a point, but after several failed attempts managed to coordinate his leg and arm drive sufficiently to complete a good rep and join Ben Glasscock on 2.5 points.
|Event 1: Log Press|
|=1||Jack Osborn||9 reps||11.5|
|=1||Luke Richardson||9 reps||11.5|
|=3||Shane Nye||8 reps||9|
|=3||Paul Smith||8 reps||9|
|=3||Kane Francis||8 reps||9|
|=6||Josh Brown||7 reps||6.5|
|=6||Ben Williams||7 reps||6.5|
|8||Andrew Flynn||5 reps||5|
|9||Paddy Haynes||2 reps||4|
|=10||Ben Glasscock||1 rep||2.5|
|=10||John Harker||1 rep||2.5|
|12||Mark Felix||0 reps||1|
Event 2: Mirafit Axel Deadlift
Mark Felix was first out in the deadlift and as expected, set a challenging total for the rest of the field to chase. Grinding out 9 repetitions, the 57-year-old looked as impervious to lower back fatigue as ever and pushed himself to the limit to complete his last two reps. Paddy Haynes, who had finished well down the order in the Log, came out in the second pairing to beat Felix’s total by a single rep. He was the only person to do so, looking on as the next eight competitors each fell short of his 10 rep total.
The 320kg axle sits low and has no flex, presenting as “dead” a lift as is possible. Kane Francis blasted through his first few reps with great explosivity but ran out of steam on six. Paul Smith looked smooth and efficient to rack up eight, which was double the tally of Shane Nye. In the final pairing Jack Osborn amassed a decent 7 reps, whilst Richardson fell one rep short of Haynes’ 10 reps, drawing level with Felix for equal 2nd.
|Event 2: Axel Deadlift|
|1||Paddy Haynes||10 reps||12||16|
|=2||Mark Felix||9 reps||10.5||10.5|
|=2||Luke Richardson||9 reps||10.5||22|
|=4||Andrew Flynn||8 reps||8.5||13.5|
|=4||Paul Smith||8 reps||8.5||17.5|
|6||Jack Osborn||7 reps||7||18.5|
|=7||John Harker||6 reps||5.5||8|
|=7||Kane Francis||6 reps||5.5||14.5|
|=9||Josh Brown||4 reps||3||9.5|
|=9||Ben Williams||4 reps||3||9.5|
|=9||Shane Nye||4 reps||3||12|
|12||Ben Glasscock||2 reps||1||3.5|
Event 3: SBD Sandbag Steeplechase
Having suffered multiple biceps ruptures, Richardson must have been conscious of the risk posed in picking up these 150kg sandbags. Lacking any real purchase, the athletes are forced to use their arm strength to find their grip. But even Ben Williams suffering a suspected biceps tear in the second heat could not put Luke off his stride and he tore through the event in a winning time of 31.87 seconds. Haynes could not keep pace, though his 34.02 second effort was good enough for 2nd, whilst Francis and Flynn took 3rd and 4th respectively.
After dropping the sacks over a hurdle, hallway down the 20m course, the athletes must then retrieve them from the other side and load them onto a table. Paul Smith looked a little too slow on the pick-ups to challenge the fastest men and five of the contenders failed to finish the event, testament to just how demanding this twist on a traditional loading race is.
|Event 3: Sandbag Steeplechase|
|1||Luke Richardson||Completed in 31.87 sec||13||34|
|2||Paddy Haynes||Completed in 34.02 sec||12||27|
|3||Kane Francis||Completed in 36.94 sec||11||24.5|
|4||Andrew Flynn||Completed in 38.65 sec||10||22.5|
|5||Paul Smith||Completed in 46.70 sec||9||25.5|
|6||John Harker||Completed in 51.64 sec||8||15|
|7||Ben Glasscock||Completed in 58.59 sec||7||9.5|
|8||Jack Osborn||1 sack on table in 42.70 sec||6||23.5|
|9||Mark Felix||1 sack on table in 44.44 sec||5||14.5|
|10||Shane Nye||1 sack on table in 72.60 sec||4||15|
|11||Ben Williams||1 sack over hurdle in 11.46 sec||3||11.5|
|12||Josh Brown||1 sack over hurdle in 33.13 sec||2||10.5|
Event 4: Mirafit Yoke Carry
Francis and Richardson were a league apart in this penultimate event. Racing in pairs with 420kg yokes, every athlete, barring the injured Ben Williams, completed the 20m course. Jack Osborn set the early pace with a 15.53 second clocking, which Paul Smith comfortably beat in a time of 12.69. In the 5th pairing Kane Francis was able to achieve a pace that none could match, yet his winning time of 10.87 seconds was nearly beaten by Richardson who came within a tenth of a second, despite dropping the Yoke momentarily. Luke’s 8.5 point lead looked unassailable and it would now be up to the rest to fight it out for the lower podium places.
|Event 4: Yoke Carry|
|1||Kane Francis||10.87 sec||12||36.5|
|2||Luke Richardson||10.96 sec||11||45|
|3||Paul Smith||12.69 sec||10||35.5|
|4||Andrew Flynn||14.45 sec||9||31.5|
|5||Jack Osborn||15.53 sec||8||31.5|
|6||Paddy Haynes||15.81 sec||7||34|
|7||Mark Felix||17.10 sec||6||20.5|
|8||Josh Brown||19.35 sec||5||15.5|
|9||John Harker||20.10 sec||4||19|
|10||Ben Glasscock||35.04 sec||3||12.5|
|11||Shane Nye||17.21 sec||2||17|
Event 5: SBD Power Stairs
Just as he had done in London at the Official Strongman European Championships, Paddy Haynes took the event win in the Power Stairs. He blasted through the lighter weights and placed the 250kg final implement onto the 12th step in 22.94 seconds. In the final heat of the day, Kane Francis and Luke Richardson treated the crowd to a thrilling battle that ended in a near dead heat. Both men’s final weight had overhung the last step, and they were forced to lift them a final time to place them fully onto the platform. Appearing to release their weights simultaneously, after prolonged deliberation the referees awarded Luke the win by just 0.01 of a second.
A second event win earned Haynes a place on the podium while Richardson extended his winning margin to 9.5 points. Smith slipped back to 4th, mirroring his finish at Britain’s Strongest Man. Richardson’s comeback had been long awaited and much anticipated, and his winning performance was sufficiently impressive to suggest that he is well on the way to fulfilling the massive potential he has shown. The future looks promising indeed!
|Event 5: Power Stairs|
|1||Paddy Haynes||12 stairs in 33.94 sec||13||46|
|2||Luke Richardson||12 stairs in 34.11 sec||12||56|
|3||Kane Francis||12 stairs in 34.12 sec||11||46.5|
|4||John Harker||12 stairs in 34.57 sec||10||28|
|5||Mark Felix||12 stairs in 38.41 sec||9||28.5|
|6||Paul Smith||12 stairs in 40.28 sec||8||42.5|
|7||Andrew Flynn||12 stairs in 43.69 sec||7||37.5|
|8||Jack Osborn||11 stairs in 43.73 sec||6||36.5|
|9||Josh Brown||10 stairs in 53.96 sec||5||19.5|
|10||Ben Glasscock||8 stairs in 49.10 sec||4||15.5|
|11||Shane Nye||6 stairs in 31.96 sec||3||19|