Pavlo Kordiyaka swept all before him to take the Europe’s Strongest Man title as Ukraine finished one-two in Leeds on Saturday night. Nearly 7,000 fans raised the roof at the First Direct Arena as the contest reached its thrilling climax in the Castle Stones.
Kordiyaka won three of the evening’s five events and set a new world record in Conan’s Wheel, but trailed his compatriot, Oleksii Novikov, going into the final event. The defending champion blasted through his first four stones as Pavlo tried desperately to keep in touch. But as Oleksii’s final stone slipped from his grasp, Kordiyaka was able to place his on its plinth and secure a stunning victory.
Latvia’s Aivars Šmaukstelis completed the podium, finishing just two points adrift of the Ukrainian duo after placing first in the stones. Novikov’s costly mistake resulted in a 7-point swing that saw Pavlo overturn his 3-point deficit to clinch a 57.5 to 53.5 win over his teammate.
Iceland’s Eythór Ingólfsson Melsted produced a characteristically consistent performance to finish fourth, ahead of Adam Bishop who was the best placed Brit in what was a disappointing evening for the home countries. Gavin Bilton was forced to withdraw after appearing to pull his hamstring in the deadlift, whilst Graham Hicks was also unable to continue after taking 6th in the opening event, the Log Ladder.
A record equalling 9 reps in the 350kg (771lb) Mirafit Deadlift was the night’s only real highlight for Bishop who won Britain’s Strongest Man in January. Taking last in the Log Ladder, he was unable to recoup sufficient points as the Ukrainians streaked ahead. Both Shane Flowers and Pa O’Dwyer produced solid showings after struggling with illness and injury in recent contests. They were 6th and 7th respectively.
But it was the 6-foot, 5-inch Kordiyaka who stole the show and won the fans’ support as he romped away with the show. Shocking many by being the only man to complete the Log Ladder, he ran away with the win in the Load and Push before eclipsing Darren Sadler’s record in the Conan’s Wheel and taking second in the Castle Stones. The only blemish on his card was the =7th in the Deadlift for Reps, where his 3 repetitions saw him relinquish the lead to Novikov.
In a contest that was designed to mirror the events at World’s Strongest Man, which gets underway later this month, Pavlo’s athleticism prevailed. Moving like a sprinter in the Load and Push, he power jerked the logs like an accomplished weightlifter and seemed to make the 300kg Conan’s Wheel quad bike look more like a push bike, as he strode effortlessly around the arena.
Many had tipped Kordiyaka to perform strongly prior to the show, following his 4th place finish last year, but few were ready for the stunning display of explosive power and technical efficiency he was able to produce. Novikov seemed genuinely happy for his countryman but will reflect with frustration on his mishandling of the final stone just as he appeared to have victory in his hands.
Both men have proved their form despite competing under very difficult circumstances, and will now travel to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where World’s begins on 19th April. With last night’s display, Kordiyaka, who won the Official Strongman Games back in 2021, will now be seen as a major contender.
The Ukrainian three-man squad of Kordiyaka, Novikov and Pavlo Nakoechnyy have between them won four of the last five international Giants Live contests. With all three in their mid-twenties, there could be many more contest victories yet to come.
There was a marked contrast in the fates of Bishop and Kordiyaka in the opening event’s third pairing as the Ukrainian blasted through all five logs, whilst Bish appeared to still be struggling with his injured triceps. As the event played out, they were to finish at opposite ends of the scoreboard as neither Hicks nor Novikov were able to complete the ladder’s final 180kg (397lb) log and prevent Pavlo from getting the evening off to the best of starts.
Šmaukstelis and Melsted were the only competitors, along with Novikov, to successfully lift the 4th log which weighed in at 170kg (375lb), whilst Britain’s Paul Smith was the fastest of those who could go no further than 160kg (353lb).
|Event 1: SBD Log Ladder|
|1||Pavlo Kordiyaka (UKR)||5 in 52.55 sec||13||13|
|2||Oleksii Novikov (UKR)||4 in 38.38||12||12|
|3||Eythór Melsted (ISL)||4 in 40.98||11||11|
|4||Aivars Šmaukstelis (LAT)||4 in 43.58||10||10|
|5||Paul Smith (GBR)||3 in 27.83||9||9|
|6||Graham Hicks (GBR)||3 in 29.09||8||8|
|7||Dennis Kohlruss (GER)||3 in 30.66||7||7|
|8||Konstantine Janashia (GEO)||3 in 33.54||6||6|
|9||Gavin Bilton (GBR)||3in 34.51||5||5|
|10||Jean-Stephen Coraboeuf (FRA)||3 in 37.27||4||4|
|11||Shane Flowers (GBR)||2 in 12.20||3||3|
|12||Pa O’Dwyer (IRE)||2 in 14.41||2||2|
|13||Adam Bishop (GBR)||2 in 17.01||1||1|
This was a new event set-up for Giants Live and was therefore tricky to predict, although it looked certain to favour loading race specialists. The competitors had to load an anvil, a sack and a tyre into their barrow before pushing it back down the course. Attempting to recover points following his 13th place in the Log Ladder, Adam Bishop posted a rapid 49.80 second run and then watched every successive athlete come up short of his time.
The final pairing of Ukrainian teammates brought a different level of speed and athleticism to this event, but it was the taller man, Kordiyaka, who reigned supreme as he opened his stride between the implements and distanced Novikov by several metres as they pushed their laden barrows down the 20m course.
The ever dependable Šmaukstelis bagged some good points in 4th, as Shane Flowers took 5th and the Welsh Bull, Bilton, once again demonstrated his tremendous mobility for such a large man, by coming home in 6th.
|Event 2: Clearscore Load & Push|
|1||Pavlo Kordiyaka (UKR)||44.14 sec||13||26|
|2||Oleksii Novikov (UKR)||46.07||12||24|
|3||Adam Bishop (GBR)||49.80||11||12|
|4||Aivars Šmaukstelis (LAT)||50.26||10||20|
|5||Shane Flowers (GBR)||50.94||9||12|
|6||Gavin Bilton (GBR)||51.75||8||13|
|7||Pa O’Dwyer (IRE)||52.19||7||9|
|8||Paul Smith (GBR)||52.69||6||15|
|9||Konstantine Janashia (GEO)||54.36||5||11|
|10||Eythór Melsted (ISL)||54.89||4||15|
|11||Jean-Stephen Coraboeuf (FRA)||55.39||3||7|
|12||Dennis Kohlruss (GER)||62.54||2||9|
At the 2017 Britain’s Strongest Man contest, Eddie Hall performed 9 repetitions on a similar 350kg (771lb) standard barbell which was the record Adam Bishop and Oleksii Novikov would be shooting for. Pa O’Dwyer was ahead of the pack with 7-reps, until Bish and Šmaukstelis strapped onto the bar in the penultimate pairing. The Latvian equalled O’Dwyer, but it was the Englishman who proved, once again, what a prodigious puller he is, by tying Hall’s record with 9 repetitions.
The final heat saw Novikov and Kordiyaka lock horns again, but this time it was Novikov, the 2020 World’s Strongest Man, who took the ascendancy. He racked up the reps in metronomic fashion, achieving parity with Bishop but choosing not to attempt what would have been an extremely taxing 10th lift, despite it looking within his capabilities. Kordiyaka, not renowned for his deadlift, could muster only 3, allowing Oleksii to assume a 4-point lead.
Flowers performed well with five lists, tying 5th with Melsted, but Gavin Bilton looked to have damaged his hamstring after aborting his 3rd rep. With only a single repetition, Paul Smith’s challenge all but ended after a solid first two events.
|Event 3: Mirafit Deadlift for Reps|
|=1||Adam Bishop (GBR)||9 reps||12.5||24.5|
|=1||Oleksii Novikov (UKR)||9 reps||12.5||36.5|
|=3||Aivars Šmaukstelis (LAT)||7 reps||10.5||30.5|
|=3||Pa O’Dwyer (IRE)||7 reps||10.5||19.5|
|=5||Eythór Melsted (ISL)||6 reps||8.5||23.5|
|=5||Shane Flowers (GBR)||6 reps||8.5||20.5|
|=7||Pavlo Kordiyaka (UKR)||3 reps||6.5||32.5|
|=7||Konstantine Janashia (GEO)||3 reps||6.5||17.5|
|=9||Dennis Kohlruss (GER)||2 reps||4.5||13.5|
|=9||Gavin Bilton (GBR)||2 reps||4.5||17.5|
|=11||Paul Smith (GBR)||1 rep||2.5||17.5|
|=11||Jean-Stephen Coraboeuf (FRA)||1 rep||2.5||9.5|
|13||Graham Hicks (GBR)||Withdrew||0||8|
In an event that is generally accepted to suit the trimmer, more athletically built strongmen, the likes of Kordiyaka and Novikov were expected to go well here. Both O’Dwyer and Bishop, who was now closing on the podium, had performed well at Conan’s Wheel in previous contests and were also being tipped for good points.
With Darren Sadler’s 835° record marked on the arena floor the opening competitors made little headway. That was all to change as Kordiyaka took his grip and proceeded to stride round the venue with the massive 300kg (661lb) load seeming to barely hinder him. With little sign of fatigue, he easily surpassed Sadler’s distance and eventually lowered the apparatus at the 1009° mark. Afterwards, as he was interviewed with Pavlo, Sadler confessed that he had fully expected his record to fall.
Novikov was the only other man to better the old mark and his brilliant 897° effort allowed him to take a 3-point lead into the final event. Bishop and O’Dwyer performed well, as expected, and were just behind Melsted who picked up 3rd with 760°.
|Event 4: BoohooMAN Conan’s Wheel|
|1||Pavlo Kordiyaka (UKR)||1009° WR*||13||45.5|
|2||Oleksii Novikov (UKR)||897°||12||48.5|
|3||Eythór Melsted (ISL)||760°||11||34.5|
|4||Pa O’Dwyer (IRE)||733°||10||29.5|
|5||Adam Bishop (GBR)||731°||9||33.5|
|6||Aivars Šmaukstelis (LAT)||710°||8||38.5|
|=7||Shane Flowers (GBR)||640°||7||27|
|=7||Dennis Kohlruss (GER)||640°||6||20|
|9||Paul Smith (GBR)||582°||5||22.5|
|10||Konstantine Janashia (GEO)||363°||4||21.5|
|11||Jean-Stephen Coraboeuf (FRA)||173°||3||12.5|
|12||Gavin Bilton (GBR)||Withdrew||0||17.5|
|13||Graham Hicks (GBR)||Withdrew||0||8|
Kordiyaka, in second place by this stage of the contest, had a 7-point lead over Aivars Šmaukstelis, in third, and it was clear that the contest result would be decided in the final all-Ukrainian pairing. The Latvian put in a scintillating stone run in the penultimate heat, loading all five spheres in just 20.47 seconds. That time was quick enough to win the event and secure his third-place finish.
Novikov and Kordiyaka took their places at the front of the platforms, ready to begin their heat, with the reigning champ needing just to stay ahead of his countryman to ensure victory. The stones have so often been the source of drama in strongman contests, and so it would prove on this occasion.
As Pavlo’s stones struggled to settle in their holes atop the platforms, Novikov ripped through the lighter stones and appeared certain to win both the event and the championship. But just as he raised the final 180kg orb from the floor, it rolled forward out of his grasp and Kordiyaka was able to load his in a time of 21.76 – good enough for second. A quick reset could still have given Oleksii overall victory, but as he raised the stone a second time, he was unable to heave it from his lap and as the clock ticked on, he was forced to give up and concede victory to his countryman.
Kordiyaka, who had probably thought that victory had eluded him, was ecstatic as his triumph became a realisation. Once confirmed as the overall winner, amid an eruption of applause from the crowd, he was initially speechless. Dedicating his victory to the Ukrainian people’s plight it’s hard to imagine a more popular winner than the likeable Kordiyaka. His rise to prominence in strongman has been fast and has happened amid difficult circumstances. A new star of European strongman has been discovered and it will be fascinating to see how he fares at World’s Strongest Man.
|Event 5: The Castle Stones|
|1||Aivars Šmaukstelis (LAT)||5 in 20.47 sec||13||51.5|
|2||Pavlo Kordiyaka (UKR)||5 in 21.76||12||57.5|
|3||Eythór Melsted (ISL)||5 in 21.77||11||45.5|
|4||Shane Flowers (GBR)||5 in 22.73||10||37|
|5||Konstantine Janashia (GEO)||5 in 23.69||9||30.5|
|6||Adam Bishop (GBR)||5 in 26.32||8||41.5|
|7||Pa O’Dwyer (IRE)||5 in 30.90||7||36.5|
|8||Dennis Kohlruss (GER)||5 in 40.91||6||26|
|9||Oleksii Novikov (UKR)||4 in 15.41||5||53.5|
|10||Jean-Stephen Coraboeuf (FRA)||4 in 31.15||4||16.5|
|11||Paul Smith (GBR)||2 in 16.03||3||25.5|
|12||Gavin Bilton (GBR)||Withdrew||2||17.5|
|13||Graham Hicks (GBR)||Withdrew||1||8|
|1||Pavlo Kordiyaka (UKR)||57.5|
|2||Oleksii Novikov (UKR)||53.5|
|3||Aivars Šmaukstelis (LAT)||51.5|
|4||Eythór Melsted (ISL)||45.5|
|5||Adam Bishop (GBR)||41.5|
|6||Shane Flowers (GBR)||37|
|7||Pa O’Dwyer (IRE)||36.5|
|8||Konstantine Janashia (GEO)||30.5|
|9||Dennis Kohlruss (GER)||26|
|10||Paul Smith (GBR)||25.5|
|11||Gavin Bilton (GBR)||17.5|
|12||Jean-Stephen Coraboeuf (FRA)||16.5|
|13||Graham Hicks (GBR)||8|
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