PREVIEW: Europe’s Strongest Man 2020 – 8 events, 2 days and 1 champion!

By James Nethercoat


Introduction

Athletes

Luke Richardson
Oleksii Novikov
Terry Hollands
Graham Hicks
Vytautas Lalas
Aaron Page
Gavin Bilton
Luke Stoltman
Adam Bishop
Mark Felix
Pa O'Dwyer

Notable Mentions

Conclusion

Poll


2020 was set to be the biggest year ever at Giants Live. 50,000 fans across 6 arenas and 2 continents were set to experience the greatest spectacle of strength sports on planet earth. The strongest men on the planet going head-to-head, throwing everything down, leaving nothing on the table - with the hope that one day, they would be able to call themselves The World’s Strongest Man.

Alas, 2020 had other ideas.

Since the global pandemic put the brakes on live strength sports and gyms around the world shut up shop for lock down, things have been tough for everyone in the strength world. Strongmen, so used to performing in front of thousands of fans were forced to lift weights in empty garages, away from the familiar backdrop of cheering crowds and without the usual blood-pumping adrenaline of competing against their fellow strongmen.

Despite these dark times, our Giants have not been sitting around getting lockdown belly. They’ve been working hard in their home gyms with the gritty determination to come back stronger, fitter, faster and smarter than they were before.
Now, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

This September, 11 of the strongest men on planet earth will be coming together (but not too close) for the first time since Britain’s Strongest Man in January, to go head-to-head once more and battle it out for the title of Europe’s Strongest Man - the most prestigious title in strongman, second only to the title of World’s Strongest Man itself!
With Mateusz Keilszkowski injured and Hafthor Bjornsson retiring from Strongman to focus on knocking out Eddie Hall, a new King of Europe is set to be crowned.

As always, we don’t do things by halves here at Giants Live. We may not be able to invite you, the fans, to the showdown, but rest assured, the long-anticipated return of strongman competition will be going down in strongman history!

8 events across 2 days will make this one of the most gruelling Giants Live competitions we have ever seen.

THE ATHLETES


Luke ‘The Future’ Richardson started his transition from powerlifting prodigy to aspiring strongman at the Official Strongman European games last year in what was an eye opening couple of days for the 23 Year old Yorkshire man. On paper, he was one of the favourites but in his first full Strongman event he finished well off the podium places. Just 5 months later he was stood atop the podium at the Official Strongman World Championships in Daytona Beach, having pipped Ben Brunning in the final event to take the crown.

Luke’s trajectory to become a serious World’s Strongest Man contender continued at Britain’s Strongest Man in January with a solid 4th place finish, only being beaten by the 3 men who were in the World’s Strongest Man finals just a few months previous. Not bad for his first professional strongman event!

During lockdown, Luke has set to work improving his stamina and recovery whilst aiming to maintain his impressive strength. His recent 5x 360kg on the axle deadlift would certainly suggest he’s on the right track.

 
At only 24 years old, Ukrainian superstar Novikov has been billed as the next big thing in Strongman ever since his brilliant display at the Arnold Classic in 2019. He narrowly missed out on the World’s Strongest Man finals after losing the controversial head to head stones event to Trey Mitchell.

With the only 2 men to beat him at his last Giants Live outing injured (Brunning and Keiliskowsi), Oleksii surely has to be one of the favourites for the title of Europe’s Strongest Man in 2020. His speed and athleticism is a big advantage for the usual arena show format where 5 events are compressed into a matter of hours, will he be able to use that athletic advantage over the 2 day format?

 
If you told the Terry of 10 years ago that he would quit strongman to become a bodybuilder, become a strongman again, win World’s Strongest Masters and have his honeymoon at Disneyland a few days after he’d probably (definitely) have thought you were crazy, but this stalwart of the Strongman circuit has done just about everything there is to do. That is, except winning Europe’s Strongest Man.

Big Tel came close in 2010, finishing 2nd and narrowly missing out to Big Z. He hit the podium again in 2017 finishing in 3rd just a few points behind then World’s Strongest Man, Eddie Hall. 2 podium finishes 7 years apart is an impressive feat for the big man from Dartford.

Terry will admit he’s not as strong as he once was in his prime, but with age comes the experience and knowledge that might help him out-lift these young guns.

 
In 2019 Graham Hicks won the biggest prize in British Strongman competition, standing atop the podium in Sheffield was the crowning achievement of a man that had spent so long chasing down Eddie Hall. He came so close several times but could never quite beat The Beast, so when Eddie retired in 2018 Hixxy knew he had to pounce.

Not to say he had it easy at Britain’s Strongest Man 2019- with the likes of Adam Bishop, Tom and Luke Stoltman, Terry Hollands and Mark Felix nipping at his heels he absolutely had to perform at 100% to clinch that title he so badly wanted. When he lifted that final stone to seal his victory he looked visibly relieved, a weight lifted that had been hanging over him for so long.

Hixxy has taken some time away from the pressures of professional Strongman to enjoy being with his young family and rediscover his love for the sport. He’s done a bit of powerlifting here and there, casually setting the UK combined record with 1100kg, but Strongman is where his true passion lies. He’s sure to be in the hunt for event wins, but can he put the whole package together and fight for the win?

 
Criminally underrated is one way to describe the elder of the two Lalas brothers. It’s easy to forget that in the earlier part of this decade Vytautas was one of the best strongmen on the planet. He ran Big Z, a man widely regarded as the GOAT, a close 2nd at Europe’s Strongest Man and World’s Strongest Man in 2012, clinched the 2013 Arnold Classic title and finished runner up to Z once again at Europe’s Strongest Man 2013.

All of this promise was put on hold thanks to repeated back injuries that has put Lalas out of full-time competition for what should have been the peak of his career. He’s not been sat on his sofa watching Netflix though- he’s still a champion arm wrestler and incredibly good Strongman. If he can keep himself healthy the experienced Lithuanian could finally be taking that coveted top spot.

 
Page is making his first appearance at Europe’s Strongest Man and having never reached the podium at a Giants Live event, it would be all too easy to discount the softly spoken coach from Southampton when it comes to taking the biggest honours in Europe. But don’t be so hasty.

‘The Rage’ has always been statically one of the best in the UK- his explosive and overhead power is particularly impressive. Aaron admits that his downfall has been speed and stamina in moving events so he’s been focusing his training to improve this whilst keeping his strength.

At Britain’s Strongest Man in January you could see the fruits of his labour. He finished in a strong 5th ahead legends Mark Felix and Terry Hollands. He’s still got some way to go to catch the all-round prowess of Adam Bishop but if the cards fall his way he’s certainly in with a shot at the podium.

 
Nicknamed ‘The Bull’, this former Soldier is making his debut at Giants Live alongside some of the greatest names in strongman for the title of Europe’s Strongest Man. No pressure then!

Gavin took 4th place at UK’s Strongest Man in 2019 and after leaving the armed forces in August, is looking to take his Strongman career to the international stage. Can this 6ft 6” unknown quantity hang with these international superstars? He’ll be looking to secure a strong top-half finish and prove his doubters wrong.

 
The Highland Oak completed the bread in a Stoltman sandwich at Britain's Strongest Man in January, finishing 3rd just 3.5 points behind winner Adam Bishop. Luke has been competing at Giants Live since 2015 and has become one of the best loved strongmen on the circuit, earning himself the name 'The housewives favourite', although I think he coined that one himself.

The older of the 2 Stoltmans has been focusing on his log lifting in the past 12 months and has quickly become one of the best in the world on the log. He very nearly beat Big Z's long-standing log record earlier this year but it wasn't to be. A strong performance on the log will set Luke up for what could be his first European title!

 
Going in to Britain’s Strongest Man 2020, Adam Bishop was the hot favourite to take top honours. He faced tough opposition from 2 spicy Scotsmen but held his nerve to clinch his first Giants Live and British titles.

The best way to describe Bish is ‘all rounder’- he only won 1 of the 5 events at Britain’s Strongest Man in January but was never outside the top 3 after a wobbly start in 6th on the log press, his weakest event of the competition. Europe’s Strongest Man is set to be another super close event with any number of athletes in with a shot at glory- all Bish has to do is keep it consistent and he could seal the double.

 
By day Mark is a plasterer, working long days driving his van and plying his trade across the north of England but by night, Mark Felix is one of the strongest men on the planet. He’s probably one of the best known, too. Over 150 million people have watched the replay of Mark Felix smashing the Hercules Hold record in the past 12 months, but this new found internet stardom hasn’t changed Mark one bit.

Even as he approaches his 55th birthday in April he doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon. Mark is still one of the strongest deadlifters for reps and an absolute monster when it comes to grip events. Mark will be hoping to get his 3rd podium at this year’s Europe’s Strongest Man. Should that happen, I don’t think anyone will be disappointed!

 
Ireland’s reigning strongest man put in a great display in January at Britain’s Strongest Man, mixing it with several World’s Strongest Man finalists in the process. With many marking him as one of the weaker athletes in the field he finished only a handful of points behind the podium places.

Since January he’s kept on top of his training and is looking in great shape coming into Europe’s Strongest Man 2020. If Pa manages to come out on top after 8 events, it would mark the first time in the competitions 40 year history an Irishman took the top spot. 4.9 million Irish will be cheering him on!

Notable mentions

This is the point where I mention the giant elephant in the room – the names that are missing from this list.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past several months (if you have, then you should probably stay until at least 2021) then you’ll know that Thor Bjornson won’t be competing for his 6th Europe’s Strongest Man title in 2020. The Mountain is currently taking time out from Strongman to fight Eddie Hall in a boxing match.

Mateusz Keilskowski finished 2nd best to Thor last year and is a name many tipped for European glory in 2020. Unfortunately, owing to a shoulder injury picked up at World’s Ultimate Strongman in 2019, Mateusz has decided to sit out Europe’s Strongest Man this year. It’s a huge blow to the Polish sensation who has surely missed his best shot so far to be crowned Europe’s Strongest Man.

Both Konstantine Janashia and crowd favourite Mikhail Shivlyakov are also, sadly, missing from this list, with thanks to the ongoing Covid pandemic.

Tom Stoltman is another big name you might have expected to see running for the 2020 Europe’s Strongest Man title. Earlier this year, Tom set the record for the heaviest stone ever lifted at 273kg. The giant Scot has chosen to forgo his chance at the Europe’s Strongest Man title so he can focus on increasing that stone record. With stone lifting a notoriously brutal and injury prone discipline, it’s a risky strategy for someone tipped as a future World’s Strongest Man, but of course we love to see Tom doing what he loves and wish him all the strength in the world with it.

The return of strongman competition

The adrenaline, the rivalry, the victories and defeats, the passion of competition - it runs through the blood of strongmen. For how else can a man prove he is the strongest alive, if he cannot pit himself fairly against his fellow man in competition?

The gym is where these men train, not where they compete. After 7 months away from the heat and exhilaration of strongman competition, you can bet our athletes are at the starting line, eyes firmly set on glory. They are ready to leave the gym and ready, once more, for the world stage. A champion WILL be crowned!

It’s time to see these incredible athletes doing what they do best – strongman competition is back!

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