2022 Season Review
With the final show of the 2022 season in the books, having drawn to a successful conclusion for the British Team, it brings to a close another remarkable year of strongman for the Giants Live Arena Tour. The strength community is already looking forward to next season and the 2023 World’s Strongest Man, with the Giants Live podium finishers from this year all having gained their qualification places.
And what a year it has been! Giants Live has visited Wales for the first time, been hosted at two brand new Arenas, introduced eight new athletes, four new events and witnessed the breaking of five world records. Two men became first-time show winners, and four athletes took their places on the podium, having never previously done so. On top of all that, Giants has hosted its first ever team competition and welcomed six of the world’s strongest women to showcase their remarkable talents in front of the thousands of Giants faithful. Quite a year, indeed!
Solidarity for Ukraine
There were truly heart-warming displays of sympathy and respect for the three Ukrainian athletes who competed on tour this year, given special dispensation to compete for their country during the ongoing war with Russia. Oleksii Novikov, Pavlo Kordiyaka and Pavlo Nakonechnyy received ovations from the Giants Live crowds as a show of solidarity for their struggle, both as citizens of a country embroiled in warfare, and as athletes who are competing at the very highest level despite facing the most challenging of circumstances. All three athletes excelled this year and have become true favourites with the Giants Live fans!
New winners – new rivalries
The Giants Live roster of athletes is ever changing as new athletes come to the fore and more established stars take competitive breaks or come in and out of form. This year there were two first-time contest winners as well as a host of debutantes. In a sport that has witnessed many rivalries, such as Sigmarssson vs Kazmaier, Shaw vs Savickas, or more recently, Hall vs Björnsson, this season’s emergence of two bright, young stars is surely a glimpse of the sports’ future.
Pavlo Nakonechnyy won his first Giants Live contest at the World Open, in Cardiff, in just his second appearance at an event. Having contested the 2021 World Open and World Deadlift Championships, the massively muscled Ukrainian returned to the fray this year with a leaner and more muscular physique, as well as a steely resolve to prove himself as an all-round strongman, rather than just a deadlifter. Taking event wins in the Medley and the Castle Stones, he came from behind to snatch victory from another new face for 2022 – Canada’s Mitchell “Moose” Hooper.
A former marathon runner and golfer, Hooper exploded onto the elite strongman scene at World’s Strongest Man, where he qualified for the final and won the opening event. He finished runner-up on his Giants debut at The Strongman Classic, as well as in Cardiff, losing out to another Ukrainian – Oleskii Novikov – who was in imperious form. The prospect of another toe-to-toe battle with Nakonechnyy at The World Tour Finals was an appetising one, but Hooper dominated the Ukrainian and got ahead early, offering him little chance of overhauling his early lead.
Other New Faces
In addition to Mitchell Hooper, there were more new athletes on the scene this year than ever before. At the World’s Strongest Nation three British former World’s Strongest Woman winners, Donna Moore, Andrea Thompson and Rebecca Roberts helped seal victory for the UK. Their American opposite numbers were equally impressive and included U82kg World’s Strongest Woman, Nadia Stowers, Inez Carrasquillo, and the incredible Gabi Dixson, who in the Hercules Hold produced a time of 1 minute, 8 seconds, which beat the performances of all but one of the male athletes – Mark Felix, the event record holder.
New European athletes included Pavlo Kordiyaka of the Ukraine as well as the Dutchman Kelvin de Ruiter and current top Icelander and World’s Strongest Man finalist Eythór Ingólfsson Melsted.
From the southern hemisphere came South Africa’s Chris Van Der Linde to contest the Deadlift World Championships, having recently joined the 1,000lb club. Although not a first timer, having made his Giants Live debut at the North American Open in 2019, Australian Eddie Williams appeared at the World Tour Finals as well as the Strongman Classic where he delighted the crowd with his crooning and impressive grip strength, winning the Hercules Hold.
From across the pond came Bobby Thompson, The American Nightmare, to attempt to break his own American log record. In addition, the UK crowds welcomed big Ken McClelland, the veteran whose best showing came in the Farmer’s Walk. From closer to home was yet another promising Scot: the reigning Scotland’s Strongest Man, Louis Jack.
Always looking to keep the events fresh and challenging, Darren Sadler and the event crew brought a number of previously uncontested disciplines to some of this year’s shows. The Deadlift Ladder featured at Europe’s Strongest Man, with five bars of increasing weight, from 300kg/661lb, to 400kg/881lb. Konstantine Janashia of Georgia clinched victory, lifting four bars in 35.04 seconds, with no one managing to complete all five lifts.
The Power Stairs made two appearances, having previously never been used at Giants Live; firstly at Europe’s and then at the World Tour Finals, where it replaced the stones as the show finale. Latvian, Aivars Šmaukstelis climbed to victory on both occasions.
At Britain’s Strongest Man Shane Flowers became the first man to win the Sandbag Toss at Giants, which was a twist on the more familiar Keg Toss. Shane heaved all six bags over the 15-foot bar in an incredible 18.38 seconds! In another event variation, the Farmer’s Walk for maximum distance put athletes’ grips to the test at the Strongman Classic. The competitors walked lengths of the 15m course and were allowed to drop the weights and re-grip in the safe zones at each end. Dropping mid length would end their attempt. Oleksii Novikov hung on the longest and furthest with 63.30m.
In Liverpool, at the World’s Strongest Nation, the crowd noise was never louder than during the Tug of War – a first for Giants Live and an event that was perfect for the team format. This contest saw a few variations of established events, including relays in the Farmer’s Walk and Power Stairs, with male and female athletes taking alternate turns.
Most Contest Wins
Equal with Hooper’s double victories is Oleksii Novikov who took wins at both Europe’s Strongest Man – arguably the premier title on the Giants Live tour – and the Strongman Classic. Surprising many with his breath-taking early season form, considering the difficulties he must have had preparing amid the war in his homeland, Novikov seemed to fade slightly by the time the World Open came around and did not contest the World Tour Finals in Glasgow. A break in his hectic competition schedule seemed to do the trick for Novikov, the 2020 World’s Strongest Man winner, who recovered to claim victory at the Rogue Invitational in Texas last month.
Most event wins
With five event wins this season, Oleksii Novikov racked-up more single event victories than anyone else in the three shows he contested. Making all his wins at Europe’s and the Strongman Classic, he took first places in Carry and Drag, Castle Stones, Dumbbell Medley, Farmer’s Walk and Deadlift for Reps. Tom Stoltman was the next most prolific event winner despite only competing at Britain’s Strongest Man. The Invergordon Goliath completely dominated that show, winning three events outright and sharing first with Adam Bishop in the Deadlift for Reps.
Several athletes notched up three event wins: Mitchell Hooper won Log for Reps, Front Hold and Carry and Drag, whilst Pavlo Nakonechnyy took firsts in the Medley, Atlas Stones, and Deadlift for Reps. Aivars Šmaukstelis also took three victories, sharing the win with Pavlo Kordiyaka in the Dumbbell for Reps in Glasgow and finishing on the top step in the Power Stairs on two occasions.
World Championship Events
The 2022 season saw two individual event World Championships decided in front of packed crowds. The World Log Lift Challenge took place as the opening event at Europe’s Strongest Man in early April. Defending champion and World Record Holder, Iron Biby of Burkina Faso returned to the UK to see if he could add a single kilogram to the 229kg/505lb record he set in Glasgow last year. Both he and Luke Stoltman completed their 218kg/481lb attempts and moved on to a 230kg/507lb record attempt. Biby came closest, pressing the huge log overhead, but as the weight shifted to one side, he was unable to completely straighten his massive left arm, and the log fell to the ground with no down-signal given by referee Magnús Ver Magnússon. Not to be this time, but agonisingly close from the heaviest overhead presser in history.
Fast forward to early August and this time it was the World Deadlift Championships to enthral the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena crowds and yet another assault on the World Deadlift Record. Despite a brave effort at a record breaking 505kg/1,113lb from Georgia’s Ivan Makarov, it was Estonia’s Rauno Heinla who came away with top honours following his 476kg/1,049lb Master’s World Record – and a smoother, more technically accomplished lift the fans could not have wished for.
World and National Records
The first world record of the season came at the very first event of the opening contest at Britain’s Strongest Man, where in event one, the Shield Carry, Ireland’s Pa O’Dwyer defeated Mark Steele’s 60.00m record, set in 2017, improving the distance to 62.15m. It was not a record he was to hold for long, however, as Tom Stoltman then immediately bettered the performance with a 65.30m carry of the 200kg/441lb shield.
At The Strongman Classic held inside the world-famous Royal Albert Hall, in July, America’s Rob Kearney and Ukraine’s Oleksii Novikov became the first men to complete all five implements of the Circus Dumbbell Ladder. Having been first used at the 2021 Britain’s Strongest Man contest, where no one completed the set, Rob Kearney, a man renowned for his superb overhead lifting ability, became the first man to lift all five, doing so in 42.21 seconds. When Novikov’s time came to step up and complete his run, he didn’t disappoint; famed for his prowess with giant dumbbells, the 2020 World’s Strongest Man hoisted all five implements aloft in 32.38 seconds – the best performance yet on these dumbbells.
The fourth stop on the Giants Live World’s Strongest Man Arena Tour provided yet another world record, this time of the Master’s variety, when Estonia’s Rauni Heinla, at forty years-of-age, won the World Deadlift Championships at the World Open event in Cardiff. Lifting 476kg/1,049lb, he added a whopping 40kg/88lb to Mikhail Shivlyakov’s former record. Georgia’s Ivan Makarov was the only man who looked capable of surpassing Heinla’s magnificent lift, attempting, but narrowly failing a 505kg/1,113lb all-time world record. Wales’s Gavin “The Bull” Bilton also bettered his own Welsh Deadlift record with a 425.5kg/938lb effort in front of his home crowd – a feat that earned him the biggest cheer of the night!
After Cardiff, the Giants Live tour returned to Glasgow for the World Tour Finals, where not one, but two records were smashed in front of a packed crowd at the OVO Hydro Arena. In the opening event, the Nicol Stones, Kevin Faires’ world record of 22.20m was bettered no less than four times. The first man to take the 138kg/304lb and 114kg/251lb stones beyond the American’s mark was Britain’s Paul Smith who achieved 23.10m. Former record holder Andy Black then managed 24.08m, much to his home crowd’s delight. The Bulldozer’s new record was short lived however, as Mitchell Hooper added a finely judged 6cm, before Faires had the chance to regain his record. The American wasn’t going to let anyone take his record away. Renowned for his vice-like grip, Faires reached a distance of 24.61m to retain his record for another year!
In the third event, the crowd were treated to yet another record, this time in the Axle Deadlift for maximum repetitions. Facing the current record holder, Rauno Heinla, who completed nine repetitions at the 2021 Europe’s Strongest Man, Ukraine’s Pavlo Nakonechnyy knew he had his work cut out and would need a big total. Pavlo moved into beast mode and produced a truly astonishing 11 reps, the most ever completed on these frequently used circus axle barbells.
The Season’s Final Show – The World’s Strongest Nation
The curtain call for the 2022 season was the World’s Strongest Nation event on the 26th of November at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, in which male and female teams representing USA and the UK went head-to-head. The two sides were captained by former World’s Strongest Man rivals Eddie “The Beast” Hall and Martins “The Dragon” Licis.
Britain’s team principal came out of retirement to lead The British Bulldogs to victory in this clash, which featured the 2021 World’s Strongest Woman, Rebecca Roberts of Wales, the 2018 winner, Andrea Thompson and three-time champion Donna Moore. Each nation fielded a squad of six athletes; three male and three female, to contest the eight events. The teams accrued points over the course of the contest, with squad members, as well as captains, matching their respective talents to each individual event. With the best of the UK and America’s strength talent on display, this was a thrilling show, with the team format adding extra excitement and whipping up the crowd.
With all five of the show dates in the calendar for next season there is every reason to be excited at what’s to come in 2023. This year has seen the emergence of some truly incredible strength talent and what they will achieve next season is anybody’s guess. Will Tom Stoltman win World’s Strongest Man 2023 and make it three in a row? Will Mitchell Hooper keep his Giants Live winning streak intact, or will the Ukrainian duo of Novikov and Nakonechnyy spoil the party?
Adam Bishop, having returned to action following his triceps tear will most likely lead the charge for the Deadlift World record, along with Hooper, Makarov and Nakonechnyy . Will Mark Felix return to form in the Hercules Hold and take yet another World Record at fifty-seven years of age? Could Graham Hicks steel Iron Biby’s World Log Press Record? Will the female athletes return to grace the Giants Live stage? And what new talent will be unearthed in 2023? Which new athletes will come to the fore and perhaps make the podium, or win a show for the first time? The only way to answer any of these questions is to come and watch the Giants, either live at an Arena Tour event, via live stream, or to view on Channel 5 over the Christmas period.