It’s a ROYAL RUMBLE in LONDON! The Strongman Classic 2023 PREVIEW
The GIANTS are back in London for the 3rd annual Strongman Classic!
The GIANTS are back in London for the 3rd annual Strongman Classic!
The greatest cheer ever recorded at the Royal Albert Hall, according to the venue’s staff, came at the inaugural 2021 Strongman Classic, when Iron Biby, on the third time of asking, successfully lifted overhead a new Axle Press world record of 217kg. Anyone shocked to see such behemoths as Biby occupying a stage usually reserved for the world’s foremost musicians may be equalling surprised to learn that it wasn’t the venue’s first strongman contest.
Back in 1901, the Albert Hall was home to the Great Competition; a bodybuilding contest conceived by the grandfather or modern physical culture, Eugene Sandow, to find the best developed man in Great Britain and Ireland.
More than 120 years later, Giants Live returns to London’s most iconic venue for the third year in succession, and this year’s contest has all the ingredients to make it one of the greatest strength spectaculars ever seen. The Strongman Classic isn’t known as the jewel in the Giants Live crown for nothing!
The Albert Hall will be packed to the rafters on Saturday night in what is a complete sell out! The events, carefully selected by Darren Sadler and his crew, feature stone lifting and carrying, overhead pressing and deadlifting, and are designed to thoroughly examine the strength and power of tonight’s competitors.
And what a line-up it is! Six of this year’s top seven from the World’s Strongest Man final are here, including the WSM winner Mitchell Hooper and two-time champion, Tom Stoltman. The atmosphere at the 2021 and 2022 events was nothing short of electrifying. Saturday’s show promises to be the best yet!
The Line Up
This could very well be the greatest line-up of athletes ever assembled for a Giants Live show. Hooper and Tom Stoltman will be pushed all the way and should either man slip up, they could lose major points in such a heavily stacked field. Even the late withdrawals of Oleksii Novikov and Pavlo Nakonechnyy, whose knee injury is still preventing him from competing, have done little to dent the field’s quality. Replacements in the form of Big Thickett, Trey Mitchell, who finished 4th at World’s and the Welsh Bull, Gavin Bilton, Britain’s Strongest Man runner-up, add yet more class to the roster.
Since making his highly impressive debut here last year in a magnificent head-to-head battle with Novikov, The Moose, Mitchell Hooper, has risen to the very top of the sport. His victory at World’s in April ended Tom Stoltman’s grip on the title and he comes into Saturday’s show as the hot favourite, on a winning streak that includes the Arnold Strongman Classic. In his last Giants Live appearance, he took 1st at the World Tour Finals, and will take some stopping this evening. Super Yoke is a particular strength, so look out for some serious speed in event 2!
The younger Stoltman is likely to be Hooper’s closest rival, and will no doubt be looking for any opportunity to reassert his dominance, and where better than in front of an Albert Hall packed full of British strongman fans? Tom is one of Britain’s all-time greats with two World’s Strongest Man titles under his belt and he will be making his first appearance at a Giants Live since his 2022 Britain’s Strongest Man victory in Sheffield.
The highlight of Stoltman’s performance at the inaugural Strongman Classic in 2021, was his blistering 16.97 second Castle Stones victory, which was just outside his 16.01 world record. Watch out for the Tom in event 5, where he’s sure to prove once again why he’s called the “King of the Stones.”
Joining Tom Stoltman and Gavin Bilton from the UK will be Luke Stoltman, fresh from his 8th place finish at World’s. He finished 6th at the 2021 Strongman Classic and will hoping to at least make the podium here tonight. He is also a former record holder in the Nicol Stones, so watch out for him and Tom to bring the record back to Scotland!
Ukraine’s Pavlo Kordiyaka comes to London as the reigning Europe’s Strongest Man having won the title back in April. At World’s Strongest Man this year he backed up his European triumph with a win over Tom Stoltman in his heat and a placing of 6th in the final. Pavlo won the Official Strongman Games in Daytona Beach in 2021, defeating Spenser Remick by the narrowest of margins and is one of the sports more athletically built strongman, proving that sheer size and static strength are not the only routes to success.
Evan Singleton will be coming into London with some extra bounce in his step after conquering his World’s Strongest Man demons following his 5th place finish in Myrtle Beach. The former WWE professional wrestler has topped the podium three times at Giants Live, winning the North American Open, the 2021 Arnold UK and 2021 World Open. He finished runner-up at the Inaugural Strongman Classic in 2021, losing out in a close battle with Oleksii Novikov. He was only half a point shy of Hooper last year and often thrives in these fast-paced evening contests, so don’t be surprised to see the T-Rex in the hunt for at least a podium place.
Rounding out the American contingent will be 2022 Official Strongman Games winner, Spenser Remick and Nicol Stones world record holder Kevin Faires. Remick’s OSG victory over Jaco Schoonwinkel earned him his Giants Live debut here last year, where he placed 7th, as well as his first invite to World’s Strongest Man. Faires’ last Giants outing came at last year’s World Tour Finals in Glasgow, where he finished 3rd. On his way to the podium, he set his second world record in the Nicol Stones of 24.61m after seeing his previous mark bested by three other men.
Iron Biby Returns to London
Returning to the competitive stage after a two-year lay-off, Cheick Sanou, aka Iron Biby, last competed at a Giants Live event here at the 2021 Strongman Classic, producing one of the most memorable moments in Strongman history when he broke Eddie Hall’s Axle Press world record with a 217kg (478lb) effort on his third attempt.
Also the world record holder in the Log Lift, Biby, representing Burkina Faso, is not just a static lifter and proved his speed and versatility when he nearly won the whole contest in 2021. Aggravating an already painful shoulder in the Axle Press, he placed third overall despite not contesting the final event! He rarely completes a full contest so it will be intriguing to see what the big man can achieve.
From the southern hemisphere, Australia’s Eddie Williams will be returning to London along with Giants debutant Rongo Keene of New Zealand. Two-time Australia’s Strongest Man winner, Williams, won the Hercules Hold last year, defeating Mark Felix. Known for his appearances on Australia and America’s Got Talent, where he wowed the audiences with his singing ability, Williams will be looking to improve on his excellent 6th place showing from last year.
Rongo Keene, nicknamed The Warrior, is an Australia’s Strongest Man winner and World’s Strongest Man competitor who is one of the most colourful characters on the international scene. Formerly from New Zealand, he is a proud Mãori and performed a memorable haka at the 2018 World’s Strongest Man contest. As the Australian records in the Log Press (207.5kg) and Circus Dumbbell he may well excel in the Viking Press, which is event four.
Event 1: ClearScore Nicol Stones Carry
Directly inspired by the famous Scottish Dinnie Stones, these walking stones, weighing 138kg (304lb) and 114kg (251lb) are attached to metal rings and must be lifted and carried by their sides as the athletes attempt to cover the greatest distance possible. Testing not only grip strength, these stones will also thoroughly examine each competitor’s endurance and ability to endure pain.
At last season’s World Tour Finals in Glasgow, Kevin Faires’ world record of 22.20m was broken four times; first by England’s Paul Smith; then by Andy Black; before Mitchell Hooper extended the record to 24.14m. Last to go, Faires was not to be outdone and won the event, reclaiming his record with 24.61m. Will anyone go even further this Saturday? With this being the opener, the chances are good!
Event 2: Boohoo Super Yoke
Yoke carrying has been a mainstay of strongman since its inception in the 1970’s and the huge solid oak yokes being used on Saturday night weigh 450kg (992lb) and are brand new implements. The athletes will race head-to-head down the 20m course in pairs, and in all likelihood, the winners will complete the course in one attempt, without grounding the implements once. Mitchell Hooper has shown his prowess in this event, winning similar events on numerous occasions.
Event 3: Mirafit Axle Deadlift
Things get a bit more static in event 3, with the huge 360kg (794lb) axles making their appearance. There’s little chance of topping the podium if athletes don’t possess the pulling power to rep out these massive axles. Hooper will again take some stopping here, but Trey Mitchell and Tom Stoltman will very likely be no more than a rep behind.
Event 4: SBD Viking Press
There’s no shortage of pressing power in this line-up with Luke Stoltman and Evan Singleton both tipped to do well in this one. Iron Biby, of course, is the proud owner of arguably the strongest shoulders in history, so it will be fascinating to see how he fairs with this 150kg (331lb) tree trunk.
Will any of these men beat the total set by Paul Smith at this year’s Britain’s with 13 repetitions? Officially it’s the record, although when Eddie Hall used a similar apparatus at the 2016 Britain’s Strongest Man contest he stopped at 12, having done enough to win, and looked easily capable of 12 more!
Event 5: The Castle Stones
Giants Live’s heavy set of stones look set to be used on Saturday night, the record for which was set at the 2017 Europe’s Strongest Man contest in Leeds by Iceland’s Hafthór Július Björnsson. He completed all five stones in a scarcely credible time of 17.54 seconds. It’s the classic end to any strongman show and one that can create no shortage of drama! Tom Stoltman is regarded as almost unbeatable in this event and if he’s within a point or two of Hooper coming into the stones, then he will still have a chance, especially if other strong stone lifters, such as Trey Mitchell, can get between them.
The action will be getting underway at 5.00pm on Saturday 8th July and is available to watch via livestream on Official Strongman!