• 14 April, 2023
  • 20 minutes

Striving for Five: Shaw Shoots for Victory in Final WSM Appearance

Can Brian Shaw bow out on a high and win an historic 5th title in Myrtle Beach?

The 46th crowning of the World’s Strongest Man will take place in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on St George’s Day, April 23rd. It will mark not only the climax of five days of intense competition, but also bring the curtain down on the sixteen-year World’s Strongest Man career of one of the sports’ greatest athletes, Brian Shaw.

Shaw will be making his 16th appearance at World’s and he recently announced that it will be his last. His final professional contest will be at his own Shaw Classic event later in the year, but despite 26 international competition wins, including four World’s Strongest Man titles and three Arnold Classic victories, the Colorado Colossus has unfinished business to attend to.

“I want to be the best and I’m driven to be the best,” says Brian, and that means emulating the achievements of World’s Strongest Man’s most prolific winner, Mariusz Pudzianowski, who is the only man to have won five titles.

Shaw, who was initially inspired to eclipse the three titles of the then most successful American strongman, Bill Kazmaier, concedes that having the most titles as a U.S. athlete is very special. But after six years of coming close in finals, he is not content with his current haul. Five wins would be, as he puts it, “the top of the mountain.”

The Strive for Five is not a new concept and come about, in part, from the expectation that Shaw would win another title. He has attended each final since his last victory back in 2016, in Kasane, Botswana. In that time, he has made the podium three times and came closest to a fifth title in 2021, when he finished just three points behind Tom Stoltman.

He placed 4th last year in Sacramento, some way off the points total of Stoltman who swept to his second victory in a dominant display. But this year there seems to be renewed faith in the 6-foot 9-inch, 31-stone Shaw’s ability to claim that elusive fifth title. This is in part due to a heightened sense of urgency, being his last WSM contest, but also due to more practical considerations: the events chosen this year are tailor-made for him.

Added to this, Brian seems more focused than he has been in recent years. He took a break after the 2022 Shaw Classic feeling he needed to mentally regroup, spend more time with his family, and work out his goals moving forward. Shaw concedes that he allowed distractions to creep in and that he has been unable to focus in the manner he had become renowned for. “So many things have fallen in to place now, and I can just focus on prepping. It’s all about working harder than anybody else out there.”

Breaking Records

World’s Strongest Man 2023 gets underway at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, at the Borroughs & Chapin Pavilion Place on April 19th, and if Shaw were to be successful in his “Strive for Five,” he would be adding yet more records to the extraordinary list of achievements he has amassed so far. Indeed, the total number of titles won is one of the few records Shaw does not hold.

Brian holds the joint record for most podium places with Žydrūnas Savickas at 10! They have both accumulated 4 titles, the second highest amount, along with Iceland’s Magnús Ver Magnússon and Jón Páll Sigmarsson.

Shaw holds the record for the most appearances in the final with 14 consecutive qualifications. He has also achieved more event victories than any other competitor in WSM history, with 59 individual event wins, the bulk of which has come in Deadlift, in its many variations, throwing events, such as Kettle Bell and Keg Toss, and Truck Pull.

This year’s appearance will be his 16th, which will be two behind Britain’s Mark Felix, but if he were to take the title he would become the contest’s oldest winner, at 41 (three years the senior of Savickas who holds the current record at 38). After a seven-year gap since his last win, he would also more than double the current longest intermission between victories, held by Magnússon (1991-1994).


Laurence Shahlaei recently assessed Shaw’s chances of success at this year’s World’s in a recent YouTube video. Taking an event-by-event approach through both the heats and finals he very succinctly appraised the American’s chances: “He’s a contender!”

Expanding on what, in Loz’s view, are a fantastic set of events for Shaw, Shahlaei added, “I think as soon as Brian saw them, he would have been a very happy man.” This could perhaps be true of almost any set of events for a man who has won 35% of all the disciplines he has ever taken part in at World’s, but Laurence thinks that there are a few events this year that suit Shaw especially.

Looking first at Shaw navigating his heat – something he has never failed to do, although he came close last year when he was forced into a Stone-Off with Bobby Thompson, Shahlaei believes he will coast through. Having won Kettle Bell Toss, or a similar manifestation, 9 times at World’s, this is an obvious banker, along with Deadlift, which he has won on 10 occasions.

If Loading Race, Conan’s Wheel or Log Ladder, which comprise the first three events of the heats, were to create any hiccups, Shaw has the hard-earned luxury of being one of the greatest stone lifters in history, making him all but unbeatable were he to find himself in another Stone-Off. All this makes Shaw a shoo-in for the final, in Shahlaei’s view. “I Can’t see him outside the top three; he could well win the group!”

Once safely through to the final, the combination of some more strong events, as well as Shaw’s vast experience and skill, should come to bear. Fingal’s Fingers, which will be the opening event, have not been seen at World’s for many years and were an event in which Shaw was particularly dominant. With many of the younger contenders being less experienced in this discipline, it could provide a potential banana skin for some athletes, and quite probably a strong start for Shaw.

From there the athletes will move on to the Knaack Deadlift for reps. With a 460kg (1,014lb) max lift, Shaw has enjoyed much success in this event. At 41, his repping ability has arguably surpassed his one-rep-max, and in Shahlaei’s opinion he will do no worse than mid-table, earning him solid points.

In the Shield Carry – an event that rewards endurance and staying power – Loz points out that Brian is looking fitter than he has been in a while, whilst his height and long arms could make this a very good event for him. “It depends how much he wants it and how much work he has put in.”

Moving onto the second half of the final, the athletes will be confronted with Max Dumbbell, which has never been seen at World’s before. This is arguably Shaw’s preferred overhead event and he has enjoyed a great deal of success at the Arnold’s and other competitions. “Some guys may beat him, but I can’t see too many getting ahead of him,” is Shahlaei’s analysis.

The penultimate event will be the Vehicle Pull – yet another great event for Brian, having won plenty of these at World’s Strongest Man in previous years. His huge bulk helps him here, adhering to the principle “mass moves mass.” After that, there is just the stones, and whilst Tom Stoltman may have taken the King of the Stones mantel from him in recent years, Shaw is still a considerable force when it comes to loading the granite balls onto their high plinths.

Despite the clear strengths Shaw possesses in these events, there nevertheless remains many potential barriers to him claiming his long sought fifth title. At 41, he is one of the oldest men at the contest and it has been seven years since his last title, with three years being the longest current gap. He has competed sparingly over the last few seasons and his last competition victory was back in 2020 at the inaugural Shaw Classic.

Many, including Laurence Shahlaei, are nonetheless optimistic about his chances. “Brian has proved it many times in the past, you don’t have to win every single event, but as long as you don’t have a weakness you make yourself very hard to beat. For this reason, I really think Brian has a good chance this year.”


Brian’s accomplishments in the sport have already earned him legend status, but as is so often the way with sports’ most successful champions, there is always a motivation to accomplish more. Competing in an era that was stacked with some of the true giants of the strongman game, such as Pudzianoswki and Savickas, Shaw’s achievements in this modern period make him arguably the best-ever. However, for Shaw it all boils down to how many titles you have won: “You can talk about eras, but It’s all about how many titles you have.”

Shaw came to his first World’s in 2008, just as Pudzianowski was claiming his record fifth title. His background was in basketball, and he had explosivity and size to combine with the huge latent strength that we was to uncover over the next few years. But the key to his success was in the unique (at that time) way he prepared himself both before and during contests. “I approached the sport differently – a little more detailed. It has helped with my success and with my longevity.”

Shaw’s eye to detail and his strategy of leaving no stone unturned in his meticulous preparation is something he believes has influenced many of his peers. “Other competitors, in seeing me approach it in this way have seen the example I have set and have tried to follow that, which is something I’m very proud of.”

In Laurence Shahlaei’s opinion, whether he seals the victory or even makes it to the podium, “he will go down as the greatest strongman we’ve ever seen so far.”