• 24 June, 2024

The Hurricane Storms to English Title

Giants Live’s Super Saturday got off to a sensational start at the York Barbican as Kane Francis came from behind to clinch the English title from Andrew Flynn. The Hurricane, as Kane is known, saved his best for last and exploded through his stone run to win the event and overturn Flynn’s narrow lead. Defending champion, Luke Richardson, who decided not to contest the Axle Deadlift after his recent hamstring tear, placed 4th behind Paddy Haynes, who repeated his third-place finish from last year.

Flynn, who had won the qualifier for this event, put in an exceptional display to build a lead through the first four events. But it was Richardson, who got off to the best start, making light work of the anvil, barrel, sack and tyre, to win the Loading Race in a time of 36.87s, just ahead of Francis, in what was the final and quickest of the seven heats. Flynn was just a second behind in 3rd.

In Event 2, it was Flynn, along with Will Relf and Joe Oliver, who took a three-way tie for first place in the 90kg Dumbbell Press for Reps. Making light work of what proved a deceptively awkward-shaped implement, the trio of athletes all reached a total of 7-reps, with Richardson and Ryan Bennett a single rep behind in equal 4th. Francis equalled Ben Glasscock’s 5-rep total to take a share of 6th, in what was his second-worst result of the afternoon.

After a slow start to the contest, Paddy Haynes finally moved into top gear in Event 3: Axle Deadlift for Reps, with a 6-rep equal first performance with the 350kg axle. Francis, in his typically explosive and dogged style, also ground out 6-reps to share the victory and close the gap to Flynn, whose 5-rep total was good enough for equal third with Mitch Flowers. Mark Felix, a man who was at one time unbeatable at this kind of event, showed, at 58, he is still a force to be reckoned with, managing four reps to finish equal 5th with Ryan Bennett, John Harker and Tom Place, both of whom are 32-years his junior!

Luke Richardson was back in action in Event 4: Wrecking Ball Hold, attempting to make the podium contesting just four of the five events. His gritty 96.59s hold came in the first of the seven heats and held the lead through all but the final pairing when Haynes completed back-to-back wins with a 101.12s hold. Francis lost more points with just 7th place, whilst Flynn’s 80.81s earned him 4th, and a sizeable 4.5-point advantage going into the Castle Stones, which would be the final event. Both his legs cramped, as he finally released the ball, and it was several minutes before he could climb down from the platform and begin preparing for the stones.

Mark Felix’s 94.42s placed him 3rd and in his post-event interview with Neil Pickup, the Miracle Man, who had previously announced his retirement from major international contests, told the crowd this would be his last England’s Strongest Man appearance. Stating he would still contest master’s competitions, the oldest athlete to have ever competed at World’s Strongest Man drew the curtain on his open category Strongman career, receiving huge applause from the crowd.

Going into the final event, The Hurricane needed to overturn Francis’ 4.5-point advantage and knew that he must go for broke. Through the first five pairings, Ben Glasscock produced the fastest complete run with a 21.36s clocking that was good enough for 3rd. In the penultimate heat, Paddy Haynes narrowly pipped Richardson for a win that had to be reviewed by the referees from the slow-motion replay. Haynes’ time of 21.16s guaranteed him a podium place with Flynn and Francis still to go.

Francis needed to beat Flynn by five places to take victory and absolutely blasted through his run, placing the 100-180kg stones on their platforms in just 18.54s – one of the fastest ever runs with that set. Flynn’s 23.51s was a solid performance, but good enough for just 7th. Whilst the referees and scorers checked and re-checked the points, there was an anxious wait for both competitors and the audience before the final standings finally appeared on the big screen, confirming Francis as the new champion!

It was a thrilling finale to what was a hugely competitive and fascinating contest. Luke Richardson’s return to competition, following all his injury tribulations, was a glad sight for all Strongman fans, and hopefully he will be back to his best in the coming months. Haynes and Flynn’s performances confirm their status as the future of English Strongman and there is much to be optimistic about, given the strength-in-depth of the field.

But it was the manner in which Francis secured his win, throwing caution to the wind as he wrested the title from Flynn, that made his victory such compelling viewing. Asked in his winner’s interview if he could convert this victory into success at Britain’s and even World’s, Francis replied that “anything is possible; I’m only two and a half years into my strongman journey.” His upward trajectory in the sport looks certain to continue and his victory in York will only add confidence and further fuel his motivation for greater success.

England’s Strongest Man: Overall Standings
Place Name Overall Points
1 Kane Francis 52
2 Andrew Flynn 50.5
3 Paddy Haynes 47.5
4 Luke Richardson 44.5
5 Ben Glasscock 37
6 John Harker 35.5
7 Will Relf 35
8 Joe Oliver 34
9 Mark Felix 26.5
10 Jack Osborn 26
11 Ryan Bennett 25
12 Tom Place 20
13 Mitch Flowers 19.5