The road to World’s Strongest Man glory is a long and demanding one, but for England’s next strongman star a major steppingstone on their journey is to reign supreme at England’s Strongest Man. On October 1st the English championship comes to Doncaster as part of Giants Live’s Weekend of Strength double header, with Britain’s Strongest Woman up for grabs the day before.
The winner is guaranteed an invite to Sheffield’s Utilia arena on January 27th for Britain’s Strongest Man where a podium place will see them on their way to World’s Strongest Man! With defending champion Ryan Bennett declining to throw his hat into the ring a new champion is certain to be crowned.
This year’s line-up features a fascinating blend of up-and-coming talent pitched against some vastly experienced athletes; all of whom will be vying to take their nation’s title. One man whose presence has been eagerly awaited after a couple of years of injury woe is the 2020 Europe’s Strongest Man, Luke Richardson.
Since rupturing his biceps tendon at the 2021 World’s Strongest Man, Luke’s comeback has been thwarted by injury after injury, but he now looks to be in fantastic condition and has stated that he’ll win every event on his way to taking the English title. The former powerlifting world champion was at one time known as “the future,” and his return to full fitness will be eagerly watched by both his supporters and competitors.
One notable athlete who will be eager to get his massive mitts on the winner’s trophy is the Master’s 50+ World’s Strongest Man, Mark Felix. The 57-year-old “Miracle Man,” who became the oldest ever competitor at World’s Strongest Man this year, has claimed both lower podium places, having finished 2nd in 2009 and 2005 and 3rd in 2004, but has yet to take top honours.
In August he triumphed at the Official Strongman European Championships and established a new Wrecking Ball Hold record when he beat all-comers at the recent Strongman Open in Cardiff. Felix’s presence at this contest comes after he announced his retirement from World’s Strongest Man and will be welcomed by his army of adoring fans.
To win the English title is to take the national championship of a country that can boast four World’s Strongest Man victories over the past forty years. The first of these was won by the legendary Geoff Capes, back in 1983, when he defeated Jón Páll Sigmarsson in Christchurch to claim the first of his two trophies. The 1989 champion, Jamie Reeves, and “The Beast” himself, Eddie Hall, are England’s other winners and cement the home nation’s pedigree on the sports’ biggest stage.
Reeves won England’s Strongest Man on no less than nine occasions between 1987 and 1997 and is the title’s most prolific winner. Terry Hollands, who went on to claim two podium places in World’s Strongest Man finals took the title in 2009 in a contest that also saw Giants Live’s Darren Sadler place 3rd.
With the popularity of the sport ever-increasing and the number of contests and competitors climbing year-on-year, the battle for the English title promises to be more intense than ever. Eleven men will be battling it out over five events in front of what will be a sell-out Doncaster Dome crowd. Tickets are available at https://giants-live.com/shows/englands-strongest-man-2023/ alternatively the event can be streamed via www.officalstrongman.com.
Aside from Richardson and Felix, Kane Francis and Paul Smith are key contenders who will be coming to Doncaster with victory square in their sights. Both men are Giants Live competitors, and each have produced outstanding performances in recent months, with Smith taking UK’s Strongest Man and Francis claiming the Strongman Champion’s League’s World Strongest Viking title in Finland last month.
Francis, from Weymouth in Dorset, was 3rd at last year’s England’s Strongest Man, and unusually for a strength athlete, had never stepped foot in a gym until he was 25 and weighed just 12-stone before he began lifting! Making his Giants debut at Britain’s Strongest Man back in January, he placed an impressive 5th, and has produced no less than seven podium finishes on the Strongman Champions League circuit in which he has competed extensively. A strong all-rounder, and a fierce competitor, he will be a man to watch in Doncaster.
Paul Smith was agonisingly close to a Britain’s Strongest Man podium place earlier this year and was sitting in 2ndbefore his challenge unravelled on the Power Stairs. With the same event featuring on this contest’s event list, the Sheffield man will be hoping history doesn’t repeat itself. Smith is one of the most technically proficient lifters around and can be relied upon to place highly in speed and power-based disciplines. It’s almost inconceivable that Smith will not feature high up on the leader board and an overall victory would be no great surprise to anyone.
Paddy Haynes won the final two events of the Official Strongman European Championships on his way to placing 4th. A win in the Power Stairs would have been a big confidence booster ahead of England’s, which will culminate in the same event. Haynes will be joined by Andrew Flynn who trailed him by just 1.5 points at Europe’s and finished 5th overall.
Ben Williams was last year’s runner-up at England’s Strongest Man and will be hoping to go one better this time around. Possessing huge static power, he should place highly in the Log and Deadlift events. Another man with massive overhead strength is Jack Osborn who has lifted 200kg in the Log Press and completed 10 reps with a 140kg log. With this contest kicking off with Log Press for reps, Osborn should get his night off to a positive start.
Pushing him all the way in the opening event will be Shane Nye, who has recently completed a 200kg log in training, as well as Josh Brown who will be representing Lancashire. John Harker and Ben Glasscock complete the field.
Event 1: Log Press
The 140kg wooden log will need to be pressed overhead and brought back to the ground as many times as possible within the time limit. With a few men in the field having locked out 200kg, either in competition or in training, as many as 10 repetitions could be feasible, making this as much a test of endurance as it is static strength. Overhead lifting has been Felix’s Achilles Heel in recent years, so he’ll be looking to limit the damage here with at least a few successful reps.
Event 2: Axle Deadlift
The weight of these axles will be a colossal 330kg, and the athletes will lift in pairs, attempting to complete as many reps as possible inside 60-seconds. Once again, its conceivable that some of these men may reach double figures. Strength endurance will be pivotal, but the athletes whose deadlift personal bests are highest should fatigue slower as they expend proportionally less energy each lift. Mark Felix will be tough to beat here, but Luke Richardson could well be the man to push him hard.
Event 3: Sandbag Steeplechase
This event was inaugurated at the Official Strongman European Championships in August. Racing in pairs, the athletes must carry two 150kg sandbags down the 20m course and drop them over a hurdle positioned at the 10m mark. Each implement must then be collected from the other side and carried to the end of the course and deposited on waiting plinths. Speed on the returns is crucial, but so too is the speed in which the strongmen manhandle these awkward bags from the floor. Any slip-ups on the pick-ups could prove costly!
Event 4: Yoke Carry
The racing element continues into the penultimate event with a true strongman classic: Super Yoke. The athletes will race in pairs over the 20m course, carrying 420kg yokes. At this point fatigue will be playing a big factor and any athlete less able to handle the fast pace of these events may start to feel the pinch at this stage. As ever, with the yoke, going too fast can cause the athletes to lose control and drop the implement; a more controlled approach can often pay dividend.
Event 5: Power Stairs
In the final event four solid metal weights will need to be carried up the Power Stairs in the fastest time possible. The starting order will be decided by the overall points after four events, meaning the 1st and 2nd placed athletes will go head-to-head in the final heat. With the implements ranging from 200kg – 240kg, it’s all to easy to catch the bottom of the weight on the lip of the stair and lose valuable seconds dragging it onto the step. Body mechanics can also be a deciding factor here, with height and arm length all elements that can be advantageous or otherwise.
Action will get underway at the Doncaster Dome at 1pm on October 1st. Tickets are available at https://giants-live.com/shows/englands-strongest-man-2023/ Livestream is available at www.officialstrongman.com