• 30 September, 2022
  • 15 minutes

Best-of-the-best return to Glasgow – Giants Live World Tour Finals 2022 PREVIEW

It's the Giants last chance to qualify for WSM this year- who will be the man to take the Dougie Edmunds trophy in Glasgow?

Strongman will be returning to the OVO Hydro Arena in Glasgow on Saturday 8th October for the World Tour Finals – one of the highlights of the Giants Live World’s Strongest Man Arena Tour. Last year’s event was a thriller, with Luke Stoltman coming from behind to take the title in front of his home crowd.

A dozen of the planet’s strongest and most powerful real-life giants will be battling it out for one of the Giants Live’s most coveted titles. In-form Pavlo Nakonechnyy from the Ukraine, fresh from his World Open victory in August, will be going head-to-head with two-time podium finisher and recent Arnold UK champ, Mitchell Hooper of Canada.

The pair’s epic battle in Cardiff, last month, provided a taste of what we might expect to see in Glasgow from these two exciting and preposterously talented athletes. Their clash went right to the wire, with Nakonechnyy coming from behind to snatch the win from “The Moose” in the Atlas Stones, which he blitzed in an incredible time of 17.65 sec.

Athlete Line-up

Mitch Hooper will doubtless be buoyed by his win in Birmingham, just last week, and will be out to take his revenge on the Ukrainian Nakonechnyy. Their encounter is perhaps a glimpse of the future of strongman, with both men in their mid-twenties and still short of experience, despite their winning form.

Also vying for the title will be the recent World Deadlift Championships winner, Rauno Heinla of Estonia, who in taking the title shattered the master’s world record with a silky smooth 476kg/1,049lb. He also made the podium at the Arnold UK, placing 3rd behind Novikov and Hooper. At 40 years of age Rauno seems only to be getting stronger. He has at least one “banker” of an event in the axle deadlift but may not relish the test to his grip strength of the Nicol Stones.

Last year’s winner of that event, Kevin Faires (USA), may be looking to repeat his world record breaking efforts of last year; he is famed for his grip strength and a win in this event will put him in a strong position early-on. Pushing him all the way will be former world record holder Andy Black of Scotland whose former record of 19.55m was increased to 22.20m by Faires. Andy broke his own former record with a 21.86m carry, as did Evan Singleton, last year’s WTF winner, with 21.44m. Fans of the “T-Rex” will sadly not get to see him this year, however, due to his recent biceps rupture which has brought a premature end to his 2022 season.

“The Bulldozer,” Andy Black, will be competing in front of his home crowd and will be hoping for a big boost from the Glasgow spectators who are now so accustomed to Scottish success, following the sensational exploits of the World’s Strongest siblings, Luke and Tom Stoltman; Tom, of course, being the two-time and current World’s Strongest Man. Neither will be competing this year as both men are resting and preparing for the 2023 season. The Scottish crowd will, however, have the opportunity to get behind the current Scotland’s Strongest Man and Giants Live debutante, Louis Jack.

Jack recently won the stones at the Arnold UK contest last weekend but will not have the chance to pit himself against this world-class line-up as, unusually, there will be no Atlas Stones finale at this year’s contest! Organiser and Giants Live co-owner, Darren Sadler, has taken the unprecedented decision to dispense with this most iconic of events in favour of a new-look line-up of challenges:

Event 1: The Nicol Stones

Sponsored by Castle Water, this event was the opener last year and provided much drama as the world record was beaten not once, but three times.

These innocuous looking stones weigh in at 114kg/251.3lb and 138kg/304.3lb but are made so challenging not so much due to their weight, but more their awkwardness. They collide with the athletes’ legs, making progress painfully slow as their grips start to fail. Kevin Faires is the favourite here, but Andy Black will be keen to restore his former record to Scotland in this most Scottish of strength tests.

Event 2: Anchor Carry and Drag

New to the World Tour Finals, the Mirafit Anchor Carry and Drag will be held over a 20m/65’ course, most probably in pairs, with the 125kg/275lb anchor to be carried the length of the course after which the athletes must go back the way they came dragging a quarter tonne (250kg/551lb) chain. Falls are common in this event as legs fill with lactic acid and the athletes near the end of the chain drag.

The principle of “mass moving mass” dictates that bigger athletes such as Andy Black have the advantage, especially as their height means that more of the anchor is off the ground, reducing friction. But history has shown us that fast feet and good conditioning can also prevail. It’s a tricky event to call a winner, but when it was last contested at Europe’s Strongest Man, Latvia’s Aivars Šmaukstelis trumped a stacked line-up to take the win, so he will be one to keep an eye on in this event.

Event 3: Deadlift for Repetitions

The third event of this year’s contest takes the athletes into more static strength territory with the 350kg/772lb Axle Deadlift for maximum repetitions, sponsored by BoohooMAN. Rauno Heinla holds the record in this event with 9 reps and on his current form it would seem reasonable that he might exceed this. He will be pushed hard by Hooper, who deadlifted 475kg/1,047lb at the Excalibur Max Deadlift Contest in Australia. Nakonechnyy too has pulled a massive 470kg/1,036lb in training.

Whilst for some the deadlift is an opportunity to move up the standings, or consolidate their position, for others it represents a potential banana skin and can put paid to their overall chances. Pavlo Kordiyaka, the man who placed 4th at the 2022 Europe’s Strongest Man could likely drop points in this event, as could Kevin Faires, both of whom are likely to perform well in the opening two events.

Event 4: Giant Circus Dumbbell for Repetitions

The tests of static power continue as the athletes move to the penultimate event, the SBD Giant Circus Dumbbell for maximum repetitions. These 100kg/220lb implements last featured at the World Tour Finals in 2019 when Poland’s Mateusz Kieliszkowski managed an incredible nine lifts to defeat Ukraine’s Oleksii Novikov’s eight. That total is unsurpassed, and it will be intriguing to see how many lifts this year’s contenders can manage.

The in-form Mitchell Hooper defeated Novikov – a renowned dumbbell presser – at the recent Arnold UK contest in this event, so he will certainly be one to watch. Coming as a surprise to some was England’s Paul Smith, who equalled the Canadian’s winning total in Birmingham. Smith could well be the dark horse of this competition. He is a highly competent technician who squeezes every last drop of power from his comparatively diminutive frame.

Event 5: Power Stairs

In a departure from the traditional ending to Giants Live events, this year the World Tour Finals trophy will be decided on the Power Stairs, which have been sponsored by Silverback. This event was first contested at a Giants Live event at this year’s Europe’s Strongest Man and featured in the World’s Strongest Man finals, earlier this year. The winner on that occasion was Latvia’s Aivars Šmaukstelis, the 2020 World’s Strongest Man finalist. Aivars completed the course in 27.20 seconds, but this year the event will be made more demanding.

The athletes must carry five single-handled weights of ascending mass up a short staircase in the fastest time possible. The implements will weigh 200kg/441lb, 215kg/474lb, 225kg/496lb, 240kg/529lb and finally 250kg/551lb. Pavlo Kordiyaka was less than a second behind the Latvian and should score well in this event. At 1.96m/6’ 5” tall, he is well built to hoist these weights over the lip of each step.

This event is a test of endurance as well as strength and power. There are more implements to be lifted this year, and after the Nicol Stones, the Anchor Carry and Drag, and the Axle Deadlift, the athletes’ posterior chains and grips will be screaming for mercy. Agility and coordination are equally important: stumbles and slips are common, especially as fatigue sets in.

Who will leave with the silverware?

With a large field of twelve competitors there are plenty of athletes that can cause upsets and not just in single events: Eddie Williams will be bringing more than just a good singing voice to the contest. The 1.93m/6’ 4”, 190kg/419lb Australian will be vying with “The Bulldozer”, Andy Black, for the contest’s biggest competitor prize, and has appeared on both Australia and America’s Got Talent. He placed a highly creditable 6th at The Strongman Classic back in July and took a surprise win in the Hercules Hold, proving he has a superb grip, an asset that will benefit him greatly in the Nicol Stones.

From closer to home, Pa O’Dwyer and Mark Felix will be representing the British Isles. The entertaining Irishman, O’Dwyer, when not impersonating Bill Kazmaier and now even Darren Sadler, has established himself as one of Europe’s best strongmen. He placed an impressive 2nd, behind Tom Stoltman, at the 2022 Britain’s Strongest Man and is well-capable, on a good night, of making the podium again.

Returning to the fray after missing the World Open will be the crowd favourite and “Miracle Man”, Mark Felix. He came very close to breaking the Nicol Stone world record the first time they were used at Giants Live, which was at the 2020 Europe’s Strongest Man at Allerton Castle, and with his famed grip strength he will be confident of his ability to threaten it once again. His overall chances will depend on what he can do with the Circus Dumbbell, an event where he has typically struggled. However, at fifty-six his ability to compete at this level is a marvel to both the supporters and his fellow-competitors and there are a couple of strong events for him in this year’s contest.

On current form it’s hard to imagine Mitchell Hooper not making the podium and the prospect of another intense showdown with Pavlo Nakonechnyy is a mouth-watering one. Hooper will doubtless feel that he was not convincingly beaten in Cardiff and has since tasted victory of his own.

Athletes like Faires and Heinla know they are capable of event wins and will aim to use such performances as a launch pad from which to make their challenges. So much of winning in strongman is about momentum and building confidence on the night. As always, consistency is the key and the man that can avoid any slip-ups will be the one atop the podium at the end of the night.

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