Warning – spoilers below!
Has it really been a whole year since we watched Tom Stoltman become the first Scotsman to hold aloft the World’s Strongest Man winner’s trophy? It certainly feels as though a lot has happened since the 6-foot, 8-inch Highlander held off Brian Shaw to claim the 2021 title in Sacramento. But as 2022 draws to a close it’s finally time for strength fans to sit back in front of the telly and watch the 2022 World’s Strongest Man – all five heats and the Grand Final!
By the time the finals are aired, Strongman aficionados will have already watched the Giants Live Arena Tour qualification contests which begin on Monday 19th December at 19.00 GMT. These shows comprise the first five episodes of Channel 5’s UK World’s Strongest Man broadcasting schedule. Competitors for the Giants Live contests earn the right to appear at World’s Strongest Man if they can finish in the top three places. The contests begin with Britain’s Strongest Man and end with the World Tour Finals, taking in Europe’s Strongest Man, the Strongman Classic and the World Open. Here’s when to tune in:
Channel 5 Broadcast Schedule for Christmas 2022:
Episode 1 (Britain’s Strongest Man): Monday 19th December, 19.00 GMT,
Episode 2 (Europe’s Strongest Man & World Log Lift Challenge): Tuesday 20th December, 19.00 GMT
Episode 3 (The Strongman Classic): Thursday 22nd December, 19.00 GMT.
Episode 4 (World Open & World Deadlift Championships): Friday 23rd December, 18.30 GMT
Episode 5 (World Tour Finals): Boxing Day, 19.00 GMT.
Episode 6 (Heat 1): Tuesday 27th December 2022, 19.00 GMT
Episode 7 (Heat 2): Wednesday 28th December 2022, 19.00 GMT
Episode 8 (Heat 3): Thursday 29th December 2022, 19.00 GMT
Episode 9 (Heat 4): Friday 30th December 2022, 19.00 GMT
Episode 10 (Heat 5): Saturday 31st December 2022, 19.00 GMT
Episode 11 (Grand Final): Sunday 1st January 2023, 19.30 GMT
World’s Strongest Man 2022
In its 45th year, World’s Strongest Man is now firmly established as a British Christmas television tradition. This year’s contest was the most internationally diverse to date with athletes from fifteen countries attending, including Manuel Angulo of Chile, who became the first South American athlete to ever compete. Nedžmin Ambešković and Kim Ujarak became Bosnia and Herzegovina’s and Greenland’s first representatives.
Thirty athletes in all were given golden tickets to Sacramento, California, with the competitors seeded and placed into five heats of six athletes, with the top two progressing to the Grand Final. Defending Champion, Tom Stoltman would have to see off challenges from the USA’s Martins Licis, the 2019 winner; Brian Shaw, the four-time champion; as well as Oleksii Novikov of the Ukraine, the 2020 victor.
Each of the heats are a one-hour programme with the Grand Final lasting 90-minutes. This year, all five heats featured identical events, so all thirty competitors would face the same challenges, eliminating any questions of “easier “or “harder” routes to the final. The events were: Loading Race, Deadlift Ladder, Car Walk, Log Lift, and Wrecking Ball Hold. The athletes in second and third place after five events would face each other in the Stone-off to claim the second qualification place for the final.
The Grand Final
The ten athletes who qualified would have six classic tests of strength and power standing between them and the glory of claiming the sports greatest prize. Athletes accrue points depending on their placement, with the competitor with the highest points total after six events being crowned champion. In the event of any ties, the result is split by the athletes’ performance in the final event – the Atlas Stones.
Events 1: KNAACK Giant’s Medley – competitors must complete a 10m course carrying two 125kg/276lb boxes and then a spine-crushing 455kg/1,003lb super yoke.
Event 2: Car Deadlift – with a weight of 360kg/790lb the athletes must see who can lift it the most times. Some of these men will be aiming for over 10 repetitions in one minute!
Event 3: Max Flinstone Lift – in an event that is as similar to weightlifting as strongman gets, the athletes will begin at 175kg/386lb and in a rising bar format see who can press the most weight overhead.
Event 4: Bus Pull – at 18,500kg/40,800lbs, this is the heaviest object these athletes will be shifting, and they will be pulling it for 30 lung-busting metres. The time limit, if they can finish the course, is 75-seconds.
Event 5: REIGN Power Stairs – three 226kg/498lb weights must each be carried up three steps. The time limit is 75-seconds. On top of everything the competitors would have done up to this point, this event will be gruelling!
Event 6: Atlas Stones – the traditional finale and an event that often throws up some surprises. Five progressively heavier granite orbs await the competitors and each one must be lifted onto its plinth. The time limit of 60-seconds is largely irrelevant; the top contenders will finish in half that time.
Heat 1, Tuesday 27th December 2022, 7.00pm
Defending champion, Tom Stoltman of Scotland, eases to victory with a flawless performance, winning the first four events and holding the 228kg/500lb wrecking hold for just a single second to ensure victory in his heat.
Canada’s Gabrel Rhéaume – a rookie competitor – and Kevin Faires (USA) go into the Stone-off having finished second and third after five events. With eight repetitions, it’s Rhéaume who takes the second qualification place for the final, whilst Faires must once again face the agony of missing out in a Stone-off.
British interest, aside from the massive Tom Stoltman, comes in the even bigger form of the man they call The Bulldozer: Andy Black of Scotland. Black places fifth overall, having his best result in the Loading Race and Wrecking Ball Hold.
Heat 2, Wednesday 28th December 2022, 7.00pm
Debutant, Mitchell Hooper serves up the first big shock of the contest by beating four-time champion Brian Shaw (USA) and forcing the Colorado Colossus into the Stone-off. Hooper wins the opening three events, whilst the second American in the Heat – Bobby Thompson – finishes strongly with a win and second place to take on Shaw in the Stone-off. Unfortunately, he doesn’t manage a single lift and Shaw’s single rep sees him qualify safely for the final.
Britain’s Mark Felix, at 56-years young, becomes the athlete to have made the most appearances ever at World’s Strongest Man and finishes fourth, recording the longest time of any competitor in the Wrecking Ball Hold. Renowned for his prowess in grip event, “The Miracle Man” holds on for an incredible 140.49 seconds.
Heat 3: Thursday 29th December 2022, 7.00pm
2020 World’s Strongest Man winner, Oleksii Novikov (Ukraine), failed to qualify for the finals last year, in one of the contest’s biggest shocks, but makes no mistakes this time, winning his heat comfortably thanks to event wins in the Loading Race and Deadlift Ladder.
Finishing 3.5 points ahead of Britain’s Adam Bishop, last year’s 4th place finisher, Trey Mitchell (USA) if forced to take-on “Bish” in the dreaded Stone-off. Mitchell, a noted stone-lifter is forced to grind out 11 strength-sapping repetitions to see-off Bishop’s spirited challenge.
Heat 4: Friday 30th December 2022, 7.00pm
Having won the Arnold Strongman Classic earlier in the year, Martins Licis, the 2019 World’s Strongest Man winner, from America, is a favourite to claim this year’s title. He lives up to his billing in heat 4, winning the opening two events and then doing enough to qualify ahead of a fast-finishing Maxime Boudreault of Canada.
Boudreault made the podium last year, taking third, and he hits his stride in the closing events, winning the Log Lift and Wrecking Ball hold to qualify for the Stone-off against Ukraine’s Pavlo Kordiyaka who is making his first appearance at World’s. Both men produce a superb 10 reps, but for Boudreault a draw is enough to see him safely through to the final.
Wales’s Gavin Bilton places fourth, with his best result coming in the Deadlift Ladder, where he takes second. Making his debut at WSM is England’s Shane Flowers who unfortunately withdraws after two events.
Heat 5: Saturday 31st December 2022, 7.00pm
In the final heat, Scotland’s Luke Stoltman mirrors his brother’s superb showing in the opening group, and even goes one better: winning his heat with an event to spare! The older sibling of the only brothers to ever qualify for the World’s Strongest Man final, Luke wins three of the opening four events, takes second place in the Car Walk, and enjoys the luxury of sitting-out the Wrecking Ball Hold and saving his grip for the final.
Eythór Ingólfsson Melsted of Iceland, a finalist last year, finishes second after five events and goes into the Stone-off with France’s first-timer Jean-Stephen Coraboeuf. The Frenchman is good for 5 reps, which Melsted matches, seeing him take the 10th and final qualification place for the final.
Grand Final: Sunday 1st January 2023, 7.30pm
With four previous World’s Strongest Man winners contesting this final it promised to be a hotly contested competition that would be extremely hard to call. The final very much turns out to be a contest of two halves.
Having seen his remarkable performance in the heats, no-one is surprised to watch Mitchell Hooper storm to victory in the opening event, the KNAACK Giant’s Medley, though this does not diminish the achievement. Tom Stoltman’s second place gives him the solid start he would have been hoping for.
At this stage, Ukraine’s Oleksii Novikov takes the contest by the throat and nearly kills it off as he wins the next three events in a row! Victories in the Car Deadlift, Flintstone Lift and Bus Pull put him into a 3.5-point lead over Tom Stoltman who shows remarkable consistency in taking three second places and one third. As Brian Shaw’s challenge fades, Martins Licis does his best to keep the points gap as narrow as he can in the hope that Novikov falters.
The Power Stairs prove to be Novikov’s undoing, and his 7th place is punished by Tom Stoltman who places second yet again as Maxime Boudreault takes the win. Licis finishes third to narrow the gap to Novikov to 5-points.
In the final event, Stoltman, a man widely regarded as the planet’s greatest stone lifter, needs to only do what he does time and time again, to take his second World’s Strongest Man title. He doesn’t disappoint and claims his only event win of the final, lifting all 5 stones in just over 25-seconds. A fading Novikov finishes dead last, allowing Licis to equal him in points after the American places 5th. By virtue of a better performance in the stones, Licis is awarded second and Novikov must settle for third.
Tom Stoltman’s victory was a study in consistency and perfectly demonstrated the need to have no weaknesses. Having retained his title and showed such supreme all-round ability in doing so, he looks likely to win more titles and establish himself as one of the sports’ all-time greats. The question now is who can dethrone The Albatross?