The opening weekend of April saw some of the Worlds Strongest Athletes head to Leeds to compete for the title of Europe’s Strongest Man.
Despite his shock result just 9 months previous, Laurence Shahlaei pulled out due to illness, meaning that a new champion would have to be crowned. With Hafthor Julius Bjornsson winning the competition in 2014 & 2015, he came in as a firm favourite despite being diagnosed with Bells Palsy just days before the competition, causing a temporary paralysis of the face.
Britain’s record breaking Eddie Hall also came in hoping to prove himself as one of the best strongmen competitors in the World in the same arena in which he broke the deadlift record, following his continuous improvement that saw him land a 3rd place finish in Worlds just last summer despite dislocating 2 fingers prior to even competing in the opening event, and with legendary Zydrunas Savickas out again with injury, the title was everybody’s to win.
The event not only allowed us to see who could win the battle of strength, but it also showed just how far the sport of strongman has come over the years. A sold out 11,000 seat arena filled to the brim for a sport that is rarely aired or even spoken about shows that there is a growing interest in possibly one of the most impressive sports around, especially as this is the largest crowd for an event of this type.. If this continual growth continues I can see many more sponsors wanting in, and therefore opening more opportunities for promising talent to have a chance to break through, and hopefully allowing for more accessible viewing, as despite the Worlds Strongest Man contest being held in the summer, it is not shown on TV until Christmas time, meaning that the results are leaked before people have the opportunity to watch the action unfold, lowering the interest in watching.
The events tested each and every aspect of a strongman’s game, with events such as a Bus Pull, flipping a 450kg tire 4 times followed by dragging a giant anchor and chain back down the course, the Axle Press (In which Eddie Hall broke yet another world record, by pressing 216kg over his head, 1kg more than the on looking Zydrunas Zavickas’ previous record) and was finished off in true strongman style with the Atlas Stones.
Despite the efforts of the chasing pack, Thor won a record 3rd title, pipping Hall by just 2 points, and with ‘The Comeback King’ Terry Hollands finishing in an impressive 3rd place ahead of Georgian Konstantine Janashia, who starred in the 2016 Worlds Strongest Man and certainly has a promising future in the sport. Following his early exit due to illness, Laurence Shahlaei’s title defence end after just 3 events, as he finished in 8th place.
This competition has been the perfect warm up for the athletes ahead of Worlds that are set to be held in Botswana for the second successive year, and gives us a good idea of where abouts the European Competitors are in terms of performance, as Thor and Co look to prevent the ever improving Brian Shaw winning a record equalling 5th Worlds Title.
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