Can I see into the future? Kinda.
I made several predictions for the 2017 strongman season in this article, and I am fairly happy with the results. The major miss was Shaw taking his fifth World’s Strongest Man title, with Eddie Hall playing the spoiler. The World Deadlift Championships did not see a new world record, but Adam Derks pulled 400 kg, weighing 107 kg the week before. That would smash the standing record by nearly 50 pounds, and in speaking with Adam, the only incentive he needs to cut the two kilos is the right prize money.
Several of the athletes I named turned pro or hit the International stage (Trey Mitchell just won the Giants Live qualifier in Raleigh). While the official record for the Stone of Steel has not broken 500, there are many rumors of it being done in training. My major hit was a middleweight woman winning the open at the Arnold. I do not expect that to ever happen again, but seeing it live was incredible. So, when I look into my crystal stone what do I see for 2018?
1. Now that World’s Strongest Woman is back with Donna Moore as repeat champion, we will see her take her third title this year AFTER winning the open in the Arnold. She had to battle back from second place and overcome a strong lead from Andrea Thompson to win this year’s World’s, and that shows she has the staying power of a champion. Kristen Rhodes was right on her heels though and will continue to try and take that crown from her.
2. Hafthor Björnsson wins World Strongest Man. He continues to improve and is starting to peak as an athlete. His age and size are right where they need to be for the style of WSM, and he has one of the best coaches in the world with Magnus Ver Magnusson. With Shaw and company nipping at his heels, he will narrowly win by having a smooth contest and taking it on the stones with one of the fastest runs we will ever see.
3. Professional Status (in the USA) becomes less of a factor as the international contests open more spots through online and local qualifiers. Train Strongman broke new ground in strongman by offering all athletes the chance to compete for their respective World Title by qualifying online. This opportunity pulled in athletes from all over the globe and saved competitors the cost of competing at an expensive qualifier by allowing them to earn an invite on their home turf. It worked out amazingly well with stiff competition and a huge field of excited athletes. Expect to see more opportunities like this because the internet can shorten distances and bridge gaps never before possible.
4. The Women’s Middleweights have a new challenger in Kim Derks, and there are going to be some fierce battles. While we await the return of Dani Schwalbe to the International stage, more competitors battle for dominance in the always exciting Women’s Middleweight class. Champion Kim Derks battled Liefa Ingalls tooth and nail to win the 180lb and under World’s Strongest Woman title in Raleigh adding one more name to the most exciting class in strength sports. A contest with the above three women, combined with a healthy Kim Lawrence and Katlin Burgess will possibly be the best showdown ever in the sport.
5. Big Z retires. He holds the longest list of professional wins ever collected by strongman (by a mile). He has likely done more contests than some competitors have had group training days. He is the strongest man to ever walk the Earth. He is also now 42 years old, and time has extracted a toll on him. He works around his injuries and just won the Master’s World title, but the legend will have a rough time keeping up with a bigger, taller and healthier crop of strongmen at the very top. It is obvious that he competes for the love of the sport and enjoys every second of it. Unfortunately, the struggle to win for someone who exhibited total dominance for a decade will be tough to take on a regular basis. I doubt he will disappear from the scene though, and will do seminars, guest appearances and age grouped events.
As the sport grows, these “educated guesses” become more and more difficult. Luckily my job takes me to the forefront of the major events and provides me a ringside seat. I have the exciting opportunity to speak with all the athletes on a regular basis and see the personal, human side of them. Never forget nearly all of them hold regular jobs and are deeply involved in the day to day life of their families. Personally, I would like to thank them all for the hard work they put in day after day and the financial expense they bear to compete to excite and entertain us all. I look forward to seeing you all soon for the 2018 season.
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
Featured image: @thorbjornsson on Instagram