There were a lot of memorable moments from the 2021 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) contest. Both the qualifying stage and the Finals provided their share of moments that will be featured in highlight reels for years to come. From Tom Stoltman becoming the first Scotsman to win the title to multiple records getting shattered, here are the top moments from this year’s contest:
2021 World’s Strongest Man Most Memorable Moments
- Oleksii Novikov missing the Finals in a tiebreaker.
- Tom Stoltman vs. Brian Shaw in the Atlas Stones for the WSM title.
- Four different men breaking the keg toss world record multiple times.
- Mark Felix‘s grip leapfrogging him to Stone Off against Tom Stoltman.
- Maxime Boudreault scoring a new Canadian log lift record.
- Jerry Pritchett and JF Caron competing (quite well) with injuries.
- Johnny Hansson’s Train Push victory.
- Terry Hollands retiring from WSM.
- The five-man dog fight for third place.
Phew! Suffice to say; the 2021 WSM contest was action-packed. Let’s break each moment and why they will live in our memories forever.
Oleksii Novikov’s Tiebreaker
Novikov and Luke Stoltman were tied for the lead in Group Five heading into the final event of the qualifying stage — the Pickaxe Hold. Luke Stoltman and Novikov previously squared off in the Fingal’s Fingers and Overhead Medley events, both of which Novikov got the upper hand. Before their Pickaxe Hold faceoff, the presumption was that the winner of their heat would also win their group. When Luke Stoltman edged out Novikov for the win, the Scotsman jumped for joy in the lifting area — surely, he’d won the group, and Novikov would face USA’s Bobby Thompson in the Stone Off, right? Wrong.
Both Thompson’s and Kevin Faires’ Pickaxe Hold times were better than Luke Stoltman’s and Novikov’s. That meant that Thompson lept to the top of the standings with 18 points to match Luke Stoltman and left Faires and Novikov tied on 17 points. However, the known tiebreaker coming into the qualifying stage was each athlete’s Pickaxe Hold time. Since Thompson won the event, he was named the winner of the group. Additionally, as Faires Pickaxe Hold time was better than Novikov’s by just over two seconds, the 2020 WSM champion fell to fourth place and was eliminated from the competition.
This realization silenced the crowd. They could not believe how narrow the margin was that eliminated the reigning champ from defending his title. It was arguably one of the most competitive groups in WSM history and was representative of just how stacked the roster was.
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Atlas Stones FTW
Heading into the competition’s final event — the Atlas Stones — only two men were still in contention for the title. Tom Stoltman had a one-point lead over Brian Shaw coming into the event, but that no longer mattered. If Shaw beat Tom, the two would have tied, but the fastest Atlas Stone time was the tiebreaker. So, it was a winner take all situation. It was obviously the highest-stakes moment of the entire competition. Despite having four WSM titles to his name, Shaw seemed to be the underdog as Tom Stoltman is not only the world record holder in the Atlas Stones but hadn’t lost the event in two years.
With a speed that slack-jawed onlookers, Stoltman blazed through five stones in an event-winning 20.21 seconds. His strategy — whether premeditated or improvised — was lifting the first two stones directly from the floor to their respective pedestals without lapping them. It was an incredible move that shaved a significant number of seconds off his time, and he was rewarded with his first WSM title. Shaw finished the event in third place, with a time of 31.45.
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Keg Toss World Record Relay
Brian Shaw had the world record keg toss of 7.25 meters coming into the Keg Toss event. The height for the third round of tosses was 7.26 meters. Konstantine Janashia stepped onto the stage and compelled the announcer to grab a microphone, “Ladies and gentleman, a new keg toss world record!”
World record territory quickly became a crowded space. Maxime Boudreault matched Janashia. Then Tom Stoltman matched them. Then Brian Shaw reminded everyone to put respect on his name. All four men advanced to toss kegs in the next round when the bar was raised to 7.5 meters. Janashia bowed out, but Boudrealt, Tom Stoltman, and Shaw all broke the record again. The WSM Twitter page live-tweeted, “We’re going to be here for a while.”
It wasn’t until the bar was raised to 7.75 meters that Boudreault and Tom Stoltman could no longer toss a keg high enough. However, Shaw successfully regained his position as the sole holder of the keg toss world record on his second attempt. Notably, he hit the world record after the keg from his first attempt ricocheted off the bar and fell onto his shoulder. It was the GOAT keg toss performance from the GOAT strongman.
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The Miracle Man
Mark Felix is an absolute legend. He competed at the highest level of strongman competition at the age of 55 and held his own against athletes half his age. Not only does Felix still have the strength to compete, but he also has the strength to win.
By the end of the qualifying stage, Felix ranked third in Group Two — which was won by Trey Mitchell — and battled Tom Stoltman through five Atlas Stones in their Stone Off. The eventual winner of the competition was able to end the run by the “Miracle Man,” but Felix’s legacy in the sport is certainly as strong as his grip strength after 2021.
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Although Maxime Boudreault is early in his WSM career — this was only his second Finals appearance — he is clearly one of the best overhead pressers on the planet. During the intense battle that was the Log Lift event, Boudreault scored a 205-kilogram (452-pound) log for a new Canadian log lift record. His performance was rewarded with his first trip to the podium, where he matched fellow Canadian JF Caron’s performance from 2020 with a bronze-medal finish.
Legs Are for Quitters
Some people might think that competitors need their legs to be injury-free to compete in the biggest strongman competition of the year. Those people would be wrong. At least, that’s what it looked like watching Jerry Pritchett and JF Caron.
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Pritchett fought through the pain of nerve issues in his left hip for the majority of the qualifying stage. Competing in Group Four which had already been plagued with injuries that led to the withdrawals of Terry Hollands and Chris van der Linde, Pritchett did not appear interested in voluntarily staying on the sidelines.
Pritchett’s hip injury prevented him from lifting a heavy dumbbell in the Overhead Medley event — where he officially scored no reps. However, he still managed to flip four Fingal’s Fingers for an event win and load two Atlas Stones in his Stone Off against Adam Bishop.
Early on Day One of the Finals, JF Caron suffered a vertical tear on his left hamstring. His entire thigh was taped up, and he limped wherever he walked. But if you think that would stop him from rotating a 30-ton train around a turntable, deadlifting 375 kilograms for 10 reps, or loading all five Atlas Stones to finish in fifth on the overall leaderboard, then you don’t know the nine-time Canada’s Strongest Man champion.
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Pump the Brakes!
Fifty metric tons. That is how much weight competitors were expected to move in the Train Pull event while enduring the triple-digit Sacramento heat. Johnny Hansson of Sweden was the first man to attempt to move the locomotive. He exerted himself approximately a minute before conceding that the train was too heavy. However, it was discovered after his run that the train’s brakes were engaged. Once the brakes were released, Evan Singleton hopped in, and he, too, was unable to budge the locomotive.
After an hour, the event was changed to a Train Push rather than a Train Pull, and the cargo car was released, leaving only 20 tons of train left to move. In a feat of narrative justice, Hansson was given a second attempt — the final attempt of the event — and scored a winning time of 35.36 seconds.
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What a Career
After suffering a biceps injury in the Loading Medley event during the first day of the qualifying stage, Terry Hollands had to withdraw from what ended up being his final WSM appearance. However, in a touching conversation with an event photographer, Hollands decided to compete in the Deadlift event to get one last memorable photo of his “final event ever.”
Hollands managed to score six reps for a third-place finish with essentially one arm. What a way to cap off an incredible strongman career.
Battle for the Podium
This is less of a moment and more a clarification for the history books. The final leaderboard does not properly reflect how competitive the 2021 WSM Finals were. Tom Stoltman and Brian Shaw were the only two men in contention for the title heading into the Atlas Stones, but five men were still competing for third place: Janashia, Boudreault, Luke Stoltman, Mitchell, and Caron.
At the end of the day, history will show Luke Stoltman ranked seventh at the 2021 WSM. However, had he beaten Boudreault in their Atlas Stone heat instead of the other way around, he would have been on the podium instead. Likewise, who knows how much faster JF Caron would have been able to load five stones if he didn’t have a 15-millimeter vertical tear in his hamstring that he’d been competing on for a day and a half. If Mitchell had lasted just one more round in the Keg Toss event, it’s possible he would have lifted the bronze trophy overhead. Janashia was perhaps a deadlift rep or two and a single Atlas Stone away from a podium finish.
The most memorable moment of the 2021 WSM contest was arguably how strong every competitor on the roster was. It is unique for a sport to be full of athletes who want to see their competition succeed at all times — they helped each other overcome injuries, pushed each other out of their comfort zones, lifted each other up, and cheered each other on. Camaraderie may not boil down to a single moment, but in the case of the 2021 WSM contest, it was the most memorable nonetheless.
Feature Image Courtesy of World’s Strongest Man