The fourth and final event of the 2021 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) qualifying stage before the Stone Off was the Pickaxe Hold. All five groups participated in this event — it was 101 degrees outside. Each athlete was tasked with standing with their backs against a pillar and holding up a 60-pound pickaxe with outstretched arms for as long as possible.
Brian Shaw and JF Caron came into the event with 4.5 and four-point leads in their groups, respectively. A single point only separated Tom Stoltman and Trey Mitchell for the lead in Group Two. Group Five was the closest, with 2020 WSM Oleksii Novikov and Luke Stoltman tied for first with 15 points, and Kevin Faires and Bobby Thompson tied at 13 points.
2021 World’s Strongest Man Pickaxe Hold Results
The pickaxe weighed 60-pounds, and competitors had to hold it for as long as possible. No one broke a minute.
- Aivars Smaukstelis — 32.51 seconds
- Gavin Bilton — 31.02 seconds
- Maxime Boudreault — 30.64 seconds
- Travis Ortmayer — 20.28 seconds
- Brian Shaw — 5.64 seconds
- Trey Mitchell — 46.13 seconds
- Mark Felix — 40.82 seconds
- Tom Stoltman — 36.90 seconds
- Evan Singleton — 28.90 seconds
- Johnny Hansson — 28.15 seconds
- Robert Oberst — 48.03 seconds
- Eythor Ingolfsson Melsted — 43.67 seconds
- JF Caron — 29.09 seconds
- Mikhail Shivlyakov — 23.25 seconds
- Jerry Pritchett — 35:39 seconds
- Konstantine Janashia — 25.07 seconds
- Adam Bishop — 10.97 seconds
- Bobby Thompson — 41.62 seconds
- Kevin Faires — 35.38 seconds
- Luke Stoltman — 34.60 seconds
- Oleksii Novikov — 32.81 seconds
- Ervin Toots — 24.42 seconds
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Travis Ortmayer and Gavin Bilton were tied for fourth in Group One with eight points each, but Ortmayer was chosen to run the first heat alone. From the get-go, he was shaking but had a solid grip on the thick of the handle. His official time was 20.28 seconds. Following his heat Ortmayer thanked the crowd, knowing that he was unlikely to secure enough points to advance to the Stone Off event.
Aivars Smaukstelis and Bilton took to the stage for heat two. Smaukstelis held his Pickaxe straight forward while Bilton had a slight tilt. It was an intense battle between the two, who seemed comfortable until Bilton suddenly dropped at 31.02 seconds. Smaukstelis held on a hair longer to score a time of 32.51 seconds.
Maxime Boudreault and Brian Shaw were in the final heat. His previous scores were essentially a lock that Shaw would win the group, and the Stone Off would be a battle between Boudreault and Smaukstelis. Due to this, Shaw dropped his pickaxe right after the whistle blew. Boudreault still went for broke and scored a time of 30.64 seconds.
Shaw earned a record 13th consecutive WSM Finals appearance.
As was the case with the Overhead Medley, Mark Felix ran the first heat solo for Group Two. “The Miracle Man” got into starting position and was an absolute rock in the event. He held the pickaxe steady for a staggering 40.82 seconds that got the crowd nearby fired up.
Johnny Hansson and Evan Singleton were paired off for heat two. Hansson took a wide, low stance against his pillar and was shaking from the start. Singleton stood more upright and closed his eyes for the duration of the hold. Hansson’s wider grip didn’t allow him much relief, and he dropped at 28.15 seconds. Singleton held on a bit longer to score a time of 28.90 seconds. It appeared as though Singleton sustained it for longer than the official time, but head judge Magnus ver Magnusson only counted the time before Singleton bending his elbows.
Stoltman has appeared in two WSM Finals but has never won his group in the qualifying stage. He aimed to change that in his head-to-head heat against Trey Mitchell. Stoltman had some shakes in his arms from the start but was breathing normally. Mitchell was a statue and outlasted Stoltman by a significant amount. The official results were 36.90 seconds for Stoltman and an event-winning time of 46.13 seconds for Mitchell.
This secured Mitchell a group win and his second appearance at the WSM Finals. Felix’s second-place finish jumped him to third place overall and entered the Stone Off against Tom Stoltman.
Robert Oberst and Eythor Ingolfsson Melsted were slated to battle in the first heat for Group Three. Oberst was the first athlete to wear gloves for this event and was steady from the start. Ingolfsson winced around the 15-second mark but held on. The battle raged on to chants of “Obie” from the crowd. Ultimately, Ingolfsson dropped first at a time of 43.67 seconds. Oberst scored an official time of 48.03 seconds.
“Thank you so much!” Oberst yelled to the crowd.
The second and final heat in this group was JF Caron against Mikhail Shivlyakov. Caron held a straight leg stance while Shivlyakov was closing to a wall-sit position. Shivlyakov showed pain on his face right away and had drop shortly thereafter. Caron locked up a win in his group and did not over-exert himself. Shivlyakov lasted for 23.25 seconds. Caron scored an official time of 29.09.
Oberst and Ingolfsson were locked to battle in the Stone Off. Caron earned entry to his eighth consecutive WSM Finals.
Since there were only three men left in this group, they each ran the event solo. Pritchett, also wearing gloves, was up first and looked rock-solid out of the gate. He had a good showing and locked in a time of 35.39 seconds before limping off the stage — he seemed to be nursing a hip injury sustained earlier in competition.
Adam Bishop got set next for his attempt in the Pickaxe Hold. He did not appear comfortable at all from the start and dropped rather quickly at a time of 10.97 seconds. Konstantine Janashia had flared elbows from the jump but seemed comfortable feeding off the energy of the crowd. His time of 25.07 seconds earned him his fifth WSM Finals appearance.
Ervin Toots ran the first heat in this event solo. It was a ceremonial attempt as he was too far behind in the standings to earn a shot at the Stone Off. Despite that, he had a decent run for a time of 24.42 seconds.
Kevin Faires and Bobby Thompson were tied coming into this event, and both appeared at ease once bearing the full weight of the pickaxes. A drawn-out affair saw Faires’ elbows flare first, and he caved after 35.38 seconds. Thompson tried to hold on for as long as possible, knowing that Luke Stoltman and Oleksii Novikov still had their heat. He scored 41.62 seconds.
Stoltman and Novikov were neck and neck in the standings for most of the qualifying stage. Whoever bested the other in this event would secure their spot in the Finals. The high-stakes matchup was on with both men rock steady. Novikov made routine glances at Stoltman but was unable to beat the Scottish strongman. The 2020 WSM champion scored an official time of 32.81 seconds. Stoltman scored a time of 34.60 seconds. This left Thompson with the winning time and a group win. Unfortunately, Novikov’s time dropped him to fourth place overall and eliminated him from the competition.
The Stone Off will feature five head-to-head matchups. Each athlete will lift the same Atlas Stone over a bar until one man is unable to.
Here are the matchups:
- Group One — Boudreault vs. Smaukstelis
- Group Two — Tom Stoltman vs. Mark Felix
- Group Three — Oberst vs. Ingolfsson
- Group Four — Bishop vs. Pritchett
- Group Five — Faires vs. Luke Stoltman
Featured Image: @jfcaronstrongman on Instagram