Way Too Early 2021 World’s Strongest Man Predictions

The roster is confirmed, the location is set, and any of the competitors could claim the ultimate strongman title.

The 2021 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) competition is set to occur in Sacramento, CA, on June 15-20. The official roster for the contest was released on March 31, 2021. Notably, the 2019 WSM champion Martins Licis and the two-time WSM runner-up Mateusz Kieliszkowski will be absent from the competition for the second straight year. However, the top finishers from the 2020 WSM competition are all returning, including the reigning champion Oleksii Novikov, runner-up Tom Stoltman, and the nine-time Canada’s Strongest Man champion JF Caron, who finished on the podium for the first time in 2020 — the best finish of his storied career.

The roster’s age range spans three decades, from the 25-year old Novikov to Mark Felix, who turns 55 by WSM. However, age may not play as much of a factor in strongman as other sports. Consider Caron, who will be just shy of his 39th birthday during the 2021 WSM contest, and how he secured his best-ever finish at last year’s WSM. Four-time WSM champion Brian Shaw will also return in 2021 at age 39 after finishing fifth in 2020. Shaw is still a force to be reckoned with, considering he won the inaugural Shaw Classic against a roster that featured many of the 2020 WSM roster, including Novikov and Caron.

If each man on the roster has proven to be at the elite level in terms of strength and age is arguably less of a determining factor, it begs the question: Who is likely to win the 2021 WSM contest?


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[Related: Oleksii Novikov Wins World’s Ultimate Strongman “Strength Island” Contest]

2021 World’s Strongest Man Predictions

BarBend gathered predictions for the 2021 WSM contest from experts in the strongman space, including two-time World’s Strongest Man Under 105 Kilograms (U105) Anthony Fuhrman, Jessica Fithen (the first strongwoman ever to block-press 100 kilograms), strongman and coach Michael Gill, and strength sports coach Alec Pagan. Here’s what they had to say.

Michael Gill

“While I feel an entire third of this year’s field should be home collecting a pension check, there are a few standouts in this bottom-heavy group,” Gill says. “Either Stoltman brother has a shot at this title due to brute size and strength, but if he has been keeping his training up during the pandemic, I really like the “undersized” Canadian Maxime Boudreault could take the overall this year. He is a talented athlete with the speed and quickness most WSM contests require.”
The Stoltman brothers have been top-tier strongmen in Europe for years. In 2020, Tom and Luke ranked second and third, respectively, at the 2020 Britain’s Strongest Man contest. Luke is the current British log lift record holder; he pressed a 221-kilogram (487-pound) log overhead on the World’s Ultimate Strongman (WUS) “Feats of Strength” series.
Tom is nicknamed the “King of the Stones” for his unmatched dominance on the Atlas stones. He won the Atlas Stone event at the 2020 WSM contest and seems to set a world record with the stones every time he has the opportunity. Tom holds the current Atlas Stone world record with a 286-kilogram (630-pound) lift.

[Related: The 6 Biggest Moments From the 2020 World’s Strongest Man]

Anthony Fuhrman

The two-time World’s Strongest Man Under 105 Kilograms made a bold prediction, betting in the opposite direction of all the other experts in this article. He does not believe either Stoltman brother will make the top five. Luke did not make the Finals in 2020, so making it to the Finals to compete for a podium spot would be an improvement. On the other hand, betting against Tom, who has proven to be a top contender, is what many might consider a red hot take. Tom is one of the tallest competitors on the 2021 roster at 6’8 and has youth on his side — he’s 26 years old. Additionally, he has the momentum of last year’s runner-up performance and a near-guaranteed event win in the Atlas Stones.

Fuhrman knows betting against the Stoltmans is a pretty big gamble, but in his view, the time five finishers in 2021 (in no particular order) will be the returning champion Novikov, Shaw, Caron, Konstantine Janashia, and Jerry Pritchett — who finished fourth in 2020 (the best ranking of his career).

Some quick-hit predictions from Fuhrman:

  • Kevin Faires will make the Finals for the second straight year (he won his qualifying group in 2020).
  • Robert Oberst will zero the deadlift or be in a heat without the deadlift.

Fuhrman is referring to the qualifying stage where each group performs different events. Oberst has competed at the WSM contest every year since 2013 but has only made the Finals twice: 2013 and 2018. He finished ninth and eighth, respectively. Oberst, a former American log lift record holder, has said several times on his YouTube channel that he is focused on improving his deadlift for the 2021 WSM contest, so we will see if he can prove Fuhrman’s prediction wrong.

Fuhrman also expects the 2021 WSM contest to have the tightest scoring since 2011 when Shaw and Žydrūnas Savickas were tied on points heading into the final event. (Shaw ultimately won by two points.) Savickas and Shaw also tied at the completion of the 2010 WSM contest, but Savickas placed first via the “countback” tiebreaker, which factored in higher overall event placings.

[Related: Interview: How Robert Oberst Crushes Strongman]

Jessica Fithen

Fithen would not be surprised to see a repeat podium from 2020 and considers Novikov as the strongman to beat:

Novikov looks unstoppable to me.

However, she believes Luke Stoltman will have a breakout performance as the overall runner-up, and Mikhail Shivlyakov will surprise everyone with a third-place finish.

As for other competitors to keep our eyes on, Fithen expects big performances from Bobby Thompson and Trey Mitchell. In 2020, Thompson came in second in his group during the qualifying stage but lost the stone off to Graham Hicks. Trey Mitchell also missed the Finals in 2020, finishing fourth in his qualifying stage group (which included both the eventual 2020 WSM champion Novikov and runner-up Tom Stoltman). Mitchell will have momentum on his side heading into the 2021 WSM as he recently won Texas’ Strongest Man contest.

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Alec Pagan

Pagan’s approach to predicting who will stand atop the 2021 WSM podium was a bit more pragmatic. Since the events for the 2021 WSM contest have not yet been revealed, he based his picks on “who is the most ‘complete’ strongman in terms of proficiency [across a] broad spectrum of events.” When surveying the field, Pagan comes to the same conclusion as Fithen: Novikov will go back-to-back.
That man just seemingly doesn’t have a weak area in his entire game.
Pagan points out Novikov’s prowess on the deadlift — he hit a WSM partial deadlift record in 2020 — and overhead events. Novikov is the current dumbbell for reps world record holder with 11 reps in 75 seconds with a 100-kilogram (220-pound) dumbbell. “Couple that with his insane ability to move under load, and you have quite literally the best in the world right now.
Tom Stoltman is also on Pagan’s list of strongmen who he expects to have a big performance because of how much opportunity he has to improve from last year’s contest: “[Stoltman] still has some incredibly large gaps in his total skill set.” Stoltman’s apparent weakness is moving odd-shaped objects (often the case during loading medleys) and events that really tax the grip, like the Hercules Hold.
But it’s also worth remembering that Stoltman won three of the six Finals events in 2020. His detriment was a ninth-place finish in the Hercules Hold, which allowed for Novikov’s consistency — having never placed lower than fifth in any event — to be the competition’s difference-maker. If Stoltman spent his prep strengthening those gaps in his game, he is likely to be a force in 2021. 
Pagan also thinks that it would be foolish for anyone to overlook Caron as a potential player for the top of the podium. Over the last six years, Caron has been exceptionally consistent at the WSM, finishing sixth in 2015, fifth in 2016-2018, fourth in 2019, and as the bronze medalist in 2020. Additionally, he finished as the runner-up at both the 2021 WUS “Strength Island” contest and the inaugural Shaw Classic — where he pulled a new Hummer tire deadlift world record (1,202 pounds).
The man is a consistent machine.
Like Fuhrman, Pagan has high expectations for Faires. Additionally, he has his eye on Aivars Smaukstelis of Latvia, who finished eighth overall in 2020 and put on quite the performance at 2021 WUS “Strength Island” with a third-place finish.

[Related: Laurence Shahlaei’s 5 Requirements for Successful Strongman Athletes]

On To Sacramento

For the most part, the consensus is that Novikov will continue his streak at the top of the strongman world with the Stoltman brothers and JF Caron giving him a run for his money. However, the field seems to be pretty evenly spread in the eyes of the experts. Janashia, Faires, Mitchell, Smaukstelis, Shivlyakov, Boudreault, and Pritchett all received nods as potential podium finishers, and it is really tough to ever count out Shaw in any strongman contest.

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