The 2023 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) contest’s opening event at the Burroughs & Chapin Pavilion Place in Myrtle Beach, SC, occurred on April 19, 2023, at 8:00 a.m. on the Sand Stage — one of three stages where the strongmen will compete throughout the competition. It was a cool 60-degree sunny day to start and got progressively hotter as the sun moved farther overhead.
Each of the six groups in the Qualifying Stage competed in the Loading Race, which challenged athletes to load a 265-pound sandbag Husafell for six meters, a 265-pound heavy sandbag for four meters, a 275-pound anvil, and two log bundles weighing 234 pounds and 253 pounds onto a platform as fast as possible within the 90-second time cap.
Racing on the sand is an increase in difficulty from the 2022 WSM contest, which was on asphalt. The results for the Loading Race are below:
2023 World’s Strongest Man Loading Race Results
Below are the results for each of the groups:
- Pavlo Kordiyaka — five in 41.38 seconds
- Tom Stoltman — five in 43.83 seconds
- Bobby Thompson — five in 56.56 seconds
- Konstantine Janashia — 61.1 seconds
- Pa O’Dwyer — 65.89 seconds
- Eddie Williams — five in 66.04 seconds
The opening heat was Eddie Williams versus 2023 Europe’s Strongest Man champion Pavlo Kordiyaka versus two-time reigning WSM champion Tom Stoltman. They got a feel for the sand and shook off their nerves.
Kordiyaka and Williams raced out of the gate as Stoltman fell behind. A stumble by Williams left the door open for Kordiyaka to claim the heat one victory, but Stoltman regained some ground. Williams dropped the final sandbag at the finish, and it cost him valuable time.
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After the sand was reset, Konstantine Janashia, Bobby Thompson, and Pa O’Dwyer lined up for heat two. A dialed-in Thompson took the early lead by the second log bundle and never let it go. Janashia fought the cardio rigors of the event to hold off O’Dwyer for second place in the heat and fourth in the group.
- Oleksii Novikov — five in 52.15 seconds
- Kristján Jón Haraldsson — five in 54.58 seconds
- Thomas Evans — five in 57.40 seconds
- Luke Stoltman — five in 62.78 seconds
- Gavin Bilton — five in 63.01 seconds
- Fadi El Masri — four in 49.57 seconds
Oleksii Novikov, Luke Stoltman, and Thomas Evans bopped onto the sand stage for heat one of Group Two. Evans’ debut WSM event was in front of a large and loud crowd under the sun.
Novikov and Stoltman grunted and slapped their thighs to rev up, and the race was on. They were neck and neck until a stumble by Stoltman with the second log bundle left space for Novikov to command the lead and take the heat win. Stoltman’s legs sunk into the sand with each step, and he couldn’t overtake Evans due to his early falter.
Gavin Bilton and Fasi El Masri were joined in heat two by the first curveball of the competition: Iceland’s Kristján Jón Haraldsson replacing Iron Biby, who withdrew from the competition earlier in the morning for a yet-to-be-disclosed reason. El Masri and Haraldsson are both making their WSM debuts.
Haraldsson was the lightest athlete in the heat, but that may have played to his advantage as he commanded a decent lead by the anvil. Bilton slowed as the event went on, and El Masri couldn’t keep the pace. The Lebanese strongman was the first athlete of the day to fail to load all five implements.
- Mitchell Hooper — five in 42.05 seconds
- Aivars Šmaukstelis — five in 52.71 seconds
- Mathew Ragg — five in 58.72 seconds
- Spenser Remick — five in 67.15 seconds
- Mateusz Kieliszkowski — five in 67.53 seconds
- Graham Hicks — four in 53.4 seconds
Mitchell Hooper, Mateusz Kieliszkowski, and Aivars Šmaukstelis drew heat one in Group Three. They each situated their implements and got into the starting position. Hooper darted to the lead as Kieliszkowski ran the first log bundle into the platform, losing a ton of time. Hooper never conceded the lead. Šmaukstelis took advantage of Kieliszkowski’s stumble to take second in the heat and the event.
Graham Hicks, Mathew Ragg, and Spenser Remick mounted the sand stage for heat two. All three are among the heavier athletes in the group and seemed to be aware that light feet on the sand were their ticket to a fast time.
Ragg used his height to load the first log bundle and take the lead. Hicks struggled with his stride in the sand and fell behind Remick. Ragg closed the door to win the heat as Hicks failed to finish within the time cap.
- Jaco Schoonwinkel — five in 47.1 seconds
- Rauno Heinla — five in 51.41 seconds
- Brian Shaw — five in 53.7 seconds
- Adam Bishop — four in 43.12 seconds
- Gabriel Rhéaume — four in 51.03 seconds
- Kevin Faires — three in 65.3 seconds
Brian Shaw stepped up for heat one in his final WSM man appearance. He competed against Jaco Schoonwinkel and Gabriel Rhéaume on the sand.
Schoonwinkel blitzed the first three implements and refused to let up as Shaw took his time to avoid mistakes. A huge win in the heat and the event for the South African, as Rhéaume was unable to finish within the time cap.
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Adam Bishop, Kevin Faires, and Rauno Heinla comprised heat two as the sun beating down made the 68-degree weather feel more scorching on the sand. Bishop took a hard hit when he rammed the first log bundle into the platform but continued unfazed.
Faires’ second log bundle fell off the platform after he loaded it, costing him time and the ability to load all five objects — he couldn’t reload the log bundle before the time cap and was only scored for three implements. Only Heinla completed all five objects as Bishop faltered at the very end of the run.
- Evan Singleton — five in 46.9 seconds
- Eythor Ingolfsson Melsted — five in 56.41 seconds
- Trey Mitchell — five in 66.64 seconds
- Paul Smith — four in 44.79 seconds
- Mark Felix — four in 54.32 seconds
- Jean-Stephan Coraboeuf — three in 40.63 seconds
Evan Singleton, Trey Mitchell, and Paul Smith checked on their implements for heat one in the final group. Smith was the first athlete to wear gloves during this event to help his grip.
A slow start for Mitchell gave Singleton the green light to scorch the pace and win the heat. Mitchell stayed steady to load all five implements as Smith only managed to secure four implements.
Mark Felix, Eythor Ingolfsson Melsted, and Jean-Stephen Coraboeuf comprised the final heat of the event. Ingolfsson Melsted set the pace as Coraboeuf fell well behind.
The 57-year-old Felix got the support of the crowd as he lifted the fifth implement. He got it to the platform but didn’t have time to load it. Coraboeuf only loaded three implements while Ingolfsson Melsted took the heat win.
On To Event Two
The Deadlift Machine is the next event on Day One of competition. It is scheduled for 11:29 a.m. EST on the Land Stage. The Log Ladder will close Day One of competition, starting at 4:49 p.m. EST on the Sand Stage.
Featured image courtesy of World’s Strongest Man