The 2020 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) competition saw a new champion emerge — Oleksii Novikov. The Ukrainian strongman’s performance had several big moments worth revisiting. The rest of the competition also had a handful of moments that are likely to be talked about for years to come, such as JF Caron’s continuous improvement at WSM over his decorated career and Tom Stoltman’s utter dominance in any and all Atlas Stone events.
Here were some of the biggest moments from the 2020 WSM contest:
[Related: Strongman Tom Stoltman Lifts World Record 286kg/630lb Atlas Stone Over Bar]
1. Oleksii Novikov Wins WSM at 24 Years Old
The newly crowned champion etched his name into the strongman history books alongside Jón Páll Sigmarsson as the youngest to ever win the event. Sigmarsson claimed his first of four WSM titles in 1984 also at the age of 24.
This result was a massive improvement for Novikov from 2019. Last year, he failed to qualify for the finals after losing an incredible head-to-head stone off against Trey Mitchell despite being seven points ahead in their group standings. Mitchell hit 14 reps to Novikov’s 13.
This time around Novikov won his qualifying group and then never placed worse than fifth in any of the six Finals events.
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2. Novikov Sets WSM Partial Deadlift Record
The 2020 WSM champion only had one event win in the Finals, but it was a big win. After coming in second in the Giant Medley behind Adam Bishop, Novikov put his prowess in the silver dollar deadlift on display as the only competitor in the field who was able to lift 537.5 kilograms (1,185 pounds). He set a WSM record in the process beating out Tom Magee’s 535-kilogram (1,180-pound) lift from 1983.
3. JF Caron Steps Onto the Podium
It may not seem like much of a surprise to see the nine-time Canada’s Strongest Man standing on the podium at the end of the competition, but it was a career highlight for Caron. This was his ninth appearance at WSM, but his first time ever in the top three.
In 2019, he finished fourth. The three years before that, he finished in fifth. In 2015 and 2012, he came in sixth and eighth, respectively. Caron failed to make the Finals in 2008 and 2011. His career performance trajectory at WSM has only improved. If the trend continues, he will remain a contender for the title in the years to come.
4. Tom Stoltman Is the “King of the Stones”
Aside from Novikov’s consistency, the biggest performance in the Finals had to be by the runner-up, Tom Stoltman. Had Stoltman’s apparent only weakness — grip strength during the Hercules Hold — not been so punishing, he may have been 2020’s champion. He had three event wins in Finals — the most of any competitor — dominating the Keg Toss, the Log Lift Ladder, and, of course, the Atlas Stones.
To qualify for the Finals, Stoltman performed the fastest eight-stone load of the competition against Maxime Boudreault. Stoltman was the only competitor to shelve all eight stones and he did so in a blisteringly fast 39 seconds flat. That translated to the last event of the Finals when Stoltman won the Atlas Stones event (only five stones) with a time of 19.89 seconds — nearly nine seconds faster than the next fastest competitor, four-time WSM champion Brian Shaw.
5. The Return of Jerry Pritchett
Jerry Pritchett barely missed the podium in the 2020 WSM with a fourth-place finish. However, this was easily the best WSM finish of his career — his previous best finish was ninth in 2014. He won his qualifying group and hovered near the top of the standings for the majority of the Finals. This was an impressive result for the United States strongman who celebrates his 40th birthday just one week after the conclusion of the 2020 WSM contest.
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6. The Youth and Longevity of Strongmen
The age range among strongmen competing in the 2020 WSM contest was 31 years. Notably, Novikov tied Sigmarsson as the youngest to ever win WSM at age 24. The youngest competitor in the 2020 field was Luke Richardson at 23 years old. 2020 marked his WSM debut. He qualified for the Finals and landed in tenth place overall.
The oldest competitor in the field was Mark Felix at age 54, who, although he ailed to qualify for the Finals, set a record for most WSM appearances with 15. His best career finish was fourth place in 2006. Felix is such a mainstay at WSM that he was invited to attempt a Hercules Hold world record during the 2020 WSM Finals.
Feature image courtesy of World’s Strongest Man.