Cheick “Iron Biby” Sanou Withdraws From the 2023 World’s Strongest Man — Kristján Jón Haraldsson Steps In

The 2021 Arnold Strongman Classic bronze medalist withdrew before lifting a single implement.

The first in-competition withdrawal from the 2023 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) is here. On the morning of Day 1, Cheick “Iron Biby” Sanou withdrew from the competition. At the time of this article’s publication, a reason for withdrawal has not been announced.

Despite not being listed as an official reserve, reigning Iceland’s Strongest Man Kristján Jón Haraldsson has stepped in as his replacement.  BarBend will update this article if more information on Iron Biby’s withdrawal comes out.


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[Related: 2023 World’s Strongest Man Qualifying Stage Predictions]

Iron Biby took home the bronze medal at the 2021 Strongman Classic. The strongman representing Burkina Faso is an expert in overhead events and the holder of the current axle press world record at 217 kilograms (478.4 pounds) and the world log lift record at 229 kilograms (504.8 pounds).

Though he’s an established giant in the sport, this would have been Iron Biby’s debut performance at the WSM. The withdrawal took place on the morning of Day 1 before he’d gotten the chance to participate in any events.

Prior to the start of the competition, Ukrainian Pavlo Nakonechnyy and Canadian Maxime Boudreault also withdrew.

2023 World’s Strongest Man Groups

As in years past, the 2023 WSM competition will divide the 30 participating athletes into groups. The top 10 athletes from the qualifying events (the top two in each group) will move on to the finals.

Here are the five groups:

Group 1

  • Konstantine Janashia
  • Pavlo Kordiyaka
  • Pa O’Dwyer
  • Tom Stoltman
  • Bobby Thompson
  • Eddie Williams

Group 2

  • Kristján Jón Haraldsson
  • Gavin Bilton
  • Fadi El Masri
  • Thomas Evans
  • Oleksii Novikov
  • Luke Stoltman

Group 3

  • Graham Hicks
  • Mitchell Hooper
  • Mateusz Kieliszkowski
  • Mathew Ragg
  • Spenser Remick
  • Aivars Smaukstelis

Group 4

  • Adam Bishop
  • Kevin Faires
  • Rauno Heinla
  • Gabriel Rhéaume
  • Jaco Schoonwinkel
  • Brian Shaw

Group 5

  • Jean-Stephen Coraboeuf
  • Mark Felix
  • Eythor Ingolfsson Melsted
  • Trey Mitchell
  • Evan Singleton
  • Paul Smith

About Kristján Jón Haraldsson

Haraldsson is coming off an excellent 2022, winning both the Iceland’s Strongest Man and Strongest Man in Iceland contests.

According to Strongman Archives, Haraldsson has competed on the international stage twice at the 2021 and 2022 Magnús ver Magnússon Strongman Classic (MvMSC). He just missed the podium in 2021, ranking fourth out of a field of 14. In 2022, he only ranked 11 out of 14. In fairness, the contest came only three months after Iceland’s Strongest Man, which itself was only two months after the Strongest Man in Iceland.

It is not clear why Haraldson replaced Iron Biby instead of Kane Francis, who was originally announced on WSM’s Instagram as one of the Reserves for the competition. (Thomas Evans was another, and he stepped in when Nakonechnyy had to withdraw.)


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[Related: 2023 World’s Strongest Man Events Announced]

BarBend will update this article should more information become available.

How to Watch the 2023 World’s Strongest Man

The 2023 WSM is not being live-streamed, but BarBend‘s Senior Editor, Phil Blechman, is live on the ground in Myrtle Beach, SC. Stay tuned for event recaps, daily recaps, and breaking news. And bookmark BarBend‘s 2023 WSM leaderboard for continuous updates on the competition, which is taking place from April 19 through April 23.

Featured Image: Courtesy of World’s Strongest Man