The Best (and Worst) Performances at the 2017 Europe’s Strongest Man

Saturday saw the greatest in Europe once again go head to head with each other at the Leeds First Direct Arena. This years comp had a lot of hype to live up to, after last year was brimming with excitement; first Eddie Hall breaking the deadlift world record and then Laurence coming through to take Thor’s title. And live up it did. Eddie smashed another world record and Thor won his title back in a glorious fashion.

Aside from those two headlines, though, so much more happened, and we saw some great performances from veterans and newcomers alike, as well as unusually high attrition rate. The following is my entirely subjective review of the performances of these fantastic athletes.

Hafpor Bjornsson – 9/10

Oh how close I was to awarding Thor a full ten out of ten solely on the basis of his outstanding stone run. One motioning every stone in the line up with practiced ease, he made a mockery of the event, finishing all five in close to the time it took Luke Stoltman to load just two. And Luke is one of the best stone loaders in Britain.

It wasn’t just the stones either that Thor capitalized on; he won every single event that he should have and came second on the rest, giving up very few points. It was two of those second place finishes, however, that impressed me the most: the deadlift and axle. The Icelander is known for his his incredible speed and strength on the moving events, but it’s always so impressive to see a former weakness become a strength as his static strength has. This weekend he showed that he can go up against the static strength elite and hold his own.

His performance wasn’t flawless, but it wasn’t too far off either, not to mention that he was suffering from Bells Palsy.

Eddie Hall – 7/10

Ok, so straight off the bat, I’ve knocked off a point from Eddie for coming out dressed as the minor yet memorable character from Pulp Fiction. I’m all for adding to the drama, but I can’t help but feel there are less WWE ways to go about.

That aside he actually performed excellently, reinforcing his reputation as the statically strongest man on earth. Something he demonstrated twice, first with that incredible 216kg axle World Record, which he strict pressed, and then secondly on the deadlift where he won again comfortably.

His moving is improving as his win on the Car Walk showed, hopefully an indicator of more good things to come, plus he did well on the truck pull. It was only on the flip/drag and stones that we saw him falter even for a second. With Thor breathing down your neck though, that sadly isn’t good enough to walk away with a title.   

Terry Hollands – 9/10

Saturday was a positively mixed bag for Terry Hollands. I thought the former king of the Truck Pull would’ve finished that brutal bus drag and laid down the gauntlet for the youngsters. The axle is a different story, and while I didn’t have him down as winning it, I’d assumed he’d have got the 180kg, rather than the 160kg.

On the other hand, he looked absolutely brilliant elsewhere, nearly beating Thor on the flip/drag, an event I would’ve thought he’d struggle on. Then sprinting with that car walk into third place and tearing up the stones.

I believe he’s started getting programming done by John Clark, and it’s clearly working. Big Tel was moving like an athlete out there and that can only be a good thing. I for one can’t wait to see how he does at Worlds next month, as he’s typically even better at multi day events.  

Konstantine Janashia – 8/10

This was Konstantine’s first appearance at Europe’s Strongest Man, and the first time that many of the fans in the crowd and at home will have seen him. They’ll certainly remember him next time though, especially after those deadlifts. He was relatively strong on every event, though failed to really shine at any particular point as he has done in the past. A huge talent for the future and expect to see him atop podiums soon.

Mark Felix – 8/10

With over a half century behind him, I’m constantly amazed that Felix is still able to roll with the best in the world in one of the most unforgiving sports, and for that reason alone he gets an extra point. The events were not Mark’s best, but he still put in a great effort, coming in third on both the deadlift and stones, plus finishing fourth on the car walk. Felix is not one to be let down by his strengths though and again it was his weaknesses that saw him finish fifth instead of third.

Matjaz Belsak – 7/10

Matjaz’s competition got off to such a great start, finishing fourth on the bus pull and third on the max axle. Hitting an impressive and new Slovenian record of 200kgs on the latter, sadly after that though he didn’t have same impact. His first falter came on the flip/drag and he didn’t seem to regain his composure. Fortunately, at only 24 years old, he’s got plenty of time to improve and more importantly get some experience on the competition kit itself.  

Luke Stoltman – 5/10

Where only a few months ago at Britain’s Strongest Man, Luke had looked so strong and promising; here he just looked a little out of his depth. A big part of that is undoubtedly the hike in weight on all the events. It’s easy to forget just how heavy a 362.5kgs deadlift is when Eddie’s hitting ten reps on it, but the standard at this level is just so high. That said, Luke put on a great fight and deserved his place in the line up, even excelling on the stones. I’m sure he’ll be working hard on his strength for next year.     

Laurence Shahlaei – 7/10

The vast majority of these points are going to Loz for the guts it takes to compete on the world stage when you haven’t stopped vomiting from the day before. From what I’ve heard he was sick going into the contest and would probably have gotten through it had it not been for that brutal bus pull the day before. He gave it his best go and knew when to call it a day, that alone deserves plaudits. Speedy recovery.

Raffael Gordzielik – 3/10

This was a big jump in standard for the German Godzilla, and despite some seriously valiant efforts he failed to really impress. He did manage to get out of last place though on the deadlift pulling three reps at 362.5kgs.

Dainis Zageris – 2/10

Dainis was sadly forced to drop out of the comp before the end so we didn’t get an opportunity to see how he would of fared on the later events. He did however struggle quite a lot with the ones he was able to attempt, even failing the opening 160kg axle. A real off day for the Latvian who is normally a force to be reckoned with.

Adam Bishop – 2/10

My heart goes out to Adam. He’s a phenomenal athlete capable of so much but I think some one’s got a voodoo doll of him squirreled away somewhere, because he’s had the worst run of luck lately, this time tearing his bicep on the first event. I truly hope it’s not the end of the line for Adam at Giants.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured image: @biglozwsm on Instagram

Christo Bland

Christo Bland

Christo Bland is a Strongman, Ultra Distance Runner and general movement addict from York, England. Christo has worked closely with many of the Strongest Men & Women in the world during his time at Giants Live and Official Strongman. Since leaving the Giants fold, Christo has continued to write about and experiment with ways of improving performance, both on himself and on his athletes. He trains and coaches at Dominus Gym in York, England.

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