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

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The video is from the 200kg axel! Hello Guys, a hard and funn weekend is behind me! ESM 2017 is over, and i'm home with mixed feelings about my performance. First I would like to say a big thanks to the fans and the Giants live team, who makes the show amazing. The competition is over so time to look what went wrong, what I can do better and what I can be proud on! I'm very happy, with my 200kg axel press. Joust to make sure I work like hall to get this 200kg, my old PB was 170kg and I didn't train axel for 3 wers, so there was a allot of work to do weak after week… The track pull was great, an 4. place in it and the lightest man to bring it over 18m(it was uphill​). The car walk was ok, i train a lot yoke, but its not the same…If I think that 2015 I maneged joust half the core that's much better. I'm not happy with my DL, stones and medley. It was joust to much mistakes, not enough specific trening and I feel rely tired(probably didn't a mistake with my nutrition and my sugar lever in blood was very low. That's why i think). That shod not be an excuse, its joust looking back and learn what I can do better! Its step for step to a better performance and competing wit the best in the world. I'm rely pleased my body feels much better like last year, so I'm sure there is much more I can do this year! Thanks to everyone to help me to be where I am, I'm sure all of you know who I mean! @sbdapparel @P.M.B.equipment @el mecanico @belsak restaurant #esm #proud #fighting #wsm #leeds

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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

https://www.instagram.com/p/BSateg_hXc4

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

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So yesterday didn't go to plan, I have been pretty quiet about it but unfortunately I've had some bug for about a week and the last few days have been unable to keep any food down. My energy levels felt low on the truck pull then violently puking up after it really didn't help. I was feeling worse and worse after each event and after the doctor tested me telling me my blood sugar was low and I was very dehydrated I went to try and warm up for the deadlift but lifting 230kg I was seeing stars. I ended up doing the smart thing (not always easy for us strongmen, but with 6 weeks till wsm hopefully in a few days I will be ok and can get training hard for that) That being said what a show this was, @giantslive are pushing each year to help the sport grow. This was an incredible show, the battle between @thorbjornsson and @eddie_hall_strong was amazing to watch. These guys are on another level and I was really pleased to see @terryhollands79 performing well. I want to say a big thank you to all my team, Angus Nixon Joanne Stanger Nick Millard Samantha Cox Don Bryden Sarah Bryden Jase Husk Liam, Will Langlands, James. I'm not going to apologise as I know you will all tell me to shut up but your help and support means the world to me and I will be back to battle another day. Finally thanks to my mum Cristine Shahlaei for always supporting me, my brother and coach who has helped me so much @cheltenham.personal.trainer my rock @little_lizzy_m lives this life with me and knows everything I through. And finally all my sponsors who continue to support me @xploape @sbdapparel @extreme.nutrition.ltd @rebel.strength @nutriflavour @all_out_athletics Relyon services Staffright associates #strongman #power #europesstrongestman

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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

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Europe's Strongest Man is over now. So many mixed feelings. What an amazing show!! Such a fantastic crowd with over 10.000 people cheering to you. You really get goose bumps by watching this. Congratulations to @thorbjornsson for winning this show. He is an so impressive athlete! Im really thankful to @colin.bryce that he gave me the opportunity to compete against many of the best athletes at the world. This was a totally new experience to me. The fast tempo of the events and changing of the events, the huge weights, the professionality. I'm really sorry for my supporters that I couldn't bring my performance in this show. Could only get 9 of 11. There are no fuckin** excuses why!There is only one way for the German Godzilla. Keep working harder and harder!! Cause I know that I can do much better! AND I WILL!

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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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