Every Winner of the World’s Strongest Man Competition

From one-off champions to historic dynasties, we look back at the lineage of this prestigious event.

Since 1977, the World’s Strongest Man (WSM) contest determines the crème de la crème in the sport of strongman. What started as a unique series of strength tests has evolved into an annual event watched by millions worldwide. To lean on a cliché, it’s strongman’s equivalent of the Super Bowl.

The contest has evolved over the years, and generations of athletes have competed with hopes of adding their names to the history books. From inaugural winner Bruce Wilhelm to 2021 and 2022 champ Tom Stoltman and all the top names in between, here’s a look at all the competitors who have ever won this premier strength event.

Every Winner of the World’s Strongest Man:


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Bruce Wilhelm (1977-1978)

The inaugural World’s Strongest Man contest was held at Universal Studios, California, in 1977 and featured a hodgepodge of impressive athletes, including bodybuilders like Franco Columbu and Lou Ferrigno, professional wrestler/weightlifter Ken Patera, and NFL player ​​Bob Young.

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In the end, Olympic weightlifter and shot putter Bruce Wilhelm became the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first World’s Strongest Man?” Young came in second and Patera rounded out the top three. Wilhelm repeated as champion one year later.

The 1977 World’s Strongest Man — Universal Studios, Los Angeles, CA

  1. Bruce Wilhelm
  2. Bob Young
  3. Ken Patera

The 1978 World’s Strongest Man — Universal Studios, Los Angeles, CA

  1. Bruce Wilhelm
  2. Don Reinhoudt
  3. Lars Hedlund

Don Reinhoudt (1979)

Following his runner-up placing in 1978, IPF World Powerlifting Champion Don Reinhoudt finished the 1970s as the only other winner of the nascent WSM competition with a victory in ’79. He competed in the WSM the following year for a final time, placing ninth.

Though Reinhoudt didn’t have much of a reign on the top, the 1979 contest is notable for the debut of Bill Kazmaier, who came in third. It wouldn’t take him long to become an icon in the sport.

The 1979 World’s Strongest Man — Universal Studios, Los Angeles, CA

  1. Don Reinhoudt
  2. Lars Hedlund
  3. Bill Kazmaier

Bill Kazmaier (1980-1982)

With a new decade underway, Bill Kazmaier staked his claim as strongman’s first major superstar thanks to his dominance at the WSM from 1980 to 1982. The intensity in his eyes and charisma in front of the camera was enough for the powerlifter to garner an incredible fanbase, and he’s still the measuring stick for all other crossover strongman stars today.

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Kazmaier didn’t just win at the WSM — he often did so in dominating fashion. Despite that, he wasn’t invited back to the event by the organizers from 1983 to 1987; to this day, the exact reason for the snub isn’t known. Kazmaier remained in the sport by competing in lesser-known events until he finally returned to the WSM stage in 1988.

The 1980 World’s Strongest Man — Playboy Club, Vernon, NJ

  1. Bill Kazmaier
  2. Lars Hedlund
  3. Geoff Capes

The 1981 World’s Strongest Man — Magic Mountain, CA

  1. Bill Kazmaier
  2. Geoff Capes
  3. Dave Waddington

The 1982 World’s Strongest Man — Magic Mountain, CA

  1. Bill Kazmaier
  2. Tom Magee
  3. John Gamble

Geoff Capes (1983, 1985)

Thanks in part to Kazmaier’s absence in 1983, England’s Geoff Capes became the first non-American to win the title in 1983, edging out the upstart Jón Páll Sigmarsson by 1.5 points. This was also the first WSM to be held outside the United States, but it would be far from the last. 

Capes regained the title in 1985, again beating Sigmarsson by 1.5 points. And while Capes had some close brushes with wins over the next few years, he never reached the top of the mountain again.

The 1983 World’s Strongest Man — Christchurch, New Zealand

  1. Geoff Capes
  2. Jón Páll Sigmarsson
  3. Simon Wulfse

The 1985 World’s Strongest Man — Cascais, Portugal

  1. Geoff Capes
  2. Jón Páll Sigmarsson
  3. Cees de Vreugd

Jón Páll Sigmarsson (1984, 1986, 1988, 1990)

Iceland’s Jón Páll Sigmarsson finally got the monkey off his back by securing his first title in 1984 and another in 1986, both of which were in convincing fashion. There was no WSM contest held in 1987, but fans were treated to the first fantasy matchup in the sport’s history in 1988 when Kazmaier returned to challenge Sigmarsson for the throne.

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Sigmarsson went on to win the overall contest, while Kaz was relegated to the runner-up. Sigmarsson then lost the title in 1989 before regaining it in 1990 to become the first four-time champion in history. That would be his last appearance at the WSM; he tragically died in 1993 at the age of 32.

The 1984 World’s Strongest Man — Mora, Sweden

  1. Jón Páll Sigmarsson
  2. Ab Wolders
  3. Geoff Capes

The 1986 World’s Strongest Man — Nice, France

  1. Jón Páll Sigmarsson
  2. Geoff Capes
  3. Ab Wolders

The 1988 World’s Strongest Man — Budapest, Hungary

  1. Jón Páll Sigmarsson
  2. Bill Kazmaier
  3. Jamie Reeves

The 1990 World’s Strongest Man — Joensuu, Finland

  1. Jón Páll Sigmarsson
  2. O.D. Wilson
  3. Ilkka Nummisto

Jamie Reeves (1989)

Hailing from the UK, Jamie Reeves took home the prize at the 12th WSM contest after his third-place finish the year before. Reeves clinched the top spot by five points over runner-up Ab Wolders, and he managed to topple both Sigmarsson (third) and Kazmaier (fourth) by the time all was said and done.

Reeves landed on the WSM podium just one more time in 1992 as the third-place finisher. Maybe he could have won again — but as luck would have it, he just so happened to compete in the middle of two dominant Icelandic dynasties.

The 1989 World’s Strongest Man — San Sebastián, Spain

  1. Jamie Reeves
  2. Ab Wolders
  3. Jón Páll Sigmarsson

Magnús Ver Magnússon (1991, 1994-1996)

A new crop of competitors emerged in the ‘90s, but one theme remained: an Icelandic strongman would dominate. Sigmarsson wasn’t competing anymore, but young Magnús Ver Magnússon was ready to take the torch from his fellow countryman and run with it.

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Magnússon won his first title in 1991 but spent the next two years as runner-up. He regained his footing in 1994 and kept the crown through 1996, tying him with Sigmarsson for the most titles ever at the time at four each.

The 1991 World’s Strongest Man — Tenerife, Canary Islands

  1. Magnús Ver Magnússon
  2. Henning Thorsen
  3. Gary Taylor

The 1994 World’s Strongest Man — Sun City, South Africa

  1. Magnús Ver Magnússon
  2. Manfred Hoeberl
  3. Riku Kiri

The 1995 World’s Strongest Man — Nassau, Bahamas

  1. Magnús Ver Magnússon
  2. Gerrit Badenhorst
  3. Marko Varalahti

The 1996 World’s Strongest Man — Port Louis, Mauritius

  1. Magnús Ver Magnússon
  2. Riku Kiri
  3. Gerrit Badenhorst

Ted van der Parre (1992)

Ted van der Parre of the Netherlands stood in the way of Ver Magnússon’s dominance in 1992, becoming the tallest man to ever win the title at 6’10”. 

Though van der Parre won a trio of Strongest Man of the Netherlands crowns, he only appeared in one more WSM in 1994. Unfortunately, he had to bow out of that one early due to an injury. As of 2023,  he is the only champion out of the Netherlands.

The 1992 World’s Strongest Man — Reykjavík, Iceland

  1. Ted van der Parre
  2. Magnús Ver Magnússon
  3. Jamie Reeves

Gary Taylor (1993)

One year after van der Parre won as the tallest competitor, six-foot-tall Gary Taylor claimed the championship as the shortest man to stand atop the podium, according to Guinness World Records.

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Unfortunately for Taylor, he was unable to move past the qualifying heats one year later and didn’t get to defend his title in the finals. His last appearance on the WSM stage came in 1995 when he placed sixth.

The 1993 World’s Strongest Man — Orange, France

  1. Gary Taylor
  2. Magnús Ver Magnússon
  3. Riku Kiri

Jouko Ahola (1997, 1999)

Jouko Ahola burst onto the WSM scene in 1997 with a dominant four-point victory over runner-up Flemming Rasmussen.  Most surprising is the fact that Magnússon was eliminated in the qualifying heat, ending his historic reign. 

Ahola kept the momentum going with a runner-up spot in 1998 and his second WSM title in 1999. During this time, he also won two Europe’s Strongest Man titles in 1998 and 1999. 

The 1997 World’s Strongest Man — Primm Valley Resort, Nevada

  1. Jouko Ahola
  2. Flemming Rasmussen
  3. Magnus Samuelsson

The 1999 World’s Strongest Man — Valletta, Malta

  1. Jouko Ahola
  2. Janne Virtanen
  3. Svend Karlsen

Magnus Samuelsson (1998)

Sweden’s Magnus Samuelsson had three attempts at the WSM title before finally climbing the mountain in 1998. The renowned second-generation arm wrestler put on an impressive display, beating Ahola by six points by the time the dust settled.

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Samuelsson competed in the event for nine more years before retiring in 2008, but he never achieved the glory of winning the championship again. His highest finish outside of his winning year was third in both 2000 and 2004.

The 1998 World’s Strongest Man – Tangier, Morocco

  1. Magnus Samuelsson
  2. Jouko Ahola
  3. Wout Zijlstra

Janne Virtanen (2000)

Ahola didn’t defend his title in 2000, so Finland’s fans placed all their hopes on 1999’s runner-up, Janne Virtanen. And in this year, Virtanen delivered by taking a five-point victory over Svend Karlson. This was his only WSM win in his career.

The 2000 WSM is notable for another reason: It marked the contest’s debut of Mariusz Pudzianowski. Though his fourth-place finish is impressive enough for any first-timer, he would soon achieve oh so much more. 

The 2000 World’s Strongest Man — Sun City, South Africa

  1. Janne Virtanen
  2. Svend Karlsen
  3. Magnus Samuelsson

Svend Karlson (2001)

Karlsen continued the trend of one-time winners in 2001. Norway’s only champion relegated Virtanen from first to third, with 1998 winner Samuelsson sandwiched in between them.

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This could have been the beginning of a great new rivalry between the three, but little did they know that another dynasty was about to begin.

The 2001 World’s Strongest Man — Victoria Falls, Zambia

  1. Svend Karlson
  2. Magnus Samuelsson
  3. Janne Virtanen

Mariusz Pudzianowski (2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008)

When Mariusz Pudzianowski secured his first WSM title in 2002, he changed the perception of the sport. Not only did he display incredible strength and endurance, but he looked more like a bodybuilder than a traditional strongman.

This combination of looks and sheer power captured the attention of a new generation of strength sports fans. The Polish strongman won five of the next seven titles to claim the record for most wins in history as of 2023. In addition to the WSM wins, he retired from the sport in 2009 with six Europe’s Strongest Man titles. 

The 2002 World’s Strongest Man — Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

  1. Mariusz Pudzianowski
  2. Žydrūnas Savickas
  3. Raimonds Bergmanis

The 2003 World’s Strongest Man — Victoria Falls, Zambia

  1. Mariusz Pudzianowski
  2. Žydrūnas Savickas
  3. Vasyl Virastyuk

The 2005 World’s Strongest Man — Chengdu, China

  1. Mariusz Pudzianowski
  2. Jesse Marunde
  3. Dominic Filiou

The 2007 World’s Strongest Man — Anaheim, CA

  1. Mariusz Pudzianowski
  2. Sebastian Wenta
  3. Terry Hollands

The 2008 World’s Strongest Man — Charleston, WV

  1. Mariusz Pudzianowski
  2. Derek Poundstone
  3. Dave Ostlund

Vasyl Virastyuk (2004)

Vasyl Virastyuk was one of only two men to defeat Mariusz Pudzianowski during his five-title dynasty. Just as impressive, he also edged out a young Žydrūnas Savickas, who experienced three runner-up finishes in a row by 2004.

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Pudzianowski originally finished third in this contest, but he was later disqualified for violating the sport’s performance-enhancing drug program. This allowed Samuelsson to move up a spot.

The 2004 World’s Strongest Man — Nassau, Bahamas

  1. Vasyl Virastyuk
  2. Žydrūnas Savickas
  3. Magnus Samuelsson

Phil Pfister (2006)

Phil Pfister was the other competitor to defeat Pudzianowski during this time, and he was the first American to win the title since Kazmaier in 1982. Pudzianowski, to his credit, came in a close runner-up spot in 2006, losing by 3.5 points.

Outside of Pfister’s win in 2006, he also had resectable fourth-place finishes in 1998, 2001, 2007, and 2008 before retiring from the sport in 2009.

The 2006 World’s Strongest Man — Sanya, China

  1. Phil Pfister
  2. Mariusz Pudzianowski
  3. Don Pope

Žydrūnas Savickas (2009, 2010, 2012, 2014)

At the end of the 2000s, Pudzianowski was cemented as an all-time legend, but fans were ready to see a new champion — and Žydrūnas Savickas answered the call. After several near misses in previous years, Savickas finally toppled Pudzianowski in 2009, claiming his first WSM championship. And he was far from through.

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By the time his career came to an end, Savickas racked up four WSM wins, during which he topped some of the biggest names in the sport. He was also part of one of the WSM’s greatest rivalries (more on that below).

The 2009 World’s Strongest Man — Valletta, Malta

  1. Žydrūnas Savickas
  2. Mariusz Pudzianowski
  3. Brian Shaw

The 2010 World’s Strongest Man — Sun City, South Africa

  1. Žydrūnas Savickas
  2. Brian Shaw
  3. Mikhail Koklyaev

The 2012 World’s Strongest Man — Los Angeles, CA

  1. Žydrūnas Savickas
  2. Vyautas Lalas
  3. Hafþór Björnsson

The 2014 World’s Strongest Man — Los Angeles. CA

  1. Žydrūnas Savickas
  2. Hafþór Björnsson
  3. Brian Shaw

Brian Shaw (2011, 2013, 2015, 2016)

If anyone thought Savickas was set for a string of uncontested victories in the 2010s, Colorado native Brian Shaw emerged to throw a wrench in those plans. After finishing third in 2009, Shaw had a heartbreaking runner-up result in 2010. He technically tied with Savickas on points that year, but Savickas placed higher in one event, thus breaking the tie on points to win a second title.

But Shaw rallied in 2011, winning his first WSM title and emerging as the new number-one man in the sport. Savickas and Shaw traded wins over the next four years until Shaw finally won two in a row in 2015 and 2016. By the end of this stretch, both Shaw and Savickas had four titles each, providing fans with an incredible back-and-forth along the way.

The 2011 World’s Strongest Man — Wingate, NC

  1. Brian Shaw
  2. Žydrūnas Savickas
  3. Terry Hollands

The 2013 World’s Strongest Man — Sanya, China

  1. Brian Shaw
  2. Žydrūnas Savickas
  3. Hafþór Björnsson

The 2015 World’s Strongest Man — Putrajaya, Malaysia

  1. Brian Shaw
  2. Žydrūnas Savickas
  3. Hafþór Björnsson

The 2016 World’s Strongest Man — Kasane, Botswana

  1. Brian Shaw
  2. Hafþór Björnsson
  3. Eddie Hall

Eddie Hall (2017)

Eddie Hall had seen some success at the WSM in the mid-2010s, with a fourth-place finish in 2015. But his true breakout year came in 2016, when he became the first human to deadlift 500 kilograms (1,102.3 pounds) at that July’s World Deadlift Championships in Leeds, England. He then followed that incredible feat up with a WSM title in 2017, beating out two of the biggest names of the generation: Hafþór Björnsson and Brian Shaw.

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There would be no dynasty for Hall, though. He immediately retired from strongman after the win, only returning briefly in November 2022 as the captain of the UK team for the World’s Strongest Nation contest.

The 2017 World’s Strongest Man — Gaborone, Botswana

  1. Eddie Hall
  2. Hafþór Björnsson
  3. Brian Shaw

Hafþór Björnsson (2018)

After losing out on the top spot in 2017 by a single point, Iceland’s Hafþór Björnsson proved he was much more than a Hollywood heavyweight when he finally emerged as the WSM champion in 2018. And to get there, he topped both Mateusz Kieliszkowski and four-time champ Brian Shaw in the process.

Like Hall, Björnsson wouldn’t enjoy any dynastic success at the WSM. He retired from strongman in 2020, moving on to other athletic endeavors like boxing. And while he did announce a potential return for 2024, he did not specify whether more WSM contests are in the cards. If Björnsson never returns to the WSM stage, he will have competed at the contest nine times in his career, podiuming in all but his debut in 2011.

The 2018 World’s Strongest Man — Manila, Philippines

  1. Hafþór Björnsson
  2. Mateusz Kieliszkowski
  3. Brian Shaw

Martins Licis (2019)

Latvian strongman Martins Licis pulled off the upset by winning the WSM in 2019, beating both Mateusz Kieliszkowski and Björnsson, who suffered an injury on Day 1 of the contest. 

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Licis previously had back-to-back fourth-place finishes at the show, but he rallied for a dominant performance in 2019, winning two events outright: The Squat Lift and Atlas Stones.

The 2019 World’s Strongest Man — Bradenton, FL

  1. Martins Licis
  2. Mateusz Kieliszkowski
  3. Hafþór Björnsson

Oleksii Novikov (2020)

The 2020s started with uncertainty thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the WSM contest managed to finally take place in Florida in November 2020. With Licis sitting out due to injury, this edition saw Ukrainian powerhouse Oleksii Novikov claim his first WSM title. To get there, he bested runner-up Tom Stoltman by 3.5 points, while J.F. Caron rounded out the podium.

Though Novikov only won the partial deadlift event in the Finals, he never finished lower than fifth across the six events, proving that consistency is key at the WSM. This year’s contest also capped off a four-year run without a repeat champion getting crowned.

The 2020 World’s Strongest Man — Bradenton, FL

  1. Oleksii Novikov
  2. Tom Stoltman
  3. J.F. Caron

Tom Stoltman (2021, 2022)

After a runner-up placing the year before, Tom Stoltman arrived at the 2021 contest in California to finally claim the championship. And the Scotsman did just that by defeating four-time champion Shaw in the final event: the Atlas Stones. (He also won the Giants Medley and Titan’s Turntable events earlier in the competition.)

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“The Albatross” became the first champion since Shaw to repeat by winning again in 2022 after a battle with Licis and Novikov. He’s the 10th man to win multiple WSMs and he did so by never falling lower than third in any of the six Finals events in 2022.

The 2021 World’s Strongest Man — Sacramento, CA

  1. Tom Stoltman
  2. Brian Shaw
  3. Maxime Boudreault

The 2022 World’s Strongest Man — Sacramento, CA

  1. Tom Stoltman
  2. Martins Licis
  3. Oleksii Novikov

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