On June 14, 2021, strongman Graham Hicks of the UK announced on Instagram that he is withdrawing from the World’s Strongest Man competition. Hicks aggravated an existing groin injury during equipment tests in Sacramento, CA, where the competition is taking place from June 15-20. World’s Strongest Man then announced that same day that Ervin Toots of Estonia will replace Hicks on the 25-man roster.
“I’ve had a groin injury from a few weeks ago,” Hicks says. “We were equipment testing today…I went up to 221 kilos for one rep [on the squat], and then I was sick because the pain in my nuts was that severe. I’ve had to allow someone else in, which is only fair for the sport.”
You can watch Hicks’ full announcement in the video below:
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News of Hick’s withdrawal is especially upsetting since he dropped out of the 2020 WSM contest. He made it to the Finals and ended up tearing his biceps. Though it wasn’t confirmed for certain, the strongman from England likely hurt himself during the Giants Medley in 2020. Hicks has qualified for six WSM competitions (2012-15, 2018, 2020). He’s also won Britain’s Strongest Man in 2019 and placed second in 2014 and 2018.
The competitor replacing Hicks is Ervin Toots. The Estonian was a competitor at the 2020 WSM contest but was forced to withdraw after he sustained an injury during the squat event in the qualifying stage. Before he left the competition, Toots did place third in his group during the Farmer’s Carry event. Other career highlights include a third-place finish at the 2020 Europe’s Strongest Man. Gabriel Peña of Texas, who announced himself as an alternate in March 2021, was also a possible replacement. (Peña also dropped out of the 2020 WSM due to heart complications.)
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With Toots in and Hicks out, the five qualifier groups have been shaken up. Gavin Bilton who was in Group Five will slide into Group One and Toots will take Bilton’s spot in Group Five. Each group contains five athletes (there are 25 athletes in total). The top two athletes in each group will move on to the Finals to contend for the title of World’s Strongest Man. Here are all of the athletes in Group One and Group Five:
As of June 8, 2021, in-person spectators are allowed to attend the competition. (Originally, this wasn’t the case.) For strongman fans who can’t make it to Sacramento, WSM will be offering behind-the-scenes coverage on a Facebook Live show. Anyone can purchase the seven-episode show for $2.99. The full competition will air on CBS Sports Network on July 3, 2021, and on Channel 5 in the UK on December 26. Coverage of the 2021 WSM will be broadcast to approximately 70 additional countries and territories starting in December 2021, totaling close to 500 million households.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on June 14, 2021, to reflect Ervin Toots as Hicks’ replacement, and the group changes.
Featured image: World’s Strongest Man