To the uninitiated, the title of this article may lead you to believe that this is one in the same. I will make the argument in this article that they are not and it would be a mistake to confuse the two.
The casual fan, may take a quick glance at the list of World’s Strongest Man Champions and see that Mariusz Pudzianowski is the only man to win the title five times, obviously making him the best, but we all know better. Pudzian was an incredible athlete and nearly unbeatable in his heyday at a very certain type of Strongman contest; lighter and endurance based. Bodyweight was less of a factor and conditioning was a huge key to success.
While he is easily on the list of the top ten of all time, he would have a difficult time handling the likes of Brian Shaw who was just making his way to the sport as Mariusz was making his exit.
The colossal Shaw could also have his name bandied about for the greatest, but I personally believe he falls short. Not by much, but unfortunately for him there were a few missed opportunities along that road that make it difficult to justify. At this point I believe that TV opportunities, family obligations and age have hampered the final career leg of the greatest American Strongman ever.
It would be difficult (or even impossible) to argue against the true G.O.A.T, Zydrunas Savickas. He has 36 International wins, compared to Mariusz at 27. Add in Lithuanian championships and his total number hits 86. This is staggering. Most Strongmen in the sport will not even compete 86 times or even 36 times, let alone rack up that many victories. As an athlete he may never be matched.
Like Tom Brady and his six Super Bowl rings, we have witnessed sport’s greatness; total domination that may not be repeated, ever. I literally mean that. Technological advances that are on the horizon will soon change what it means to be organically human. We will not be able to compare enhanced athletes fifty years from now due to today’s rudimentary technological limits.
This brings me to my final point: Is big Z the strongest ever? No. He is not. We have moved into deeper waters. Compared to just ten years ago, the equipment, supplements (of all kinds), production of events, and number of people in the sport have exploded. All of this leads to defining moments. See, you must understand we may only get to see the very strongest for a very brief period of time. You do not need to have a long career to be the strongest.
The fastest man of all time may only compete and win one race, never to be seen again, but that doesn’t diminish his effort. After watching him for years, and then his bookend victories at the Arnold, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson is most likely the strongest man ever to have lived.
The last 12 months have been dominant for the Icelander, winning every major contest he has entered in dominating fashion. He can out-throw Highlanders, and out press or pull almost anyone in the game. If he does lose an event it is by a few pounds or inches. His well rounded abilities are unmatched as he can not only dominate with static strength but in the conditioning department as well. He narrowly missed Hall’s world record in the deadlift despite being five inches taller and not using a suit.
There is almost no area where he does not excel, and the weights being moved are more massive than ever. His list of wins is far shorter than the others I have mentioned, but quite frankly it seems evident that the competition today has far surpassed that of just five years ago and the contests are much heavier.
I firmly believe the Big Z, Marisuz, and Shaw, all at their best, could not beat Thor as he stands today in a traditional Strongman series. He is not a once in a lifetime athlete but a genetic specimen that, due to training, has surpassed what anyone in (reliable) recorded history can do.
I feel it is too early to make the same designation for the women. The opportunities have unfortunately been very limited, and the sport is really just getting its foothold. That doesn’t mean that we cannot define the very best.
The Greatest Strongwoman of all time? I feel this distinction is still too difficult to make. We have many who could be considered for the title. Kristen Rhodes dominated the American scene for a decade but didn’t have the opportunity to win Internationally in her prime. When the chances finally became available she was older than ideal to win those events. Donna Moore? Two amazing years at the top have given way to second places at the big events. If she regroups, the status may change.
A standout from a decade ago is Aneta Florczyk (now Kielak). She has four World’s Strongest Woman titles at only 165 pounds! Additionally, she has more International victories than any woman ever. He numbers are staggering and her ability to move was unmatched. Jill Mills runs a very close second and has three World’s Strongest titles herself. It is worth noting that both Kristen and Jill have lost to Aneta.
While we never know what the future holds, I truly believe we are at the end of witnessing what humans are capable of without the direct use of artificial technology. Enjoy this period of sports, debate my picks and keep in mind that you are witnessing the end of an era.
Featured image: @thorbjornsson on Instagram
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.