The most exciting moment in sports is when something that isn’t supposed to happen, does. In football it can be an overtime win from a team that was down 28 points in the first half or a 40 year old baseball pitcher throwing a perfect game. Much of the fun comes from having the experts proved wrong and our expectations of human performance stretched even further than their already amazing “boundaries”. During the last decade the limits of human strength have been tested and and subsequently changed by athletes doing the unthinkable (and yet to be matched) incredible challenges.
Derek Poundstone: A Rare Test
In 2008, Strongman fans worldwide were treated to an event that many have considered the best strongman contest ever held. A deep field included the best in the sport at the time and the final stone loading event would come down to the already legendary Zydrunas Savickas and the very hungry rising star Derek Poundstone. U
nlike traditional stones, the athletes would load field stones that Old Time Strongman Louis Cyr would have used to wow crowds over 100 years earlier. In the blinding speed of 8.8 seconds Big Z threw the 350 and 400 pound stones up on the platform. When it came to the the third “Cyr” stone weighing 530 lbs (thought to be 517 at the time) the strongman gave it an effort like the preceding competitors but walked away realizing just how impossible the task was.
Going last, and needing to outright beat Big Z, is an American legend of strongman, Derek Poundstone. The Connecticut police officer would have to fly through the first two stones to win, and he did not. He now needed to perform the impossible load. A stone that confounded Big Z, Ortmeyer, Koklyaev, and the rest of a deep field would be tested by Poundstone, and to the crowd’s amazement, it began to move. Undaunted by the failure of others, the athlete pressed on and lapped then loaded the stone. Joining an exclusive club with only one other member (Cyr), Poundstone won one of the heaviest and most traditional strongman contests ever held in grand style.
The stone has sat, untested, since then. Many fans wonder if it will ever be contested again and if it is, the sooner, the better. At this point, the long wait of nine years only deepens the drama as to who really has the brute strength to load it.
Going Overhead: Absolute or Relative?
Most strongman coverage is focused on the open weight athletes. The competitors on the international level are typically over six feet tall and well into the 300 pound weight range (many even surpassing the 400 pound mark). This massive amount of size and weight will increase the amount of momentum the athlete can create thereby allowing them to hit the amazing poundages they do in competitions. Occasionally an athlete will appear that is neither excessively tall or massive and prove they can hang with the big men. In May of 2016 Rob Kearney would make his first appearance in the open scene weighing only around 250 pounds but with a special perfected skill in his arsenal: the split jerk.
Many 105 kg pro strongman will top out the overhead log press in the 330 pound range. This is a mighty lift, that is about 100 pounds over bodyweight. Rob, however, is just warming up at that weight and had been hitting 400 in contests and training fairly regularly. This aptitude on the log garnered him an invitation to the World Log Lift Championships in Lithuania against the best in the sport.
Going head to head with men that outweighed him by 50 or more pounds didn’t psyche out Rob; it motivated him. After out pressing competitor after competitor, Kearney hit a massive 445 pounds jerk to tie Vitas Blekaitis for the win at the contest. This makes him the lightest man to ever win the contest with a number that leaves all other middleweight pros and all but the mightiest heavyweights scratching their heads.
Is Rob a super outlier? Or can the technique he has perfected be replicated by more athletes worldwide? We have yet to see anyone start chasing his number yet, but his performance has also gained him an invite to The 2017 World’s Strongest Man Contest. It will be fun to see how the rest of his lifts hold up at this massive international event.
Eddie Hall: Doing the Impossible
A rising star has been providing his fans with an incredible amount of progressively better performances and better finishes on the world stage. His documentary has provided insight to his life and the sport in general but gave us access to the massive amount of drive it takes to rise from nothing and push yourself further than anyone believes you can. I am of course talking about Eddie Hall.
The six time UK’s Strongest Man has been come to be known primarily for his massive deadlift and his open desire to win World’s Strongest Man. His world record pull in 2015 of 1,025 pounds was astounding at the time and it prompted him to begin talking about chasing 1,100 pounds. This made many critics question his sanity and also human limits. This lift couldn’t be done, could it? No one history has come close and his new record was 75 pounds light. Thats a massive number at the elite level, so if it could be done, how many years would it take?
Apparently, just four months would be needed to do the impossible. In July of 2016, Ed smashed his previous record and pulled 1,102 pounds in a contest shattering an “unbreakable” barrier. The word spread like wildfire across the internet and the strength world was instantly aware that the limits do not exist for some men. Athletes everywhere realized they must up their game and begin to push into uncharted territory to catch the new King of the Pull, Eddie Hall.
Like the four minute mile was once thought to be an unreachable goal, it is now common place among elite college athletes. Will the above numbers be common at nationals in just ten year’s time? It is almost unreasonable to think so, but the evidence shows otherwise. The numbers just keep going up and up with every new event and that’s good news for everyone. The brand new women’s professional class will give a new crop of athletes the stage to see just what the true limits of ability are as well. I for one love to be proven wrong when an athlete outshines the rest of the pack.
Bring on 2017 and the next unreal set of lifts!
Featured image: arthadude on YouTube
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.