The 2022 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) contest saw Tom Stoltman retain his title and become the 10th strongman in history to win at least two titles and the eighth to ever win back-to-back championships. However, that wasn’t the only historic feat or remarkable feat from the contest that could stand the test of time when peering back at the sport’s most memorable moments.
Below are 10 of the standout moments from the 2022 WSM contest, including a last-minute shake-up to the overall standings that altered the podium, a world record, a gasp-inducing gaff that cost one strongman their spot in the Final, and more. Check it out:
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1. Mithell Hooper’s Debut
Mitchell Hooper was a late addition to the WSM roster. He got the call after Rauno Heinla withdrew from the contest. The 2022 WSM was only Hooper’s sixth elite strongman event and his first on an international stage. No one really knew what to expect from the 26-year-old Canadian, but Hooper seemed to know what to expect from himself — a shellacking of Group 2.
Hooper dominated Group 2 with six points to give in the end after effectively skipping the final event of the Qualifying stage. Hooper won the Loading Race, the Deadlift Ladder, and the Car Walk for his group, scoring a hat trick of event wins in his WSM debut. Hooper would ultimately head to the Final, where he finished eighth overall after winning the KNAACK Giant’s Live Medley, competing in his first-ever vehicle pull event (the Bus Pull), and nearly shattering his ankle after falling down with a 440-pound Atlas Stone.
2. Mark Felix’s Car Walk and Wrecking Ball Hold
At 56 years of age, Mark Felix has competed in 17 WSM contests. During an interview during the Final, Felix confirmed that he would return at the 2022 WSM contest at age 57 to become the oldest strongmen ever to compete on strongman’s grandest stage — taking that record from Odd Haugen.
During the Car Walk event in Qualifying, while many strongmen struggled to even lift the 430-kilogram (950-pound) Volkswagon Beetle, Felix soared down the 20-meter course. He carried the vehicle across the finish line unbroken in just under 14 seconds and still had the energy to get on top of the car to celebrate with the roaring crowd.
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Although Felix’s struggles in the overhead events cost him his chance to reach the Final, that didn’t stop him from scoring the best time of any strongman in the Wrecking Ball Hold event. He held the 500-pound wrecking ball for 2:20.49, setting the world record in the process.
3. Evan Singleton’s Competition Exit and Return
Evan Singleton came into the 2022 WSM confident he could contend for the crown. Unfortunately, that came to a crashing halt after the first event of the competition — the Loading Race — where he struggled to load the last 275-pound sandbag. He subsequently needed medical attention to leave the field of play, likely due to overheating while competing in the triple-degree heat — and withdrew from the competition.
Although Singleton would miss the Deadlift Ladder, he was cleared by medical to re-enter the competition on Day Two of Qualifying. His return came with fireworks as he scored the best time of any strongman in the Car Walk and was the only one to finish that event with a sub-10-second-time. Despite finishing last in an event and entirely missing another, Singleton still had a path to the Stone-Off if he could post a first-place finish in the Log Lift.
However, Singleton did not appear to have fully recovered and struggled midway through the Log Lift. Not one to not be carried out on his shield, Singleton made two failed attempts in the Log Lift before Head Judge Magnus ver Magnusson hopped into the field of play to protect Singleton from reinjuring himself.
4. Gabriel Rhéaume’s Triumph in the Stone-Off
In the history of the Stone-Off in its current format at the WSM, where the second- and third-place finishers from each group go head-to-head until one man can no longer lift the Atlas Stone, only once has a strongman won their Stone-Off with the initiative — meaning charged to lift first.
Having the initiative in the Stone-Off is a steep disadvantage as the loser of the event is whoever misses an attempt first, not whoever loads fewer stones. This means that the two battling strongmen can lift the stone the same number of reps, but if the strongman with the initiative misses first, they are eliminated.
Battling against Kevin Faires in Group 1, both men made it to the sixth Atlas Stone. Rhéaume managed to lift the 440-pound stone twice. While Faires was able to lift the stone to the bar, the stone slipped back towards him. While Faires used whatever was left of his 20 seconds allotted to attempt to re-load the stone, it wasn’t enough and Rhéaume advanced to the Final.
5. Bobby Thompson’s Tacky Malfunction
Arguably the most controversial moment of the 2022 WSM contest was the Stone-Off between Group 2’s second-place Bobby Thompson and third-place Brian Shaw. It was the most anticipated of the five Stone-Offs due to the stakes attached to it. Shaw was seeking his record-tying fifth WSM title and to uphold his world-record streak of most consecutive WSM Final appearances. Shaw extended that streak to 14 after defeating Thompson, but it wasn’t without dispute.
Shaw finished third in Group 2, meaning he had the initiative in the Stone-Off against Thompson — an immense hurdle to overcome. It would have been the story of the competition if Shaw failed to reach the Final for the first time in nearly a decade-and-a-half. The expectation was both men would reach the sixth stone and clash in a war of attrition. What happened instead was Thompson didn’t even budge the first stone.
The refs and fans all yelled at Thompson that he only has 20 seconds to lift the stone. As confusion spiraled, the whistle blew and Thompson’s contest came to an end. Thompson was clearly livid about something apparently wrong with his tacky — the sticky substance used to help strongmen grip Atlas Stones. While unclear what the issue was, an issue there was indeed, as he was seen referring to his hands and the tacky. Thompson stormed off the field of play, knowing a do-over was not in the cards.
Shaw effectively said in his post-event interview that while he felt bad for Thompson, one has to take whatever path to the Final they can get. The next time Thompson competes on the world stage, it is almost certain that clips of his tacky malfunction will resurface.
6. Oleksii Novikov Dropping The Rope In the Bus Pull
Oleksii Novikov‘s gutsy performance throughout the 2022 WSM competition might be one of the most awe-inspiring in the history of the sport. He and Pavlo Kordiyaka were competing in the event with the backdrop of their home country of Ukraine amidst a war against Russian forces which invaded in late February 2022. During their preparation for the contest, both men fought as part of the Ukrainian army to help defend their homeland.
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Novikov seemed to be competing for more than himself all weekend. He won Group 3 in convincing fashion with three event wins and continued that winning streak in the Final with the Bus Pull. While Novikov was last to perform the Bus Pull, thereby knowing the time he needed to beat. He put an exclamation point on his event-winning time of 41.51 seconds by crossing the finish line after letting go of the rope and pulling the Bus the last several meters solely with his lower body.
7. Oleksii Novikov’s Flintstone Barbell World Record
The 2022 WSM featured the return of the Flintstone Barbell event, which had not been seen in the contest since 1995 when Gary Taylor set the then-world-record of 463 pounds. Huge stones were placed on both ends of a barbell, and the strongmen were tasked with pressing overhead — most athletes opt for a behind-the-neck press, though some attempt from a front rack position.
Giants Live was prepared for the event to last a maximum of six rounds, peaking at 510 pounds. However, three strongmen — Tom Stoltman, Martins Licis, and Novikov successfully locked 510 pounds out. That meant Giants Live needed to add the seventh round at 529 pounds. Fortunately for the fans, two men — Stoltman and Novikov — were successful.
The eighth round was pushed to 542 pounds. Taylor’s record had been broken four times thus far in the event. The weight increase to 542 pounds was enough that Stoltman opted not to make an attempt, content with at-worst second-place points assuming Novikov somehow managed to maneuver the weight overhead.
Utilizing a split-jerk technique, Novikov continued his remarkable performance by securing the event win, locking out 542 pounds, and claiming the world record.
8. The Power Stairs Shake-Up the Leaderboard
The Power Stairs were the second to last event of the Final, with only the Atlas Stones afterward. Novikov’s incredible performance thus far, which included three event wins in the Final, placed him 3.5 points ahead of second-place Tom Stoltman. That half-point mattered because Stoltman would need to score a total of at least four ranks higher than Novikov in the last two events to retain the WSM title.
The 500-pound implements used for the Power Stairs were tall and clunky. The stairs did not have much length and were at relatively high heights. That did not leave much room for the shorter athletes in the field to maneuver, as high-pulling 500-pounds with a narrow grip is extremely difficult.
Stoltman leveraged his height and claimed second-place points, continuing his remarkably consistent Final. Novikov did not share the same fate, succumbing to his worst finish in the Final to that point — a seventh-place rank. It rearranged the standings and altered the top of the leaderboard for the first time since the second event of the Final. Stoltman commanded a 1.5-point lead over Novikov heading into his signature event, and it was enough to seal the deal for Stoltman’s second WSM title.
9. Martins Licis Wins Silver Via Tiebreaker
While the Final podium resulted in Tom Stoltman on top, Licis in second, and Novikov in third, it doesn’t entirely paint the picture of the last moments of the competition. Novikov and Stoltman were runaways on top of the leaderboard as the only two men with a mathematical chance to win the competition. Licis was in a distant third with no way to reach first place.
The last heat of the Atlas Stones pitted Novikov versus Stoltman. Novikov needed to beat Stoltman by two ranks to claim the title, so Stoltman only needed to play defense. By the time Stoltman loaded his fourth stone, it was clear he would beat Novikov and clinch his second WSM championship.
Once Novikov knew he was beaten, the same fire to post his best possible time was extinguished. Ultimately, Novikov took last place in the Atlas Stones, allowing Licis to tie him for points on the overall leaderboard. Since Licis had the better tiebreaker (Atlas Stone time), he was ranked second overall and Novikov third.
History will remember Licis — who had a stellar performance throughout the competition — as the runner-up at the 2022 WSM and Novikov as the bronze medalist. But the scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story, as Novikov was much closer to winning the entire contest than Licis.
10. Tom Stoltman Knowing He Won WSM Mid-Atlas Stones
It is not often in strongman that an athlete gets to recognize the moment they win the biggest contest in the sport in the middle of an event. However, that was the case for Tom Stoltman, who could peer across the field of play during the Atlas Stones event after loading his fourth stone to see he was comfortably ahead of Novikov — the lone man left who could dethrone Stoltman.
Between his fourth and fifth stones, Stoltman knew he was a two-time WSM champion. A rare suspension in time to cap off one of the more memorable WSM contests in recent history.
Featured image courtesy of Joe Martinez/World’s Strongest Man