One of the biggest stories during the 2022 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) contest won by Tom Stoltman was the performance by 2020 WSM champion Oleksii Novikov, who finished third overall. However, simply looking at the podium that saw Martins Licis between Stoltman and Novikov misses the bigger picture of the competition. A picture that shows Novikov in the foreground on the brink of achieving a second WSM title with three Final event wins, including a world record of 246 kilograms (542.3 pounds) in the Flintstone Barbell.
Unfortunately for Novikov, whose training was backdropped by the ongoing war in his home country of Ukraine, a hiccup in the Power Stairs event left Stoltman the window to dominate Stoltman’s signature event — the Atlas Stones — and retain the title. Despite nearly grasping the first place trophy and instead tumbling to the bottom of the podium, the 2022 WSM contest will be remembered for Novikov’s performance through all five days of competition as it will for Stoltman being the first strongman to win consecutive WSM titles since 2016 (Brian Shaw won the 2015 and 2016 WSM contests).
Check out Novikov’s review of his performance at the 2022 WSM contest in the video below, courtesy of his YouTube channel:
As expected, Novikov’s remarkable performance in Sacramento was fueled by less than optimal preparation due to his involvement with the Ukrainian army, which continues to fend off the invading Russian forces at the time of this article’s publication. Despite competing consistently on the Giants Live circuit during the back half of 2021 and during 2022 season, Novikov was already guaranteed a spot in the WSM contest as will be the case forever. All former WSM champions have a lifetime invitation to compete at the WSM contest. Four WSM champions were at the 2022 WSM contest — Novikov, Tom Stoltman, Licis, and Shaw.
Painkillers were a routine part of Novikov’s preparation for the 2022 WSM contest, as he suffered from knee pain and did not have an opportunity to treat it as “shockwave therapy wasn’t working.” The war kept him from having access to other unnamed recovery tools he would have otherwise turned to.
Novikov viewed the top competition in his group to be Adam Bishop. Novikov believed that had he stumbled in any of the Qualifying stage events, he would likely have had to compete in a Stone-Off against Trey Mitchell — a rematch from the 2019 WSM contest that Novikov was not interested in repeating. If Novikov was to battle against Mitchell in the Stone-Off, he felt it would have compromised his back heading into the Final, thereby stunting his winning chances.
That version of reality never came to pass as Novikov was dominant in his group. The turning point for Novikov was winning the Deadlift Ladder event — the only event where he felt Bishop was favored. Novikov bested Bishop in that event and never looked back.
Despite Novikov appearing perfect through the rest of Qualifying, there were some previously unnoticed mistakes he made. During the Car Walk, Novikov ordered the yoke to the wrong height. That meant the car was situated too low to the ground and was less stable during his heat. The result was walking more on his toes to move down the course, which put more pressure on his already tender knee. He was in pain after his run.
Novikov believes that the most objective way to determine who should advance to the Final is to have all Qualified athletes on the same leaderboard rather than have separate groups. However, he accepts Giants Live’s choice to run their events how they see fit.
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2022 WSM Final
Novikov’s takeaway from the Giant’s Medley event was that human error is a factor when athletes can post extremely tight times. He feels that the time it takes a referee to stop a stopwatch could be the difference in the rankings. He suggests an “electric time fixator,” which would clock the exact time each athlete crosses the finish line for a more accurate result.
The Car Deadlift was right in Novikov’s wheelhouse. He excels in partial deadlifts and frame deadlifts, such as the Car Deadlift, and “knows how to work in these events,” which are almost always for max reps. In the event, Novikov knew he needed to at least beat 13 reps but was third to last to attempt. Novikov notably got a nosebleed as he knocked out an event-winning 15 reps — a personal best for him in the Car Deadlift.
The Flintstone Barbell was a testament to Novikov’s weightlifting technique as he implemented the split jerk to move the barbell overhead. When he first learned the log press, he utilized a split jerk, so this was not a new concept for him. He realized that leg drive was undeniably the difference-maker in this event, and he found similarities to the heavy dumbbell press, which is one of Novikov’s better events.
Speaking through the physics of the Bus Pull, Novikov knew the taller, heavier athletes held the advantage as they would have more traction through more leverage due to their height. Mass moves mass, and Novikov was aware that he had one of the lower body weight among the competitors in the Final. Despite that, he won the Bus Pull, which he did not expect he would entering the event.
The result of Novikov pushing himself so hard in the Bus Pull was what he called an “emergency state for the body.” He felt as though he didn’t have his legs under him and he felt pain in his kidneys. He drank water and got through the pain with help from the medical team, but the event “took its toll.”
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The Power Stairs were the competition deciding event and the first time Novikov showed vulnerability. While the structure and implements used for the event favored the taller athletes since they did not have to pull the implements as high to mount them on each stair, Novikov puts more blame on his preparation than the production. He trained to pull to a height of 90 centimeters, but the height in the competition was 116 centimeters.
Novikov credits Boudreault, who won the Power Stairs, as an example that, while height played an important role, it wasn’t the deciding factor. Boudreault and Novikov are the same height, and Boudreault scored the fastest time in the event.
The Atlas Stones were somewhat of an addendum to the Power Stairs. While the stones aren’t Novikov’s best event, he felt unprepared and fatigued when he had to battle against Tom Stoltman in the heat for the title. Stoltman blitzed the event, and less than halfway through, it was clear that Novikov was not going to beat him. Once Novikov knew the top of the podium belonged to Stoltman, he mentioned that he wanted the event to be over sooner. That lack of closing effort led to scoring only one point in the event, allowing Licis to move into second place overall.
While Novikov will be in the record books as the bronze medalist at the 2022 WSM contest, the contest itself tells the story of a soldier who trained during a war and was inches away from getting his fingertips on the first-place trophy.
2022 Strongman Classic
Novikov’s next strongman contest will be the 2022 Giants Live Strongman Classic on July 9, 2022, at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England. He won the contest in 2021 and will attempt to defend the title against a roster that has seen multiple shakeups the week before the contest, including Maxime Boudreault replacing Konstantine Janashia, Gavin Bilton stepping in for an injured Adam Bishop, and Eddie Williams competing instead of Cheick “Iron Biby” Sanou.
Featured image: @novikov_strong_wsm on Instagram