On April 2, 2022, 2020 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) champion Oleksii Novikov flew from his home country of Ukraine, currently amidst a war against Russian forces, to Leeds, England to compete in the 2022 Europe’s Strongest Man (ESM) contest. Despite the lack of sleep and inconsistent training schedule due to the war, Novikov won the 2022 ESM contest, continuing his string of podium finishes — he ranked second overall behind 2019 WSM Martins Licis at the 2022 Arnold Strongman Classic in March.
On April 3, 2022, Novikov took to his YouTube channel to share footage of his current experience in Ukraine as a soldier. Check out the video below, wherein Novikov is seen performing training drills alongside fellow soldiers:
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The video opens with highlights from Novikov’s ESM win in Leeds, including his efforts in the 2022 World Log Lift Challenge, the Deadlift Ladder event, the Carry & Drag, and his extremely close finish in the Atlas Stones against defending ESM champion Luke Stoltman. In his follow-up interview with three-time WSM champion Bill Kazmaier, Novikov shared how different his training is these days:
Unfortunately, I can’t train very well like strongman…[for] months, I train like soldier. Glory to Ukraine.
The footage cuts from a winded Novikov thanking the ESM crowd for their support to Kyiv, Ukraine, where he is outfitted in military gear, and a mask adorned with the logo of Marvel’s The Punisher — an angered skull missing its jaw. Novikov loads a magazine into his assault rifle before darting out from behind a line of vehicles to line up his shot with a series of training targets.
This is what training looks like.
What is presumably a Sargeant can be heard yelling “Group Three, go!” from a distance. Novikov dashes from his position to put more ammunition on the training targets — presented as images of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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2022 World’s Strongest Man
Novikov is scheduled to travel outside Ukraine to compete at the 2022 WSM contest in Sacramento, CA, from May 24-29, 2022. He is one of 30 strongmen who will compete for the most coveted prize in the sport. At the time of this article’s publication, neither the qualifying stage groups nor events have yet been announced. Given his recent performances at elite strongman contests despite fighting to defend his home country, Novikov could very well make another run for the podium, including the potential for a second WSM title.
At the 2021 WSM contest, Novikov was eliminated during the qualifying stage after being tied on points with Kevin Faires but having a worse tiebreaker time in the Pickaxe Hold event. Faires battled against Luke Stoltman in a Stone Off and lost, allowing Stoltman and their group’s winner, Bobby Thompson, to advance to the Finals. We’ll see if Novikov can venture away from war yet again to post another podium finish in May and once again bring “glory to Ukraine.”
Featured image: @novikov_strong_wsm on Instagram