2018 Strongest Woman in the World Recap: Fonseca, Ingalls, and Sousa

Fefor, Norway. The historic Arena Fefor has witnessed many strength feats over the last decades. Hafthor Bjornsson’s legend-shattering 1,433 lbs timber yoke walk happened here, as well as many highland games contests, and Strongman Champions League competitions. July 27th – 29th it was home to its first pro strongwoman competition – The Strongest Woman in the World contest, promoted by Strongman Corporation and hosted by Kikki and Egil Berli-Johnsen of Strongman Corporation Scandinavia.

The equipment the ladies competed on was the same equipment that the professional men have competed on, with weight modifications. The venue, backdrop, facility… were all perfect for the event,” said Dione Masters, head of Strongman Corporation. “Our goal is for the women to get the same treatment as the men in international competitions…to continue to raise the bar for the women so that they will also gain the same respect as strength athletes as the men.

This competition was significant in many ways. It was a qualifier for what will be the third Arnold Pro Strongwoman event in 2019, with two athletes from each of the three weight-classes progressing. The athletes’ lodging and meals were provided for by Strongman Corporation, as well as transportation. This was a first (but not the last, emphasized Master) for Strongman Corporation.  

Truck Pull
Truck Pull

Arena Fefor is dramatic and striking. Middleweight champion Liefia Ingalls said, “competing here adds a dramatic visual component to the storyline of the contest…women were the main event. We were given the full platform to display our power and skill, and the result was everything we all wanted to see for the women’s pro division.”

Liefia Ingalls
Liefia Ingalls

The competition was a testament to the way the sport is growing, which ultimately comes down to the athletes. Heavyweight champion Brooke Sousa said about some of the most memorable moments: “Was how girls from each class came together throughout the whole weekend helping each other, sharing stories, hanging out, and laughing uncontrollably.”

I saw some insane displays of grit and courage out there. Nobody had an easy contest, and we all seemed happy that that was the case,” said Ingalls.

The competition ran three days, with six events. It kicked off Friday with a brutal and awe-inspiring Hercules Hold, which was 290 lbs per hand.

There were seven lightweights, nine middleweights, and five heavyweights. Day One started with one evening event, the Hercules Hold at 7 PM: Laura Andersen took the lead for the LWs with a 45.40 second hold, Brittany Diamond for the MWs with 45.47, and Julie Rader for the HWs with 35.18.

Day Two featured the Timber Yoke, Truck Pull, and Extreme Atlas Stones. Day Two started to separate the leaders from the rest of the pack, with Farah Fonseca (UK) taking the lead in the lightweights with 23 points, Jessica Kite (US) in second with 21 points, and Jessica Theaker (CA) sitting in third with 18 points.

In the middleweights, Brittany Diamond (US) held her lead from Day 1 with 31 points, followed by 2017 Inaugural Arnold Pro Champ Liefia Ingalls (US) with 28 pts, and brand new pro Ashley Crawford (US) close behind with 27 pts.

Brooke Sousa (US) took the lead in the heavyweights by winning Truck Pull and Yoke and placing second on Stones (18 pts) with Rader trailing (15 pts), and Olga Liashchuk (UKR) in third (13 pts).

Day Three wrapped up the historic competition with exceptionally hard events: Power stairs, an event that will often draw groans from even seasoned competitors, was first, followed by the Viking Press. The power stairs’ heaviest implement was 352 lbs for all weight classes.

Lightweight Women
Photo: Farah Fonseca. From L-R: Andersen, Fonseca, Pyron, Hofheins, Bangma, Kite; Bottom Row: Theaker

In the lightweights, Fonseca held onto her lead from Day Two, tying for third on the press but winning the Power Stairs and securing her win in the lightweight division. Theaker and Andersen came in second and third.

In the middleweights, Ingalls pulled ahead of Diamond by winning the press and cemented her win with the Stairs. Teammate Crawford came in second, and Diamond in third.

Brooke Sousa also held her lead from Saturday, placing top 4 in both events, while Olga Liashchuk came in second, Julie Rader came in third.

All three champions expressed gratitude for the event and pride in their performance — a common theme amongst them was that they all focused on themselves and their growth from previous competitions, one step at a time. That’s good advice for any lifter, novice or high level.

Fonseca made her pro debut at SWITW and said, “I didn’t put too much pressure on myself and wanted to enjoy the experience of competing with the other international girls,” and “Strongest Woman in the World meant a lot to me. Six weeks off of the back of competing at England’s Strongest Woman, where my mindset was not where it should have been (affecting my performance), only fueled the fire to make sure I put in a decent performance…[this] was my favorite competition to date and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!”

Ingalls, already an established and accomplished pro, revealed: “I am most proud that I felt completely and intensely in control of my emotional state the entire time throughout the competition, for the first time ever in my career. I feel like I levelled up, internally.”

Another experienced athlete, Sousa said, “The proudest moment, for me at Strongest Woman in the World, or any other competition, is just doing better than the last competition. Seeing personal growth and seeing my results from training.”

The Strongest Women in the World have spoken. See what they’re up to next by following them on Instagram (full competitor list and IG handles below).

The complete competitor list in order of final placing:

Lightweights:

Farah Fonseca (UK) @farahfonseca
Jessica Theaker (CA) @jess_theaker
Laura Andersen (US) @scrawny_beast
Jessica Kite (US) @jkite83
Christina Bangma (US) @eatcakeliftheavy
Leslie Hofheins (US) @lesliehofheins1100
Rachel Pyron (US) @rachel_pyron

Middleweights:

Liefia Ingalls (US) @liefiasaurus
Ashley Crawford (US) @ashleycrawford_so_strong
Brittany Diamond (US) @B_dimez
Sumer Johnson (US) @sumerjohnson
Allison Lockhart (CA) @alibaba616_
Sarah Cogswell (US) @trisarahsquats
Rebecca Roberts (US) @yokequeen
Bailey Deschene (CA) @bailey_deschene
Kimberly Lawrance (US) @kim_lawrance

Heavyweights:

Brooke Sousa (US) @brookesousa
Olga Liashchuk (UKR) @olga_liashchuk_strongwoman
Julie Rader (US) @raderjd
Jessica Fithen (US) @filthy_fithen
Jackie Bundus (CA) @jacked_jackie

Featured image courtesy Strongman Corporation

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Finishing acting school in 2010 left Cara directionless and depressed, slinging drinks for work while half-heartedly and inconsistently auditioning. She had tons of ambition, but little discipline and no direction. After a psychologically devastating break-up, she decided that, even though she had had almost no athletic development since her early teens, taking control of her body would help her find stability and a way out of her depression. She started working at an NYC gym, and began studying under the training staff. She began like many do: by following Starting Strength’s 5x5 template, and then Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1, experimenting constantly while she learned. She developed a deep desire to challenge herself physically, and training helped her manage the mental health issues that had plagued her for years.She did her first strongman competition in April, 2015, and has competed over twenty times since then, at the regional, national, and world level. She immediately became hooked on the sport (she has also dabbled in highland games, weightlifting and powerlifting, and aggressively stalks the various Dottirs on social media - that’s the same as trying Crossfit, right?).Strongman helped her reconnect to her artistic side. She found strongman initially through the internet via sources like Starting Strongman and T-Nation, and she wanted to give back and experience the sport in a more cerebral way by writing. Her experience in strongman inspired aspects of her webseries, Asher, which features an athletic, stone-lifting protagonist.Cara became a personal trainer in 2014, and strongman became not only a vehicle for personal and physical development, but it also transformed her professional life: She has trained with and learned from a wide scope of strength and fitness professionals, including Dr. Pat Davidson, Zydrunas Savickas, Liefia Ingalls, Dan Trink, Travis Mash, and Cara’s coach, Andrew Triana (of The Performance Vibe with Zach and Nicholas Hadge). She currently trains her clients in Manhattan, and they range from twenty-something-year-old strength hobbyists to grandparents and post-surgery/post-rehab trainees.Cara is very interested in how strength training and competition become means of personal development, and much of her writing explores the more cerebral aspects of training. She believes that a good training environment, a strong goal and an intelligent program can changes lives far beyond just the body’s performance capabilities. You can learn more about her on her Instagram @captainstarbuck and at www.thecarabrennan.com.