One of my absolute favorite things about the CrossFit Games format is the Wild Card spaces, which though aren’t technically new are now a lot more official. These spots are to be reserved for any non-CrossFitter who not only thinks they have what it takes to become the best in the world but has a decent body of proof and a fan base to boot. It opens up the sport of fitness to everyone from insta-athletes to proven professionals.
The reason why I love these Wild Card spots so much is that they remind of Prize Fighters of Old, who would stand in the ring and take on any challengers: if you think you’re up to it all you have to do is throw your hat in the ring.
In my excitement I started searching out those who I thought might stand a puncher’s chance in the CrossFit Games, and while I didn’t find any strongmen who look ready for the 2019 Games, I did come across a goldmine of videos of World Class Strongmen trying their hand at Grace. For those of you out of the loop, Grace is one of the more famous CrossFit benchmark workouts. Loved for its simplicity and its shortness, it’s simply 30 clean and jerks at 135 pounds for men & 95 pounds for women as fast as you can.
There is no shortage of footage out there of folks doing Grace in some truly outstanding times, with Dan Bloch’s 59 second Grace being the fastest time I could find by a functional athlete. Which sounds impressive until you see what the Strongest Men in the World did.
1. Laurence Shahlaei – 55.46 seconds
You probably didn’t expect to see Loz at the top of the list, but the Brit is an often unbeatable athlete and one of the most explosive in the sport. Despite not getting the Limelight he deserves he has won a host of major shows including Europe’s Strongest Man and presses 3 times the Grace weight overhead without too many difficulties.
2. Derek Poundstone – 56 seconds
3. Brian Shaw – 1 minute 2 seconds
As far as I can tell, this video from 2014 is the earliest example of a top level strongman stepping into the world of CrossFit and doing any WOD. Which in 2014 was a pretty big deal for the sport as many in the hardcore strength world were still hating on anything remotely CrossFit. The shaky Youtube video shows two of the best Strongmen in the World at the time — Brian Shaw and Derek Poundstone — competing in a breast cancer fundraiser (hence the pink) against the host gym’s athlete. Despite Brian and the mystery athlete grabbing almost of the screen time, it’s Derek Poundstone who actually finishes first in what appears to be a barely believable 56 seconds. Sadly however all we can see in the video of Poundstone is an occasional gigantic arm and his barbell being thrown down first, followed moments later by 4 times World’s Strongest man Shaw in 1 minute 2 seconds.
4. Paul Smith – 57 seconds
A year ago when Paul uploaded this video a fair number of purists understandably got their hackles up, as Paul’s Clean and Jerks border on muscle snatches. However, it is still a man taking a 135lb bar and throwing it above his head 30 times in less than a minute. Quite a bit less than a minute too, 57 seconds it took Paul to work through the WOD. This shouldn’t be too much as a surprise as Paul is the right kind of outlier. A strongman who despite drinking 8 pints of milk a day and squatting cars for fun can also pull out a backflip.
The last time I spoke to him, he mentioned having his eye on one day setting the Diane World Record, which is currently held by Dan Bailey at 1 minute 35. And is probably the only strongman on this list who I would really like to see try and take on that Wild Card Challenge.
5. Tom Stoltman – 1 minute 3 seconds
If you have a World Class Strength athlete for a brother, chances are you’re probably going to be pretty good at picking stuff up yourself. This is something we’ve seen time and time again in strongman with the Hadges, the Lalases and of course the Stoltmans. Luke Stoltman has been in the game for years but it is only recently that the world has got to see just what an incredible talent his younger brother Tom is.
It’s Tom that we see here flying through his take on Grace here in 1 minute and three seconds. What is a shame though is that Tom has brought the strongman mentality of floor to overhead anyway possible to the WOD, turning it into more of a hybrid version of Isabel.
Honorable Mention: Matjaz Belsak — 51 seconds
There are few people in the world that can hang with the Slovenian when it comes to putting things overhead for reps, so it makes sense that Matjaz would be an absolute phenom at this event. Sadly however, the rules seemed to get a little lost on Matjaz and through Instagram whispers, he seemed to be under the impression that it was 30 floor to overheads and not 30 clean and jerks. Regardless of form, this is a hack of a feat and worth watching — it’s just not quite Grace.
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
Featured image: Maximum Human Performance – MHP on Youtube