The 2021 Rogue Invitational on Halloween weekend was action-packed. The two reigning CrossFit Games champions, Justin Medeiros and Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr, scored victories in the CrossFit competition. The inaugural strongman contest featured a spectacular return to the sport by 2019 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) champion Martins “The Dragon” Licis, who took down the title and a Thor’s Hammer world record of 300 pounds.
Under the radar from those headline-grabbing performances was 2020 WSM champion Oleksii Novikov, who quietly added yet another podium finish to a remarkably consistent season in the back half of 2021. Novikov finished third at the 2021 Rogue Invitational (2021 WSM champion Tom Stoltman was the runner-up). After five events, Novikov finished no lower than sixth (Elephant Bar deadlift) and took an impressive event win in the Cyr Dumbbell ladder.
Novikov took to his YouTube channel to share his thoughts on the Rogue Invitational, where he made mistakes he can learn from, and what he intends to do in 2022. Check out the full video below:
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Novikov did not have high expectations coming into the contest, and he did not have the training leading up to it that he would have liked. The 2021 Rogue Invitational was the penultimate competition of the season, and Novikov was grinding through events across the world. He was physically tired.
Victory loves preparation. Leading up to this contest, there was almost no preparation. I trained what I wanted, not what I needed.
Part of Novikov’s struggle during the competition was battling jet lag. The constant flying from continent to continent for strongman contests took a toll on his sleep, and he spent an entire night in the airport waiting for a flight to get to Round Rock, TX, where the competition was held.
Elephant Bar Deadlift
Novikov admits that the deadlift is a weakness for him. Despite setting the WSM partial deadlift record of 537.5 kilograms (1,185-pounds) in 2020, he finds deadlift events for max weight a hurdle without a lifting suit.
He scored a sixth-place finish in the opening event of the Rogue Invitational with a max pull of 390.5 kilograms (861 pounds). It was his worst finish of the entire competition. Exiting the event, Novikov didn’t sustain an injury but did suffer from back “spasms,” and some “muscles were clenched.”
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Cyr Dumbbell Ladder
The second event of the competition was a highlight reel for Novikov. He was the only man to complete every dumbbell in the Cyr Dumbbell ladder, including the final 300-pound weight. He expected to battle for the win in this event against Cyr Dumbbell world record holder Mateusz Kieliszkowski. However, “The Polish Titan” only completed three dumbbells to a third-place overall finish. Licis, who got tips in training from Novikov in the dumbbell, took a silver finish for scoring three dumbbells in a faster time than Kielsliszkowski.
Wheel of Pain
Novikov scored a fourth-place finish in the Wheel of Pain for moving it 23.24 meters. However, it was much more difficult than when he encountered the implement at the Arnold Strongman Classic. There was more resistance to the Wheel of Pain in the Dell Diamond stadium, and it nearly tore Novikov’s Achilles.
There were mistakes, but I learn from them.
Fortunately, he avoided that fate. Novikov and Rob Kearney were the two lightest men on the roster, so an event where weight moves weight leaves them at a disadvantage. His strategy of taking wider steps to move the wheel obscured his body position and cost him some distance. For reference, Tom Stoltman won the event by moving the wheel four meters beyond where Novikov finished.
Yoke & Log Medley
Novikov felt confident on the yoke as it moved smoothly for him in training. However, all the strongmen appeared to struggle with Rogue’s implement, and Novikov points out that it was due to where the weight was situated. On his training yoke and for many yokes used in major competitions, the weight sits at the bottom of the implement, usually via stacked weight plates. Rogue’s implement placed the weight closer to his midline, and it threw off his balance.
For the log lift portion of the event, performing outside increased its difficulty. Typically when performing a log lift, once it’s cleaned to the shoulders, strongmen will find a point on the ceiling to focus their eyes before pressing overhead to help maintain their balance. At the Dell Diamond, it was clear blue skies — this left Novikov nowhere to focus his eye line, and it had repercussions. During his third lift, Novikov stumbled backward. Although he managed to get the weight overhead, he did not have stable footing and never received the down signal from head judge Magnus ver Magnusson for a clean rep.
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Novikov knew heading into the final event — the Inver Stones — that he was out of contention for first place and needed to play defense against Kieliszkowski to maintain a spot on the podium. The expectation for any stones event is Tom Stoltman will outperform the field. This event wasn’t any different, as he was the first to hoist all five stones over the bar in half a minute. Licis, who ranked first overall heading into the event, had the advantage of lifting last and knowing the time he needed to beat. He used that to his advantage and lifted all five stones six seconds faster than Stoltman to take the contest victory.
The 2020 WSM got a first-hand glimpse of CrossFit at the 2021 Rogue Invitational, and he finds the sport attractive. He expressed interest in potentially competing in CrossFit competition once his strongman career comes to a close. Novikov thought the Rogue Invitational was an exceptionally well-executed event and appreciated how CrossFit fans and strongman fans were mixed in the crowd. He sees enormous growth potential for both sports.
Featured image: @novikov_strong_wsm on Instagram