While not the heaviest Professional Strongman contest, The World’s Strongest Man is the first and biggest of it’s kind. Taking place August 13-19 in Botswana, this year’s event promises to have one of the most competitive fields in recent years. One of the favorites — Zydrunas Savickas — will be absent this year due to a back injury, leaving the door open for a number of different athletes. Keep your eye on the following strongmen  for event wins and the overall title.

“Big” Brian Shaw

A photo posted by Brian Shaw (@shawstrength) on

Three wins have placed the USA’s best heavyweight as a crowd and odds maker’s favorite. The former college basketball player is listed at 6’8” and his weight can fluctuate from 400 to 430 lbs. He has the size, bodyweight, and athletic ability to fare well on almost any event. He began his competitive career in 2005 and has nothing but success since then. Shaw has remained remarkably injury free and has competed in WSM every year since 2008. A first place finish this year would surprise no one, and it might actually be startling to see him achieve anything less.

Hafpor “Thor” Bjornsson

The “other” massively big man in this contest, Thor’s height and weight are nearly identical to Shaw’s. The Game Of Thrones star (The Mountain) has continued to take his training seriously as he chases his Hollywood dream. His coach is WSM champion and one of the greatest of all time — Magnus Ver Magnusson — a fact that should never be overlooked when considering his performance in this contest. At 28, the Icelandic champion’s body has less wear and tear on it as some of the top competitors and that can come in handy when facing ten events over the course of a week.

Eddie Hall

The Brit just pulled back to back world records in the same year (1026 and 1101 respectively). While massive pulling power translates well to Strongman, he indicated that the second record almost killed him. With just five weeks between nearly dying on stage and WSM, I have a feeling he may not be fully recovered. He intends to ease off the deadlift for a while making him a threat in the 2017 contest, but I still wouldn’t be surprised to see him make the final group this year.

“Loz” Laurence Shahlaei

A photo posted by Laurence Shahlaei (@biglozwsm) on

One of the best athletes in Strongman: period. It is amazing that Loz has not had a podium finish yet. He’s fast, agile and extremely powerful for a man who gives up nearly 100 lbs. to the giants in the contest. Loz is coming off the biggest win of his career at Europe’s Strongest Man where he edged out Thor and bettered his already World Record time in the car walk. He was contemplating retirement before this win, and sometimes that is all the motivation you need to have a strong finish. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him make the podium this year or if things go his way, grab the WSM title.

This year’s field has a dozen other great qualified athletes and you should expect to see some amazing performances. Botswana is an exciting new venue and just getting there should offer some challenges. As in past years, the show will be broadcast on a CBS sports affiliate during the Christmas season, but you can turn to the internet for live updates from multiple sources. Good luck and stay injury free to all our competitors.

Mike Gill is a retired 105kg professional strongman and currently a broadcaster forStrongman Corporation. He has a background in all weight disciplines and has competed in Bodybuilding, Powerlifting and Weightlifting with a lifetime best 252 kg total. He can be reached for coaching at Michaelgill100 [at] gmail.com, @prostrongman on Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, and on Facebook. Images courtesy Richard Stout.

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