Here is a brief look at the American Athletes selected for the 11th annual Arnold Strongman Classic. Half of this star studded field of ten are Americans. That in itself is not unusual, but it will be the first time two American ASC winners will battle. It is also the first time there have been three champions; Poundstone, Savikas and defending champion Brian Shaw will go head to head. Here are the 10 athletes squaring off for the coveted title as the biggest, the baddest and the strongest strength athlete on the planet.
Hafpor Bjornson -- Iceland
Mike Burke -- U.S.A.
Terry Hollands -- England
Mike Jenkins -- U.S.A.
Mikhail Koklyaev -- Russia
Travis Ortmayer -- U.S.A.
Derek Poundstone -- U.S.A.
Zydrunas Savickas -- Lithuania
Laurence Shahlaei -- England
Brian Shaw -- U.S.A.
Mike Burke who in 2010 placed third to perennial WSM stalwarts Travis Ortmayer and Dave Ostlund at Americas Strongest Man is proving to be one to watch. He showed up at the Olympia Strongman Challenge and dominated, showing absolutely no weakness in his game. That event was his first of what is sure to be many wins as a pro. “Training has been going really well. I am still at 335lbs, right where I was at the LA Fit Expo. I have been struggling a bit with a tendon issue in my elbow, but it isn’t effecting me with most of the events at the Arnold.” 6’ 6” 335lbs.
Mike Jenkins. Mike set the Strongman scene on fire in 2010 with a huge win at the Arnold Amateur Strongman which earned him a first of its kind invite to the 2011 ASC. With many veterans and enthusiasts alike complaining it was an unfair and unjust move on Terry Todd and companies part. Bitter grumblings from all parts of the world were properly laid to rest when the Harrisburg, Pa native not only made the podium, but slayed the one athlete most felt was unbeatable in Zydrunas Savickas and was nipping the heals of the first time winner, Big Brian Shaw. Mike followed that up with several podium finishes in the U.S and abroad culminating with a first time appearance at the WSM. There he qualified for the finals and won the very two first events only to have to withdraw with a back injury. “Training has been good. It is always a little less taxing mentally the second time for me personally, I know what to expect a little more. That doesn’t mean its easy, its just a little more bearable going in when you have been there before. The concept of training for the Arnold is easy because its five heavy events but the actual training is FAR from easy, the weights are so heavy! My training and rest is about equal for this show. I think the event changes are interesting, the axle and the log from a rack. Something you don’t see in a contest so we have no idea what to expect from everyone which makes it fun to see the day of! This year in my opinion is maybe the best field ever assembled! The past 3 winners are competing, Z, Derek and Brian, 7 WSM finalists, Misha who was 3rd at WSM last year and does well everytime he shows up, Mike Burke who has come out of the gate very impressive in his first year and Travis, who has been at the top of the Arnold and WSM for a while now. You have to be mistake free to win!” With his pending nuptuals the following later in the month to the lovely Ms. Keri Ricker, March is destined to be a good one for Mike.
Derek Poundstone. The 2009 & 2010 Arnold Strongman Classic champion is back after missing last year’s contest to a fractured vertebrae. After a lengthy rehab and much needed rest, Derek came back to not only qualify for the finals at the WSM in North Carolina but place in the top half of the field. Derek tells me that training has been right on point minus a short term lower back late last fall. Derek’s shorter stature than most of his compatriots will certainly not hinder him this weekend as so many of the events are not leveraged to taller men as have been the issue in the past. Derek is determined to take back his title he was unable to defend last year.
Travis Ortmayer. Travis will be making his fourth appearance at the ASC, two of which were podium finishes and is a threat anytime he steps on stage. Travis dominated last years Americas Strongest Man becoming the first American to win all 3 of the U.S. major titles. At last years ASC Travis struggled with a few events he normally dominates but still finished only 1.5 points behind third place finisher Zydrunas Savickas. Travis was a last minute invite when Iceland's Benedikt Magnussen ruptured a bicep in training and was forced to withdraw. Travis will undoubtedly use this opportunity to prove to everyone, he is the real deal.
Brian Shaw. Last year was the biggest year of the Fort Lupton, Colorado natives life. After losing a very controversial 2010 WSM title in a count back after tying Zydrunas Savickas, the big man came to Columbus with nothing but redemption on his mind. Brian showed the world what he had known all along; he is the real deal. After a convincing win at the 2011 ASC, he then took the world by storm by winning events around the world, culminating with his one year delayed WSM win in north Carolina. The 6’ 8” 435lb mammoth of a man has diligently trained to not only defend his title against two returning champions in Poundstone and Savickas but to show everyone he will be winning titles for many years to come. “Training has been great since winning the World’s Strongest Man last year! My focus has not changed and I have gone back to training with the same intensity I did before the 2011 ASC!” I asked Brian how his prep for the Arnold has been thus far and what do you think about this years events? “I have gone on record that I didn't like the changes to this years ASC and they certainly don't give me any advantage with my best event (manhood stone) being taken out. That being said I have almost trained harder once I found out the events because I have to prove that no matter what,I am capable of winning any contest with any set of events against anyone in the world to be worthy of the title Worlds Strongest Man… and I accept that challenge."
We wish all ten athletes safe travels this week as everyone begins their journey into Columbus. Join American Strongman Corporation athlete Brad “Wolverine” Dunn and I Thursday evening for a preview and analysis of the weekend and look for a special Thursday night Rx Power Hour with Ryan Bracewell and Nathan Payton. Follow us over the weekend in Muscle Central where we cover not only strongman, but powerlifting and olympic lifting with continuous updates, photos, interviews and more live from the Arnold Sports Festival.