While this year's Americas Strongest Man has come and gone, the lasting impressions of the athletes certainly have not. With tremendous performances by a few athletes making their Pro debut to the grizzled veterans showing the young bucks they still “got game”. The American record in the Axle Clean and Press was broken by a guy who only competes in strongman part time and the production value for the fans in Hot Springs, Arkansas was second to none.
Those familiar with strongman or any weight lifting sport know that equipment breaks, athletes wander off, fans get into areas of the event that they shouldnt be, amongst other potential pitfalls. The production team from American Strongman Corporation, the organization responsible for the August 5th and 6th event, set forth a perfectly executed extravaganza. The fans at the Summit Arena were engaged and engrossed in the physical accomplishments these athletes could do. They were even more impressed by how the athletes were showcased and individualized in a way that gave each athlete their own time to shine.
We started the weekend off by crowd favorite strongman Brad “Wolverine Dunn” singing our national anthem. Who knew he had it in him? Brad, a much more muscular version of the X-Men character Wolverine is a crowd favorite with the kids; because of the way he looks and the women; because of the way he looks! Brad, though finishing the weekend mid pack, by far had more autographs and photo requests than the other athletes in attendance.
Excitement was tremendous during the first event as the fans got a chance to see what these men of might had to show them. The axle clean and press is a challenging and technique driven event that if not practiced, can prove to be brutal. Every athlete made their opening lift which is a fete in itself, but when Powerlifting and Strongman Champion Scott Weech took his second lift, the fans were on their feet. Scott attempted and made a 423lb easy clean and press that gave him not only the lead, but an American record. Scott wisely chose to save energy and passed on his last attempt and took the lead going into the second event.
Next up was the Yoke and Sled Melody which had these athletes paired side by side first lifting across their shoulders and walking with a 900+ lb Yoke and crossing the line 60' away. Once that was complete, they rushed to the Harley Davidson mounted sled and pulled the apparatus backward the same distance. Not everyone finished the event however as one athlete suffered a minor injury that plagued him the entire competition and another athlete simply ran out of time. However, the reigning Americas Strongest Man champion Travis “The Stone Man” Ortmayer blistered the track with a 33.60 second mark that would not be denied.
In Iceland, the Hussafeld Stone has been a test of manhood in the highlands of their country for centuries. The original stone weighs in at 418lbs and is considered to be one of the more difficult stone lifting events anywhere in the world. The original stone has not been in use in Strongman for several years. It has been replaced with more durable versions made of steel and of varying weights. This years “stone” was a 400+lb tombstone shaped implement which was stood on end at the beginning of attempt with the goal of seeing who could carry it the furthest before dropping it. Making his pro debut was Micheal Burke who took a different grip or hand placement than the other athletes. This proved to be a brilliant idea as he carried the stone a staggering 215' 11” before the stone succumbed to gravity in his win.
We wrapped up with what was arguably the most difficult event on Day 1 with the Chevy Colorado Wheelbarrow race. Bigg Dogg Strongg provided a custom appartus to afix to the trailer recevier which gave the athletes two handles to lift with, simulating a wheelbarrow. The most diffuclt problem organizers had was ensuring the suspension was bound in a retracted position so the tires didn't drag on the ground as it was lifted. Once that was squared away, Travis Ortmayer proved why he is the defending champion as he blistered the track with a 29.22 official time. Interesting enough, the only other two athletes to actually finish the 60' course were Carl “The Farmer” Foemmel and the co-host the RxPower Hour and new daddy, Ryan Bracewell.
With a good-nights rest and a few meals under their belt, the athletes entered Day 2 with a freshened appearance. The first event right out the box was a true fan favorite, the Keg Toss. 8 kegs weighing from 38-53lbs were to be launched into orbit order over a 16' cross bar with most thrown so hard, they missed their intended landing pad. Most athletes breezed through the first 4, but lacked technique, strength or gas to make the heavier kegs. Only half the field made all 8 kegs and once again, Travis Ortmayer proved victorious in a blistering 21.65 seconds.
From an athletes point of view, the most grueling and challenging event was the 5 lift medley: 200lb Circus Dumbbell 1 Arm Press. Axle Deadlift, 675lbs. Axle Clean and Press, 320 lbs. Olympic Bar Deadlift, 720lbs. Log Press: 340lb log. The event could be completed in any order chosen. The athlete who combines brute strength and endurance will prevail here. Only 3 competitors completed all 5 lifts; Travis Ortmayer, Big Dave Ostlund and the event winner, Vince Urbank who finished the course in a staggering 47.83 seconds.
The Car Hold is a visually non-stimulating event for fans on television. However, when you have perspective of seeing someone pick the back end of a car up and hold it as long as possible, it changes everything. Two Chevy Cruz cars were placed with the rear ends almost facing one another. Underneath each vehicle was an apparatus which went under the rear tires and had two large handles sticking out of the rear end about 18” off the ground. Each athlete could use straps to assist with grip but once they stood up, the clock started until they could hold no more. Only one athlete was not able to lift the vehicle while the others groaned and strained under the estimated 800lbs at the hand weight. In the end, only one man stood taller, longer; The Giant Vincent Urbank.
We wrapped the weekend off with a fan favorite and undoubtedly the most recognized event in all of strongman; the Atlas Stones. Only 5 of the 13 competitors were able to complete the circle of 5 stones. Andrew Palmer suffered a bicep injury earlier in the day and chose to forgo the stone event. In the end, only 1.3 seconds seperated 1st from 3rd but there could only be one winner and the quite giant Dave Ostlund from Minnesota beat the Texas Stone Man in an epic finale with a smokin' hot 23.3 seconds.
From the beginning of the weekend to the end, the production of this event was hugely impressive. Great MC'ing from Mike Johnston, timekeeper Ashley Wirt kept everyone on task and the ASC president Dionne Wessels should be proud of what they put together. The fans and community of Hot Springs, Arkansas were amazing too. Most had either never seen anything like this before and simply remember reading about how incredible it was last year at this same venue. Of the fans I spoke to, most were happy an organization like the American Strongman Corporation would consider bringing an event of this caliber to their town.
We will be Live at the Olympia Expo Center in Las Vegas on Friday, September 16th at 10:00am PST for the opening ceremonies of the MHP Olympia's Strongman Challenge. Follow us in Muscle Central on www.RxMuscle.com as we bring you up to the minute updates, photos and interviews of the event wiiners. A big thank you to Dione and Mike for their allowing us unlimited access to every aspect of their event. Until then, we will see you in a few weeks.