With the 2011 Olympia Strongman Challenge now inked into the annals of strength athletic lore, rabid fans will note the surprise victor and wonder, what does it mean? The new champion maintained perseverance to snare his first of what will surely be, his first of many victories. Many fans of the strength brethren thought this event would be lacking in excitement, athleticism and depth as so many of the top strongmen in the U.S. Were contesting their skills on an international platform. But know this; Michael Burke served notice that he is someone not to be taken lightly.
At this years Mr Olympia expo, fans of gym spun events took hold in Las Vegas once again to see the best in bodybuilding, fitness, figure, bikini, powerlifting and of course, strongman. The expo hall was packed with vendors from every corner of the country hawking their wares. Thousands of fans stopped in at the strongman arena to watch as 12 of the top strongmen in the country battled their way through eight grueling events.
Day 1 started with a surprising bang. First year pro strongman Mike Caruso powered his way through the brutal Last Man Standing Overhead Press. A 340lb Slater log was increased by increments and each athlete was required to attempt each weight. A miss and you were out. A complete lift and you go on to the next round, until there is only one man standing. Mike made easy work of the log knocking down press after press until he was the only one to nail the final 410lb log. The Animal, Tom McClure was toe to toe with Mike and after strict pressing the 380lb log, many thought he would emerge victorious. However, technique often times will win over brute strength.
The next event was especially brutal. Hand selected by Mike Johnston, the Vice President of the American Strongman Corporation, a 800lb Bigg Dogg Strongg timber apparatus was carried 75' and only saw 3 athletes complete the task. But no, for Mike, that wasn't enough punishment. Once the athlete dropped the timber, they were required to pick up two 360lb cylinders and Farmers Walk them back the same 75'. Andrew “The Beard” Palmer blew everyone out of their shoes as he coasted to victory with a blistering 37.75 seconds. Hot on his heals however was that name, Michael Burke who managed to complete the course in 38.97 seconds.
Event 3 the athletes realized the very very uncomfortable apparatus, the Conan’s
Wheel was next. An 18' long 5” diameter tube is fastened to one end and the athlete picks up the other and walks in a circle for the longest distance without dropping it. Doesn’t sound too tough, but once again, Mike Johnston, being this was Vegas, upped the ante a bit more. He added not one, but two very lovely MHP girls from the nearby MHP booth. Then he added a few one hundred pound plates and the next thing you know, this went from not so bad to heavier than H E double hockey sticks. Mike Burke out walked everyone and made it more than one whole rotation with a 114' stroll. Marshall White was not far behind with a 105' walk-about.
The final event for the first day was a strongman favorite, the Stone Over Bar. This stone was competitive at 390lbs and the bar height was set at a respectable 54”. Each athlete had 75 seconds to put the stone over the bar as many times as possible. Andrew Palmer, Carl Foemmel, Marshall White and Tom McClure made 6 very respectable stones over the bar. But, Michael Burke who went in the last group knew what number he needed to win and got it with time to spare. That number was Lucky Number 7 for the 6' 6” tall carpenter from Colorado.
With a nights rest, Mike Burke had a slim 5 point lead over Tom McClure and both would battle that lead back and forth throughout the final day. The first event was a new twist on an old favorite; the Progressive Yoke. Ryan Bakke withdrew from competition prior to the start leaving an 11 man field. Those 11 all took shots at completing the 50' course with a beefy 850lb yoke. Brad “Wolverine” Dunn had an unfortunate misstep that resulted in a severe calf injury, forcing him to retire from the competition. That group was reduced then to 10. The Yoke was then upped to 950lbs and the 10 athletes waddled their way down the course. The fastest 6 were then paired off with a savage 1,050lb yoke that tested everyone to the core. In the end, Mike Caruso held off the others to take the win with a very respectable 15.06 second run.
The next event was one many were not looking forard to. The 5 apparatus Overhead Pressing Medley event included a 220lb circus dumbbell, a 275lb shot filled keg, a 250lb steel block, a 320lb axle and ended with a 340lb log. Surprisingly, 4 athletes made all five presses; Mike Burke, Mike Caruso, Tom McClure and Andy Vincent. And once again, Mike Caruso showed that his previous pressing event win was no fluke with a time of 46.37.
A fan favorite was up next. People can identify what it takes for a person to lift X, Y or Z inanimate onject based on their previous interactions with it. In this case, with the assistance of a levered carriage, fans bared witness these men of mettle deadlift the front end of a small compact car, over and over again. John Conner who had been in the mix all day long knocked out 7 quality reps followed by Mike Caruso's respectable 5, but along came a farmer. Carl “The Farmer” Foemmel, a real dairy farmer from Wisconsin wowed the crowd with a back breaking 12 reps to take the win.
Moving into the last event, an Olympia Strongman Challenge regular, Michael Burke held a slim 2 point lead over Tom McClure. The Suicide Medley is pure torture to complete the entire event. Load a 200lb sandbag 50' from a 100lb sled, run back 2/3 of the course and pick up a 275lb keg and load it in the sled, then as you are sucking major wind, load a 250lb steel block into the sled. Wait, there's more... now grab the T shaped handle attached to the sled and drag it backwards the entire course. Fastest time wins and the man who had been lurking in the background all weekend, Carl “The Farmer” Foemmel pulled out an easy win over Mike Burke.
Mike Burke was excited to be invited to compete in a strength demo in China later this year. Other than that, he promised his wife and kids a nice meal out on the town in Vegas with part of the prize money he collected by winning the Olympia Strongman Challenge. The most difficult part of Mike's trip home will be explaining the large sword and Gladiator helmet he was presented as the winning trophy to commemorate the event.
Rx Muscle will be in Tunica, Mississippi November 4th and 5th for the North American Strongman National Championships which will contest the Lightweight, Heavyweight and Womens classes. The winners will be crowned new Pro's and graduating through the American Strongman system to compete in the American Strongman Corporation next year. If the newest crop of talent is as deep as this last year's, anything can happen at the 2012 Olympia Strongman Challenge.
A big thanks to Maximum Human Performance, MHP, for their continued support of strength athletics around the world. Without their financial and athlete support, as well as their entire product line, none of these events would be possible. Find MHP at your local nutritional or online supplement store.