Following a spectacular event in 2012, Giants Live returned again to Headingley Carnegie, home of the Leeds Rhinos Rugby League team, for the 2013 Europe’s Strongest Man contest. With well in excess of six thousand spectators in attendance, none of the crowd left disappointed as the competitors put on another awe-inspiring display. With an absolutely stacked field, this was unquestionably the finest ever gathering of strongmen on British soil. As would be expected for as prestigious a title as this, it was a ‘Who’s Who’ of European strongmen. Triple WSM winner and defending Europe’s Strongest Man Zydrunas Savickas was there, hoping for a repeat victory. He was joined by his compatriot and 2012 WSM runner-up Vytautas Lalas, who was also second behind Big Z in this contest twelve months ago. The British contingent was comprised of Terry Hollands, seven times a consecutive WSM finalist, and fellow WSM competitors, Laurence Shahlaei, Mark Felix, Jack McIntosh and Eddie Hall. Iceland, Sweden and Norway were well represented with Hafthor Bjornsson, Johannes Arsjo and Ole Martin Hansen. The current leader in the Strongman Champions League standings, Poland’s Krzysztof Radzikowski, was in action, hoping to continue his fine run of form this year. 2012 WSM debutant James Fennelly completed the field, representing Ireland.
The first of the day’s six events was the Log Lift for maximum weight. This has been Savickas’ event for countless years, and once again he demonstrated with authority that he is the King of the Log Lift. Beginning with 170kgs, there were a number of failures at the opening weight, illustrating the difficulty that this implement presented. As the event progressed, and with crowd chanting his name, Britain’s Eddie Hall broke the British record with 191kgs. In typical fashion, it was done with pure shoulder power, as he strict pressed the giant timber. Lalas exited with a successful lift at 200kgs, whilst Radzikowski made 210kgs. For Big Z, 210kgs was dispatched with ease, and next up was 221kgs, which would take him beyond his world record that he set at WSM 2012. Savickas composed himself amidst the noise from the huge audience and duly hoisted the 221kg Log to arm’s length, taking the win in the discipline and yet another world record.
With just enough time for the competitors to catch their breath, the next event of the day was the 430kg Yoke, for a distance of 40 metres. The Yoke always taxes the athletes from head to toe, and this proved to be no exception. Shahlaei and Hollands took first and second places respectively, in a British one-two, ahead of Radzikowski, who took third, trailed by Lalas and Savickas. At this early stage, it was the Pole who was leading, with Savickas, Shahlaei and Lalas all within touching distance.
Always one of the most popular strongman events, the third event was the Car Deadlift for repetitions. Mark Felix showed that he is still one of the best deadlifters in the world on his day, and recorded a mighty 16 lifts. After missing out on WSM 2012, Felix proved that he can still be a force to be reckoned with here. Savickas pushed Lalas into third place, with Radzikowski another position back.
At the half-way mark of Europe’s Strongest Man 2013, Savickas took the lead, with Radzikowski closely behind. When Big Z gets into first place, he is very hard to unseat, and this proved to be the case once again in Leeds. Event four was the Farmer’s Walk. Bucking the trend of using 170-180kgs for shorter distances, this was 125kgs per hand, but over a distance of 80 metres (with a drop and turn at 40 metres). Big Z won his second discipline of the day, storming down the course. Shahlaei bagged second, whilst Lalas put in a solid display to take third. Never a great event for Radzikowski, he could only manage seventh spot, losing ground on the two Lithuanians overall.
The penultimate event of the day was the Keg Toss. This is always one for the explosive competitors, and Savickas, Lalas and Bjornsson have all recorded some stunning times in the past in the Keg Toss. As it turned out, each of these men did precisely that once again. This event is one in which fast times follow when the athletes have complete confidence in their own ability to clear the height each and every time. The most skilled competitors waste no time worrying whether they have cleared with their throw, they move straight onto the next Keg. A small hesitation can cost two or three places. With four pairs of kegs in total (18kgs, 21kgs, 23kgs and 25kgs per keg), it was only the two Lithuanians and the giant Icelander who were able to complete the full set. Bjornsson and Lalas were phenomenally fast, but it was Big Z who took his third win of the day, posting a world record time of just over 15 seconds.
Finishing on the Stones has been a strongman tradition for decades now, and it was a fitting way to round off this fast-paced contest. Savickas held a six point lead over Lalas, with Radzikowski 10.5 points behind Zydrunas. 2012 WSM ‘King of Stones’ Bjornsson took the win here, and further cemented his status as the premier stone lifter in strongman at the present time. Lalas and Savickas were paired together, and Lalas had a disastrous start when his first stone rolled from the platform after loading it. He recovered very well and still recorded third place in the event, behind Savickas and Bjornsson.
As with 2012, this was a stunning contest. With a line-up such as this it always promised to be something special and it certainly delivered. It was an extremely hard-fought battle throughout, and there were some notable displays over the six events, with special mentions going to the two world records in the Log and Keg Toss by Savickas. Savickas is now both the World and European champion, retaining hit title here, and appears to show no signs of slowing down, even after a mind-blowing two decades of competitive strongman. Lalas and Radzikowski both continued their stellar 2013 form which has seen them winning in both the USA and throughout Europe. There was a lot for the British fans to be happy with as well, from Hall’s 191kg Log Lift to Felix’s win in the Deadlift, Shahlaei’s Yoke victory and Hollands’ comeback from injury. For Hollands, a bout of cramp ended his final event prematurely, but in only his second contest since his biceps tear last September, he is heading in the right direction for the forthcoming 2013 World’s Strongest Man show. As WSM fans well know, it is at WSM where Hollands is always at his best.
It is worth mentioning once again, the impact of the crowd. Though the home athletes were clearly their favourites, every single competitor was supported extremely vocally from the first event to the last. This made for an atmosphere that was second to none, with the competitors all hugely grateful for the backing that they received. There is little doubt that the sheer noise and enthusiasm that was generated by the spectators spurred each of the strongmen on to far greater feats than they could have perhaps managed otherwise. 2014 Europe’s Strongest Man would have to go some way to top this, but you wouldn’t bet against it happening as this contest seems to bring out the absolute best in the competitors.
1.Zydrunas Savickas (Lithuania) – 66.5 points
2.Vytautas Lalas (Lithuania) – 59.5 points
3.Krzysztof Radzikowski (Poland) – 53 points
4.Hafthor Bjornsson (Iceland) – 49 points
5. Laurence Shahlaei (England) – 43 points
6. Mark Felix (England) – 39 points
7. Terry Hollands (England) – 33 points
8. Eddie Hall (England) – 31 points
9.James Fennelly (Ireland) – 27 points
10.Johannes Arsjo (Sweden) – 19 points *[withdrew after Farmer’s Walk due to injury]
11. Jack McIntosh (England) – 18 points
12. Ole Martin Hansen (Norway) – 16 points* [withdrew after Keg Toss due to injury]