Headingley Carnegie stadium, home of the Leeds Rhinos Rugby League team played host to the 2012 Giants Live Europe’s Strongest Man contest on Saturday 23rd June. A wildly enthusiastic crowd of 5,000 spectators were treated to an outstanding event from start to finish. With a list of athletes that included six of the ten finalists from WSM 2011, it was the most competitive line-up ever seen on British soil. Twice WSM Zydrunas Savickas was in action, as were the Britons, and 3rd and 4th place WSM finishers Terry Hollands and Laurence Shahlaei. Joining them was the Icelander Thor Bjornsson. Bjornsson was on a fine run of form, having recently taken his national title, winning each of the seven events. The always consistent Serbian Ervin Katona and Lithuanian powerhouse Vytautas Lalas rounded out the WSM finalists from last September. Poland’s Krzysztof Radzikowski and Italy’s Alex Curletto were also in action, both of whom have WSM experience. The newly crowned Scotland’s Strongest Man, Ken Nowicki was present, as were the English duo of UKSM Eddie Hall and Jay Hughes. Four-times the Republic of Ireland’s Strongest Man, James Fennelly completed the field at this prestigious event.
With six events tackled in total, including two maximum efforts, the chances of a world record being broken were high given the quality of the men involved. As it transpired, one was indeed surpassed, and that was done in stunning fashion.
The first discipline of the day was the log lift for maximum weight. Savickas’ pedigree in the log lift is well documented, but both Radzikowski and Lalas are phenomenal overhead lifters. On this occasion Zydrunas was pushed as hard as he has ever been in this event by his countryman and the Pole. Radzikowski in particular, was unbelievably close to hitting the 216kg mark. Ultimately though, Big Z did what he has been doing for years and took the event, with a world record lift of 216kgs, spurred on by the volume of noise from the huge crowd. What was even more impressive was that, yet again, Savickas still seemed to have strength in reserve if he had needed to go heavier. It was an explosive opening to the day, which had the crowd on their feet.
The deadlift for maximum weight followed almost immediately, and with an opening lift of 360kgs, this was always going to give an indication as to who would be in contention for the overall title. As if any more proof was needed about the calibre of the competitors, eight men all made a lift of 400kgs. More were then eliminated as the weight jumped to 415kgs, and the final lifts of the day were at 433kgs. Shahlaei, Lalas and Radzikowski were not quite up to the task on this day and remained on 415kgs. This left Savickas, who pulled his 433kg lift with relative ease, and took his second consecutive event win.
Following the deadlift, the clear crowd favourite Terry Hollands had to very reluctantly withdraw from the contest due to a serious calf injury. Disappointed as he was, there was no way that the man from Dartford could have continued. As the rain began to fall, event three was the frame carry. The 350kg frame had to be carried down a forty metre course. As at BSM, the width of the frame proved problematic for some, whilst for others it became a sheer test of grip. Shahlaei, who is known for his grip strength, demonstrated this to great effect, and he was the only man to complete the course. The Irishman Fennelly impressed in second place, with Katona edging out Lalas and Savickas. In the overall standings, at the half-way mark, Big Z was leading, with his closest pursuers being Lalas, Shahlaei and Radzikowski.
Given the phenomenal competitors on show it came as no surprise that this contest more than lived up to expectations. There were numerous highlights, ranging from Savickas’ tenth world best in the log lift and the battle in the deadlift, through to Shahlaei’s blistering frame carry and Bjornsson’s imperious shield walk. Another fact that cannot be stated enough was the involvement of the crowd. Although they were there in the main to support the British competitors, every single athlete, whether British or otherwise, was supported and encouraged throughout by the five thousand who were in attendance. This ensured that the atmosphere was completely electric for the entire duration of the day, and was greatly appreciated by all who competed.
For Big Z, it is another title to add to his vast collection and he has earned himself a ninth trip to World’s Strongest Man. Lalas and Shahlaei will be joining him at WSM, each hoping that they can capture the biggest prize in strongman. Any who may have questioned whether Savickas still has the hunger to continue at the highest level, fourteen years since his WSM debut, got a decisive response at 2012 Europe’s Strongest Man.
Zydrunas Savickas (Lithuania)
Vytautas Lalas (Lithuania)
Laurence Shahlaei (England)
Krzysztof Radzikowski (Poland)
Thor Bjornsson (Iceland)
Ervin Katona (Serbia)
James Fennelly (Ireland)
Eddie Hall (England)
Big Z is the man!
Nice. Congrats to Big Z on yet another dominant victory.
Can You imagine the electricity at that place. Hats off to Big Z.