Thursday, September 11, 2008

Met-Rx World's Strongest Man 2008 Qualifying Awards

The first four days of competition in Charleston are complete and the top 30 strongmen on the planet have been whittled down to the top 10. They are as follows:

Travis Ortmayer - United States of America
Phil Pfister - USA (Charleston, W.Va. and WSM 2006)
Derek Poundstone - USA
Dave Ostlund - USA
Jason Bergmann - USA
Mariusz Pudzianowski - Poland (WSM 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007)
Sebastian Wenta - Poland
Tarmo Mitt - Estonia
Terry Hollands - United Kingdom
Arild Haugen - Norway

Of course, all ten of these guys did notable things over the four-day qualifying period, but I'm devoting this post to the 20 gentlemen of leisure who came up short. So without any additional delay, here are your Met-Rx World's Strongest Man 2008 Non-Finalist Awards!

Tragic Tale
This first award has got to go to the U.K.'s Mark Felix. This soft-spoken and unfailingly polite Brit had a crowd-electrifying habit of belting out primal screams prior to and after every event he completed. His nice-guy intensity made him an instant favorite of the spectators and his well-rounded ability put him in position to advance to the final going into the final qualifying event - the Atlas Stones at the University of Charleston. A torn right biceps tendon incurred while trying to hoist the second of five stones left Felix unable to finish his heat and allowed Wisconsinite Jason Bergmann to surge past him for second place in Group 1 and a spot in the final round.

Best Display of Raw Emotion
On the first day of competition at Magic Island, Swedish twentysomething Johannes Arsjo was the unofficial "guinea pig" for the Keg Toss event. He did more than test the waters, though, as he hurled all eight leaden kegs over the 15-foot-high bar with apparent ease, then took a victory lap around the edge of the platform while high-fiving just about every spectator in the front row. For a visual, just image Hale Irwin's jubilant reaction after winning golf's U.S. Open in the late '80s and replace the lithe golfer with a 280-pound, yellow tank-topped Scandinavian with spiked hair. Yeah, that's just about right.

Name I'll Miss Enunciating In Public
This is a truly tough call - who wouldn't love spitting names like Raivis Vidzis (Latvia) and Janne Virtanen (Finland)? In the spirit of decision-making, I'll have to settle for Elbrus Nigmatullin as the one I'll truly miss pronouncing when the finals start tomorrow. The eastern Russian politician with the famous father (the senior Nigmatullin played Oddjob in the James Bond films), has just the right amount of syllables and variety in his moniker to make it truly fun for a foreign-name aficionado like myself to speak. [EL-broos NIG-ma-TOOL-in] is a public address announcer's dream.

Name I Couldn't Quite Nail Down
Jean-Francois Caron of Canada was also a blast to say, until his fellow Quebecois competitor told me that my French accent needed a little improvement. Apparently Louis-Phillippe Jean did not approve of the particular nasality I was using to pronounce "Caron." Whatever that means. You would think the fact that having Sebastian Caron as the Penguins starting goaltender for a season would've given me a leg up, but evidently that wasn't the case. No matter, J-F Caron has been eliminated...and I still stand by my version.

Slightly-Embarrassing Subplot
Through the influence of one Phil Pfister, Brian Siders of Clendenin, W.Va., was admitted to the field of 30. Siders holds world records in several powerlifting disciplines, but if you've seen any WSM events performed before, you know that brute strength is just one of many attributes you need if you hope to make a good showing. It also doesn't help if you're slightly shorter than the average American male. Predictably, Siders turned in the worst efforts of the qualifying rounds in the Fingal Fingers and Atlas Stones, then looked overwhelmed in Sunday's Truck Pull. Only a respectable result in Monday's Deadlift kept him from finishing last in every event of the first three days. Give the local boy credit, though; Siders shone in Tuesday's Overhead Axle Press, hoisting the 300-pound object 10 times in 75 seconds, finishing behind only four-time champ Pudzianowski of Poland on the day.

Best Swan Song
Two former World's Strongest Men hinted repeatedly that this would be their last kick at the can: Swede Magnus Samuelsson (1998 champion) and Finn Janne Virtanen (victorious in 2000). Both of these classy competitors are still obviously capable of world-class demonstrations of strength, but you can no longer call them serious contenders for the crown, either. No matter. The two gentlemen still gave all they had over the six qualifying events, and their experience and expertise in uniquely Strongman disciplines like Truck Pull, Fingal Fingers and Atlas Stones was evident as they smoothly tackled that trio. However, the younger athletes had their numbers in the pure strength and conditioning categories, making a final run at the title for either Magnus or Janne nothing more than a dream. Both represented themselves and their countries well through their tireless efforts and affable demeanors, so I have to split this final award between the two.

Much more on WSM to come as we work our way toward determining this year's champion over the weekend! For schedule of events, go to either or

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

There's Strong...And Then There's The World's Strongest

For those of you who are unaware, the World's Strongest Man competition for 2008 is about to take place in none other than Charleston, W. Va. And by the way, none other than yours truly will be the official site host/master of ceremonies for said event.

In the coming days, I will be posting my observations and impressions as I get an improbably close firsthand look at the premiere strength test on the planet. For those interested in attending, the schedule of events can be viewed on WSM's Web site at

As you could likely imagine, I'm incredibly psyched to have this opportunity, both to be privy to such an international happening and also to make all those years of watching previous competitions late at night on the ESPN family of networks pay off in a way I couldn't possibly have foreseen.

Keep it right here for all your insider info on World's Strongest Man 2008!