On June 14, 2003, the second competition in the International Federation of Strength Athletes Strongman Super Series got under way in Silvolde, Holland. The athletes were trying to accumulate points toward their overall score in the five Strongman Super Series Grand Prix events this year, and the winner will be crowned IFSA World Champion 2003.
The Holland Grand Prix was staged before an audience of approximately 3,000. The athletes competed in seven events under very hot conditions. Last year's IFSA world champion, Hugo Girard of Canada, was unable to make the long trip from Quebec due to illness. That left the mighty Pole, Mariusz Pudzianowski, in a better position to further his lead in this year's standings. He'd taken the opening grand prix event in Hawaii in January with some ease, but rumor had it that injuries had plagued his preparation for the Dutch event. As soon as the opening event started, however, the crowd knew he was there for business.
The first event, the log lift for maximum weight, went to the Latvian three-time Olympic weightlifting competitor Raimunds Bergmanis, who managed an unparalleled 363 pounds/165 kilos on an extremely thick log. One of the major surprises of the day occurred when world record holder Svend Karlsen of Norway, who blasted out 407 pounds/185 kilograms last year, passed his attempt at 341 pounds/155 kilos but was unable to press out the 352-pound/160-kilo log. Ren' Minkwitz of Denmark and Pudzianowski tied for second place at 352 pounds/160 kilograms.
In the first heat of the 792-pound/360-kilogram yoke race, former silver medalist in the International Powerlifting Federation World Championships, Zydrunas Savickas of Lithuania, pushed Karlsen close over the 25-meter course. The Norwegian, who's done a 25-meter course in 9.95 seconds, beat Savickas by only half a second in a time of 17.19 seconds. Pudzianowski saw his chance at his first win and set off like a sprinter, only to stagger and fall after five meters. His heat was with Jarno Hams, the local Dutchman, and to the crowd's amazement Hams shot down the course to win in 15.17 seconds. Pudzianowski recovered enough to place fourth in 18.98 seconds.
The third event usually belongs to Pudzianowski. The 398-pound/180-kilogram Hussefelt stone carry is one of the Pole's best events. He won easily with 100 meters, but he decided to save energy and not make an attempt at his own world record of 127.5 meters. Savickas was second with 84.5 meters, and the other Baltic athlete, Bergmanis, third at 78.55 meters.
The tire flip, like the superyoke, was run in pairs. This time Pudzianowski got to run in the final heat against Savickas because he'd placed in the prior event. The Pole knew that with a good time here he had a chance to lengthen his lead over the man in second. Bergmanis managed the eight flips of the 880-pound/400-kilogram tire in 29.73 seconds, good enough only for sixth place. Karlsen, meanwhile, led in 24.77 seconds, but both men beat him in the final pairing. Savickas took second with 23.47 seconds, and the 'Polish Power' won again with a time of 23.19 seconds.
The fifth event, the 56-pound/25-kilogram weight-for-height competition, should have been won by the great Dane Ren' Minkwitz, whose personal best is nearly 18 feet/5.4 meters. But an inspired Jarno Hams captured a marvelous crowd-pleasing victory with 17 feet/5.1 meters. Four inches behind him was Mariusz Pudzianowski, the man with no weakness. A third-place tie went to Savickas and the somewhat despondent Minkwitz at 16 feet/4.9 meters.
The penultimate event, Conan's wheel, enabled record holder Pudzianowski to bank more points. He won at a canter, doing 3.25 revolutions with the 660-pound/300-kilogram lift. Bergmanis pushed hard for second with just over 2 1/2 turns of the wheel. Just short of him, in third, was another gutsy performance by Hams.
The final event was the classic strength contest, the Atlas stones. Starting with a 264-pound/120-kilogram stone the athletes had to take on additional stones, up to a fifth weighing 398 pounds/180 kilograms. All of the men managed four stones, and it came down to times on the fifth stone for six of the athletes. Hams was the only man who could match Pudzianowski's points at this stage, and the crowd got excited when the Pole seemed to be clutching a sore back. When he stepped up, however, Pudzianowski did all five in a playful 36.58 seconds, proving that he deserved to lead the overall standings in the IFSA Strongman Super Series. Hams came last in a disappointing display. Karlsen actually won the stones in 26.56 seconds.
The top six in the overall standings of the Strongman Super Series qualify for the next grand prix event in Canada. Pudzianowski leads with 20 points, three ahead of Savickas. Bergmanis has 16 points. Johansson of Sweden, Karlsen and Dymek also qualified for the Canadian trip. No doubt one of the wild-card slots could now go to the up-and-coming Jarno Hams.
The Strongman Super Series, sanctioned by the International Federation of Strength Athletes and organized by World Class International, is the official world championship tour of the strongman sport, with the absolutely strongest athletes in the world competing in grand prix events around the world over the course of a year. The athlete with the best overall results at the end of the year is awarded the official IFSA World Champion title.
The final event of 2003 will be the Sweden Grand Prix on October 25. IM