World’s Strongest Man 2009 Top Five Finishers

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World’s Strongest Man 2009 Top Five Finishers

The guys who compete in strongman contests aren’t your average Joe.    If you read my piece on the events in strength athletics, you know that you couldn’t just pull a guy off of the street to compete (unless of course he wanted to have a stroke that day).

The top five finishers this year put on a great show.  There was a pretty big battle for first and second, and for third and fourth places.

This year, Zydrunas Savickas won.  He edged out Mariusz Pudzianwoski, and I’m not sure any of us saw that coming.  Sure Pudz has been battling some injuries, but the dude is stone cold solid.

Strongman Geography

Anyone who qualifies can compete in World’s Strongest Man competition, but there are certainly concentrated origins for lots of these guys.

Western Europe is home twelve guys.  The Eastern bloc comes in second  with ten of the thirty professionals.   North America comes in third with nine strongmen.  Africa is represented by one lone guy, Ettiene Smit of South Africa.

There are no current strongmen competing at the world level from South America or Australia (and the penguins haven’t made any moves from Antarctica lately).

Zydrunas Savickas

Our winner!   I’ve gotta say that I’m really happy for the guy.  He’s been competing in WSM for over a decade, and this is his first win (and first top three placement since 2004).

Big Z is famous for his log lifts.  He’s got six world records in that event, and shows no sign of stopping.

One thing you’ll notice about Savickas is that he looks different than the other guys, more old-school strongman.  At its inception in 1977, WSM guys looked like hulking brutes, but not the cut gods we see now.

Savickas reminds me in some respects of Chief Iron Bear Collins, whose goal was to be the World’s Strongest Native American.   He has that same endo-meso body type that packs on muscle but also carries extra fat.

He’s also relatively quiet.  When you’re a guy that big you walk with a swagger, but for the most part Savickas lets his strength do the talking.

Knowing their history in strength events, it should come as no surprise that he’s from the eastern bloc, Lithuania to be exact.  He’s competed in Lithuania’s strongman events since 1992, so to see him win the big RV Trophy at age 34 is great!

In the 2009 World’s Strongest Man final in Malta, Savickas won Fingal’s fingers, the plane pull, the axle lift,  and the dead lift.  Four out of seven events isn’t bad!

Mariusz Pudzianowski

Mariusz trained as a boxer and then became a strongman, and word has it that he just won his first MMA fight.  Look at the thighs on that dude.  Would you want to be alone in a cage with him?  I think not!

Pudzian is Strongman’s rock star.  He does it all.  He loves it all.  He brags about it all, and the sport loves him for it.

Ask him his favorite event, and he’ll tell you “all of them”.  Why?  “Because I am good in every one of them”.

As the winningest competitor in World’s Strongest Man’s history with five titles, he has good reason to brag.  In fact, the Big Python has placed either first or second seven of the last eight years.

The only event Pudz won in 2009 was the farmer’s walk, but the results belie his efforts.  The other guys like him and fear him, and that’s a good combination.

This dude isn’t going anywhere, and I imagine after getting beaten this year he’ll be out for blood in the 2010 competition.

Brian Shaw

Brian Shaw is a guy to watch out for.  He’s only 27 and came to strongman at age 24.  He entered an amateur event and ended up getting his pro card a mere seven months later, which is pretty much unheard of.

For a big guy, Shaw is really light on his feet.  Makes sense since he had a full basketball scholarship to Black Hills State University!

Shaw is going to win World’s Strongest Man in 2011 if not in 2010.  The kid has come up fast but he’s amazingly strong and disciplined.

Oh, and have I mentioned his size?  Brian’s 6’8” and 390 lbs.  You want to take that on?

He’s got confidence and ability in spades.  In my estimation, he’s the total package and will bring the championship back to the USA.

Brian pulled off the boat pull in 32.44 seconds, where he annihilated the rest of the field.  This event is a hand-over-hand pull, yanking a 300 kg (661 lb) boat up a 20 m (22 yd) slope.

Derek Poundstone

Poor Derek.   Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.   In 2008 he was the runner up, but this year he failed to even get on the podium.

On paper, he looks great.  Moderate height, young guy, he’s a cop.   As a man, he seems really likeable and completely All-American.   His nickname is “Captain America” for goodness sake.  He loves football, rides motorcycles, and collects old-time strongman equipment.

Derek’s Achilles heel is his back injuries, though.  He’s got some disc issues, and I just can’t see that improving any time soon.

He didn’t win any of the seven events in the final, so a fourth place finish is really respectable.  He’s strong across the board, but generally not spectacular.

Travis Ortmayer

We’ve got another young, strong American here.  I think it speaks volumes that the three American guys are all the same age and are all fighting for the same places.

I can’t imagine it’ll come as a big surprise given the picture at right, but Travis’ premier event is the Atlas stones, which he won at WSM ’09.

For a strongman, that’s a really important event to perform well in.  As I said before, this event often closes competitions.  If you’re in a race ’til the end and this guy is your opponent, he’s got you mentally beat.

On a personal note, I have to admire Travis’ leisure activities.  He’s teaching himself Russian, arguably the second most difficult language on the planet (after Mandarin Chinese).  He also loves classical music, not exactly what I’d expect from a small-town Texan.

Ortmayer is the third piece in the young American puzzle, and I can’t wait to see all these guys come into their own together.  I love that they’ll compete with one another in the qualifiers.  I think it’ll really push them to improve knowing that they’ll be so heavily compared.

2009 Points Results

1. Zydrunas Savickas 58

2. Mariusz Pudzianowski 53

3. Brain Shaw 49

4. Derek Poundstone 46

5. Travis Ortmayer 45.5

The Future of World’s Strongest Man

For 2010, I’m picking (barring serious injuries) my top five guys as:

1.  Brian Shaw

2.  Mariusz Pudianowski

3.  Zydrunas Savickas

4. Travis Ortmayer

5. Derek Poundstone

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