Picture it, the Loskop Dam in South Africa. Wait, you can’t picture it? Well, that’s it right above this text. Stunning, no? Tell me you don’t want to be there right now!
OK, now that we’ve established that Loskop Dam is a place of unparalleled beauty, I’d like to remind you that it’s also full of wild animals. Hippos, crocodiles, and rhinos reign, along with the other exotic creatures you imagine seeing on the savanna. This isn’t Walt Disney World’s Kilamanjaro Safari people, these creatures are powerful and close at hand.
So are these creatures:
The first annual Axio Labs Strongman contest was held on December 19, 2009 at Lospok Dam, South Africa. It was the last show of the strong man season and consisted of four of the most hellish events Strong Man has to offer.
The Log Lift: Highland Games Meets Power Lifting
First, the Log Lift. The competitors use a steel “log” and do a clean and press. Just like in traditional weight lifting, you have to lock out your elbows at the top of the lift for the lift to count. It’s brutal, as the weight gets heavier with each round. The starting weight was 135 kg, which is 297 lb. Now, I don’t know about you, but starting at nearly 300 pounds and moving up from there doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time.
Ettiene Smit won this event with a 160 kg (352 lb) lift. As an aside, this event is done one of two ways. The first is listed above. There’s also a max rep event to determine who completes the most reps at a predetermined weight in 75 seconds.
The Farmer’s Walk: Not In An Average Day’s Work
The Farmer’s Walk was next. It doesn’t sound terrible to carry two heavy weights in each hand and walk as fast as possible, but think about it for a moment. Every step you take, you’ve got 130 kg (286 lb) on the other side opposing you. It rips at the shoulder girdle. It challenges both your grip strength and your forearms.
The 260 kg (572 lb) pulls down on all of your joints from shoulders to ankles. All of this is happening as you barrel down the 50 m (54 yd) course. Ettiene Smit won this event in 19.32 seconds.
Africa Stone Medley: Hell on Heels
Event number three is a strong man’s nightmare, the medley. Did you watch the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote when you were a kid? The ways he managed to lug a huge anvil never ceased to amaze me, especially given that he was scrawny. In the first part of the medley, the athletes pick up a weight and carry it between their legs for a distance of 20 m (22 yd). It wouldn’t be so bad it the thing weren’t 220 kg (484 lb)!
Then, adding insult to injury, you have to pick up the Africa stone and carry it back the 20 m (22 yd) to your starting point. Now, I’ve never seen the Africa stone made out of actual stone. Know why? Because no stone is as heavy as this thing is required to be.
At 180 kg (396 lb), I don’t know any athlete with the arm span to be able to hold on to a stone that large. The fastest time round-trip wins. I know you’re all going to be surprised, but Ettiene Smit won this event in 26.43 seconds.
The Atlas Stone: The Pièce de Résistance
As is tradition, this competition saved the hardest event for last. In the past the Atlas stones have gone from lightest to heaviest and were placed on podiums of ascending height. Yep, you read that right. The lighter stones were on the lower podiums, and became heavier and higher as went along.
A couple of years ago though, a new Atlas stones event came into vogue. Apparently it wasn’t difficult enough, because now they’re actually doing Atlas stones for REPS. Insanity. The goal is now to take a 150 kg (330 lb) ball and toss is ever so jauntily over a 1.5 m (5 ft) bar. You’ve got 90 seconds to get in as many reps as you can. Go!
Given that your average strength athlete weighs about as much as the stone, you can imagine what it’s like to roll this massive concrete ball up your body time and again. Then you’ve got to hoist it over a bar that’s almost five feet high. Yeah, good luck with that. Keep in mind that in the traditional rendering of this event, 1.5 m (5 ft) is the HIGHEST podium, which many athletes never get to, already spent. Andre Sweeney won this event with 7 reps.
Post-Event Recap (No Surprises Here)
Overall, Ettiene Smit won the event, showcasing why he is the only South African strong man in the international World’s Strongest Man competition. Strong Man competition is relatively new to South Africa, and their athletes are quickly mastering the events. I expect to see much more from them in the near future. They’ve got some great raw talent in their top five guys.
The top five placement is as follows:
1. Ettiene Smit with 38.5 points
2. Andre Sweeney with 35 points
3. Gerhard van Staaden with 31.5 points
4. Vuyani Mseswa with 20.5 points
5. Paul Brink with 20 points
So you didn’t make it to Lospok Dam this year? Never fear! Now that you know how beautiful it is, and how amazing the competition is, it looks like it’s been booked again for 2010. Dust off your passport, call your travel agent, and get to South Africa. You can see big game of two varieties!