By Peter Herguth
The Conan’s wheel is one of the “for distance” events in Strongman. The implement is a long bar that sticks out from a pivot point with a weight that is loaded somewhere between the pivot and the athlete. The athlete then lifts the bar by placing it on the forearms or in the crook of the elbows. From this position, the athlete pivots the implement around in a circle for time or distance and measured in either degrees or distance. This is widely considered a brutal and painful event due to the way the implement is held. The weight is usually placed right above the diaphragm and the bar digs into the forearms, making it both painful and hard to breathe. This event comes in many names but is best known as the Conan’s Wheel. This is due to the similarities to the Wheel of Pain from the film Conan the Barbarion. In the film Conan (Arnold) and other slaves were to pick up a heavy arm of a rotating mill and carry it as form of their labor while awaiting sale. It is through this manual labor that the movie shows a young Conan grow into the massive and powerful hero of the movie.
The movie came out in 1982, yet the use of “Conan’s Wheel” wasn’t used for similar events for many years later. This event originally (and commonly still is) named by the object used to weigh the bar held by the athlete. A Stone Circle often is loaded using McGlashen stones, the Cart circle is a cart, the Cask Circle is casks and so on.
This event was first introduced to the sport of strongman in the 1989 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) in San Sebastian Spain. The event was called the “Cart Circle” in the contest and was as homage to the heritage of the area. The Cart circle was actually based on something from the Basque Rural games, the Orga Jakoa “Cart Game” or “Oxcart Game”. Traditionally the athlete would lift the Ox-cart from the heavy end and placing the edge of the cart against a belt to distribute the load throughout the whole body while they walked the whole cart around while pivoting it along the pole that is on the ground. With the Orga Jakoa (Basque Games Equivalent) the card would weigh 360kgs and need to be raised 40cm. The WSM athletes however lifted a cart that was 228kg but were not allowed to place the cart on their belts, but instead had to maintain the load along the forearms. Ab Wolders won this event with a fantastic run of 70 meters around.
The next time an event was seen in Strongman was at the WSM of 1996 in Port Louis, Mauritius and took a form much more similar to how we know it today. The event was stated to be a “new” event to WSM, but that isn’t entirely true due to the similarities to the Cart Circle 7 years prior. There are some significant differences however. This time the athlete was holding a bar instead of an actual cart. This enabled the athletes hips to face the same direction as they walked, where as with the Cart circle, the hips are facing somewhere between the pivot point and the direction of movement making it very difficult to walk. The athletes were not allowed to rest the bar on their belts this contest either. Finally, the weights on the bar were in the form of two large Casks that weighted 300kg. A testament to the grueling nature of this event Raimonds Bergmanis was nearly knocked out as he fell exhausted into the beam at the end of his run of 799⁰. Magnus Ver Magnesson won this contest with a 946⁰. It just before Magnus’s run that the ruling that the bar cannot be braced against the athletes belt and he was made to re-position his belt lower. It was during the 2002 American Pro Strongman Nationals that I was first able to find record of the event being called “Conans Wheel” despite the film having come out in 1982. This event used a 700lbs motorcycle as the weight attached to the rotating pole.
“Peter Herguth is a lightweight strongman and Flex Comics Team member working toward becoming a strong competitor, promoter and coach. He hopes to host his first event in 2015, become a sponsored athlete, and own a gym.
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