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WUS Bahrain Recap & Review

By Sam Roath

SHOP Cerberus Strength

The following is an OP-ED and does not necessarily represent the opionons of Starting Strongman

Athlete list:

Oleksii Novikov (Ukraine)

Tom Stoltman (Scotland)

Luke Stoltman (Scotland)

Konstantine Janashia (Georgia)

Bobby Thompson (USA)

Ramin Farajnejad (Iran) 

Mohammad Ezatpour (Iran)

JF Caron (Canada)

Rob Kearney (USA)

Adam Bishop (England) 

Eythor Ingolfsson (Iceland) 

Ervin Toots (Estonia) 

Rauno Heinla (Estonia) 

Aivars Smaukstelis (Latvia) 

Mikhail Shivlyakov (Russia) 


  1. ‘Axle Deathlift’ – raised 15 inch pull, 5 increments from 280kg up to 440kg
  2. Mystery Event – Flag Hoist 
  3. Circus Dumbbell for reps – 100kg in 75 seconds
  4. Loading Medley – 100kg tire, 120kg atlas stone, 140kg shield
  5. Atlas Stones – 10 stones, 100kg-200kg

Events recap:

Event 1: The Axle Deathlift – 15’’ elevated axle deadlift ladder 280kg-440kg

The aptly named ‘Axle Deathlift’, inspired by Trey Mitchell’s self-loading efforts in the WUS Feats of Strength, got off to a shaky start as Latvia’s Aivars Smaukstelis began to load his own plates as had been instructed when the events were released months prior. The rules as stated in the athlete meeting the day prior to the competition remained mostly steadfast to the original announcement, albeit the athletes only needed to load the plates & the staff would add the clips. Much to Aivars’ surprise though, the staff began to load both plates & clips. Visibly frustrated and confused, Aivars nonetheless pulled off a solid performance with 4 reps up to 420kg. 

After the muddle that was Aivars’ performance, WUS co-owner Mark Boyd called a brief meeting amongst the athletes and it was decided that the self loading be scrapped; the staff would load the bar instead. To compensate Aivars for being the unfortunate crash test dummy, it was agreed that the time Aivars spent outside of being strapped into the bar would be subtracted from his time. This rule change meant the event went smoothly from there on, with only a couple of very minor hiccups from the members of staff as the plates were being loaded. 

Bobby Thompson came out with the event win, beating out the likes of Heinla & Caron in a massively impressive performance. Thompson is starting to make a name for himself as one of the top static lifters and he made the 440kg/970lbs lift look easier than anyone. Perhaps the favourite for this event, Estonia’s Rauno Heinla took second place, missing out on top spot by just 23 milliseconds. The current World’s Strongest Man Oleksii Novikov rounded out the top 3, solidifying his position as one of the very best deadlifters from height on the planet. 

Full Axle Deathlift results available in the spreadsheet at the end of the recap. 

Event 2: Flag Hoist

This event was billed as the ‘Mystery Event’ going into the contest as details were not released, thus the athletes could not train for it. It consisted of a long rope, a pulley and a weight which was to be hoisted up until a flag on the rope touched the pulley. 

Unfortunately, both flags quickly became frayed and both fell off which led to there being no visual marker on where the athletes would be credited with 1 rep. As such, with no visual marker, Zydrunas and Terry were given the unenviable task of approximating when to give the down signal. Luckily, this didn’t lead to any arguments or disputes as the event ran smoothly. 

Athletes were mostly a 50/50 mix of either wearing gloves or going bare-handed. Those wearing gloves fared better as they could let the rope slide down through their hands on the eccentric rather than waste time and strength handling the rope down to avoid friction burn. Luke Stoltman took the win, followed by Ramin Farajnejad and the omnipotent Oleksii Novikov. 

Tom Stoltman was perhaps the favourite going into this event, but he struggled to use his long levers and high bodyweight to good effect. Novikov on the other hand, despite not possessing exactly the same physical gifts was far more efficient & showed great athleticism to leap in the air and pull the rope down with his bodyweight. 

The event, although not as spectacular as it perhaps could have been, was a welcome change and had early World’s Strongest Man vibes to it. I hope WUS continues with this theme in the future. 

Full Flag Hoist results available in the spreadsheet at the end of the recap. 

Event 3: Circus Dumbbell for reps in 75 seconds – 100kg/220lbs

Oleksii Novikov came into this event the heavy favourite, being the current WR holder with 11 reps in this exact event. As it turned out, he didn’t manage to beat or match this, but he still comfortably took the event win with 10 reps. He certainly wasn’t aided by the lifting platform which consisted of rubber tiles that came apart when the dumbbell was dropped on them. The loose tiles were a massive oversight by the organisers and were a serious trip hazard/ankle breaker. Whoever thought it was a good idea to use loose tiles in an event where stable ground is an absolute necessity? This was probably the biggest blunder in the competition and something that simply has to be fixed for next time. 

Aivars managed 8 reps for second place, with JF Caron perhaps the surprise package here, finishing third with 7 reps. Overhead hasn’t always been a good event for JF, but it’s clearly something he’s worked hard on of late. Tom Stoltman looked a long way off the pace, not managing a single rep despite repping the weight with ease in training. A rare off-day for the giant Scotsman.

Full Circus Dumbbell results available in the spreadsheet at the end of the recap. 

Event 4: Loading Medley – 100kg/220lbs tire, 120kg/265lbs atlas stone, 140kg/310lbs shield

Oleksii Novikov & Tom Stoltman were the favourites here and they didn’t disappoint. They took first and second place respectively, with the impressive international debutante Mohamed Ezatpour taking third place. The platform was unusually high and as such most athletes struggled to load the 140kg shield. The shield’s awkwardness and ungainliness was too much for nearly half the field, with Iceland’s Eythor Ingolfsson being the first man to utilise a higher pick on the shield to ensure he could reach the platform. 

A slight fault with this event was that the tire only just squeezed under the platform. This led to some athletes wasting time by pushing the tire all the way in, but others just pushing it in a little. Overall though, this was a solid event and ran smoothly. 

Full Loading Medley results available in the spreadsheet at the end of the recap.

Event 5: Atlas Stones – 100kg/220lbs – 200kg/440lbs

The WUS 10 stone run made a welcome return, and no prizes for guessing who won…

Only 3 athletes managed all 10 stones; those 3 being Tom Stoltman, Novikov & JF Caron. Tom Stoltman characteristically blasted through the first 7 stones but looked unusually hesitant on the last 3. Still, it was enough for the event win, with Novikov close behind in 2nd. The ever-present JF Caron rounded out the top 3.

Full Atlas Stone results available in the spreadsheet at the end of the recap. 

Overall standings: 

  1. Oleksii Novikov
  2. JF Caron
  3. Aivars Smaukstelis
  4. Luke Stoltman
  5. Mohamad Ezatpour
  6. Ramin Farajnejad
  7. Tom Stoltman
  8. Bobby Thompson
  9. Eythor Ingolfsson
  10. Adam Bishop
  11. Rauno Heinla
  12. Ervin Toots
  13. Rob Kearney
  14. Konstantine Janashia
  15. Mikhail Shivlyakov

Livestream review:

The livestream ran smoothly with very few glitches, which is a big thumbs up from me. However there were very few graphics showing event placings and times, and no timers for the events. The camera angles also needed work; in head to heads you couldn’t see both athletes. Perhaps a split screen could work next time, or the events could be spaced closer together to allow both athletes to be in view in one camera. 

Commentary review:

Andy Sheperd and Laurence Shahlaei bounced off each other well. Good, insightful commentary. Thumbs up.

Equipment and event management & planning

Definitely room for improvement here. The ‘Axle Deathlift’ self loading idea was scrapped on the fly, the flag on the flag hoist was far too flimsy and the dumbbell rubber mat platform was downright dangerous. Slight mishap on the loading event with the tire unable to fit under the platform. The competition as a whole ran on-schedule though which is great and there was no kerfuffle in between events with setting up equipment because it was mostly already all set up. 

Final Word

WUS Bahrain 2021: A very entertaining, fast-paced strongman competition. Superb hospitality for the athletes prior to the competition let down a touch by event planning & equipment mishap. Plenty to look forward to though as WUS continue to provide free strongman content for everyone, proving the way forward in strongman is LIVE CONTENT! 

Big congratulations to Oleksii Novikov who proved emphatically his WSM win was not just a perfect storm of fortunate circumstances. JF Caron continues to move towards the top of the podium in major contests and Aivars Smaukstelis gets better with every showing. 

Time to look forward to WSM 2021 in three months.

Sam Roath

Credit to Strongman Archives https://strongmanarchives.com/viewContest.php?id=387 for the spreadsheet:

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