After two events Kieliszkowski holds the lead with 11 points. Just 1 in front of Shaw. It’s the Keg Toss up next. When ‘Thor’ set the new world record in an earlier heat it was seen as a message to Shaw. But Björnsson won’t like Shaw’s reply: the huge American smashes the record by 10cm, making it metres and doesn’t even look like it troubled him. Els, Kieliskowski and Van Staden all manage a respectable metres. La Roux managed six but had to pull out of the competition due to injury.
Shaw’s now taken first place as we head into the Deadlift. They have 60 seconds to lift a 375kg car as many times as possible. Shaw manages ten reps and makes them look like nothing. Newcomer – and last minute replacement – Gough looks solid with seven reps, taking joint second with Van Staden. Kieliszkowski finishes outside of the top two for the first time in this heat.
For a long time, strongmen didn’t bother with specialized training. When CBS televised the first World’s Strongest Man contest from Universal Studios, in 1977, the competitors all came from other sports. There were bodybuilders like Lou Ferrigno, football players like Robert Young, and weight lifters like Bruce Wilhelm, who won the contest. Even later, when the dilettantes had mostly dropped out of contention, there was no standardized equipment. Shaw had to cast his own Manhood Stones from a plastic mold, and he practiced the Keg Toss in his parents’ back yard, in a large sandpit that they’d built for volleyball. “Even ten or twelve years ago, you wouldn’t have had a place like this,” he told me at his gym. “But a guy can’t just come in off the street anymore and be amazing.” These days, most of Shaw’s equipment is custom-forged by a local company called Redd Iron; his diet and his workout clothes are subsidized by his sponsor, the supplement maker MHP—short for Maximum Human Performance.
T his is what happened to Eddie Hall when he broke the world dead-lift record. He was on stage at the Leeds Arena in April 2016, faced with lifting 500 kilograms, roughly the weight of a fully-grown polar bear. Three men were competing to see if they could do it. The first competitor tore his hamstring in the warm-up and never lifted a thing. The second ruptured something major in his first attempt. Then Hall stepped forward and, with a roar, hoisted the steel bar as it bent under its colossal, half-tonne load. As the 11,000-strong audience cheered him, he fainted. He woke up on the floor, with blood seeping out of his mouth, his nose, his eyes.