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  June 16, 2001



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Powerful people


By BRET HART -- SLAM! Wrestling
 When I was little, there was this guy who would show up at the Pavilion every couple of years at my dad's Stampede week wrestling shows.

 He'd squat under a horse, pick it up on his back and shoulders and to my utter amazement, he'd carry it up a 15-ft. step ladder and then back down again. I was so impressed that 40 years later, I still recall Cowboy Carlson with awe.

 When my trainer and friend, Grant McReynolds, invited me to a strongman competition about a year ago, I was intrigued but mostly I went to watch Grant compete.

 My knowledge of these types of meets was restricted to thinking they were a bunch of very strong guys lifting a lot of very heavy objects. What I didn't stop to consider is the things they lift aren't balanced like weights. They're cumbersome, can easily throw you off balance and are often hard to grip. Things like flipping a truck tire that weighs more than 900 lb. over a 66-ft. course.

 Attending my first strongman competition, the amazement of my childhood came back, along with an appreciation for the dedication and training it takes to pull off seemingly superhuman feats of strength.

 So when Grant invited me to a meet at the Palace a few weeks ago, I was eager to go, even though he wasn't competing.

 People kept asking him, "How come you're not in this?" and Grant kept explaining he was staying healthy for an upcoming event but I could tell he was champing at the bit to compete. At the Palace, I noticed fans of this sport are very into it.

 People who've never seen a strongman competition before are quickly drawn in. It's not uncommon to hear, "Nah ... that guy can't lift that .... holy #@!*, that's amazing!"

 I couldn't have said it better myself.

 So, a couple of weeks ago, Grant flew off to the 2001 World Strongman Challenge in Hawaii.

 Events would include a log lift, where the athletes, three at a time, each attempted to lift a 270.1/2-lb. steel log from the ground to overhead for maximum repetitions within the 75-second time limit.

 The tire flip is one of Grant's specialties.

 The heavy-duty medley includes carrying a 801-lb. super yoke over a 66-ft. course; lifting in the crux of your arms the "Conan wheel," a 5-in. pipe attached to a universal joint loaded with 660 lb.; and picking up and pushing a 2,000-lb. wheelbarrow over the 66-ft. course -- in the shortest amount of time.

 There's also the Apollon axle lift, in which 12 finalists attempt to lift the Apollon axle from the ground to shoulders and then press or jerk it overhead. Then they have the farmer's walk, where athletes compete in pairs, each carrying a pair of 336.1/2-lb. cylinders for the longest possible distance.

 There's the keg toss, where a 44-lb. keg must be thrown over a wall or bar, and the Samson barrow dead lift, where the Samson barrow is lifted and held with bare hands for as long as possible, with no straps or grip aids other than chalk allowed.

 And finally, there's the power stairs medley that has athletes in pairs load three heavy objects -- a fire hydrant and two kegs -- on a platform, then carry (duck walk) three 440-lb. weights distances of zero, four, and eight metres to three stairs (13-in. risers) that must be climbed. I've noticed usually before Grant leaves for a meet, he's a bit keyed up but this time he was relaxed.

 I had a feeling he'd do even better than he usually does. Being the only Canadian who was invited to this international event, it was his goal to be ranked among the top 12 finalists, who are the strongest men in the world.

 He did it! For anybody who might be thinking, 'yeah, but he didn't win,' at this level what you rank at any particular meet isn't necessarily the point.

 Consider that ranked behind Grant, at No. 13, is Magnus Ver Magnusson (Iceland), four-time world's strongest man and the most famous strongman ever.

 Coming in at the No. 14,15 and 16 slots were three top American strongmen, Mark Philippi, Bryan Neese and Wade Gillingham.

 Grant also placed above Doug Ahr (U.S.), the largest competitor at 6 ft. 8 in., 490 lb.

 Grant is 6 ft. 3 in., 302 lb.

 Well done, my friend!

 It should be mentioned the host of the Hawaiian meet, Odd Haugen, is 51 (6 ft. 6 in., 299 lb. ) and ranked sixth! Magnus Samuelsen (6 ft. 7 in. 330 lb.) placed first.

 Grant returned home to Calgary to little fanfare other than congratulations from friends and family and the well-deserved recognition of his peers.

 We are lucky to have a couple of strongman events in Calgary during Stampede week, presented by Ennis Marshall, who competes as Goliath and hosts All Strength Challenge. The Western Canadian All Strength Championship is July 12 at the Saddledome. It's one of 12 qualifying meets to be held across Canada with the winners advancing to Toronto in the fall.

 Then on July 13-15, also at the 'Dome, is the All Strength Nations Challenge, a team strongman event with entrants from Canada, Scandinavia, South Africa and the U.S.

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