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My US Strongman: Rich DeStefani reports from SCL Finland

I finally achieved what I have been working towards these past 97 months. August 19th and 20th, 2017, I competed in Finland at Strongman Champions League Vaasa.

This week has been a very emotional week for me. I have worked towards my goal of competing as a pro strongman ever since my first competition, SportsFest 1, July 19th, 2009.

This was the most nervous I have ever been in my life going into a competition. Not only was I going against WSM finalists and world record holders, but it was my first competition out of the USA.

Event 1 was a 165kg Viking Press. During the warm-ups, I realized the Viking press was too high for me, I wouldn't be able to dip and get leg drive without hitting the frame. The grounds crew quickly jumped in and came up with an idea for the competitors to stand on if they needed. I was in the 6th heat out of 7 so I knew the approximate reps needed to win but was concentrating on doing my best.

Once the whistle blew, I picked up the Viking press and got in position. The first rep was ugly and made me nervous for the rest of my reps, but I knew I was getting more. I concentrated, exploded with my legs and busted out 4 more reps! After 2 missed attempts on the 6th rep, I dropped the Viking press. 5 reps at 165kg/363lbs was a big win for myself. (and yes, they weighed the Viking press at the point of pressing and it was 165kg in hand!) This was the biggest weight I ever had to press in a competition and on a piece of equipment that I never saw before. Oh and it was a monsoon out during the whole competition. I was very pleased to have tied for 6th or 7th (forget exactly) on this event.

On to event 2, the frame carry. This was changed last minute from a farmers carry. I also didn't know until the day of but the frame was 20m down and back instead of 40m straight. I do not recall the exact weight because changes were made due to the pouring rain.

When it was my turn, I stepped up, took my position, grabbed the handles and waited for the whistle. Once the whistle blew, I took off. I raced down the course and completed the turn before the other lane finished their first trip down. I crossed the line in just under 20sec, the ONLY ATHLETE to complete the course in less than 20sec. This was my 1st SCL competition, 2nd event, and I already had my FIRST EVENT WIN! This was a huge confidence builder and immediately let everyone know that I was a challenger and not just some nobody from the USA.

Event 3 was a cylinder toss. They called it a keg toss but these were not kegs. Either way, nothing I have seen before and didn't have the ability to train for this. As all of the athletes completed the run of 5 cylinders, the times were very fast. I knew I needed to have a clean run.

My first 3 throws were great, even maybe a little too much. The 4th came up short. I didn't realize that I could've moved on to the 5th and come back to the 4th, I re-attempted the 4th before moving to the 5th. Both made it over but I lost precious time on the 4th and placed 11th in this event.

After the 3 events on day 1, I was sitting in 6th overall out of 14 athletes, a really good spot with 2 of my stronger events yet to come. After day 1, the last 2 athletes were cut and the top 12 continued on to Day 2.

Day 2 started with a team event. All of the athletes drew a number out of a bowl and created teams of 2. I was paired with (Jarno Kirselä from Finland). We agreed that I would carry the 160kg (352lbs) cross 20m, sprint back to tag Jarno, and he would complete the 300kg (660lbs) tire drag. We could tag in and out on the drag but we each finished our parts of the course. Unfortunately, we placed 5th in this event.

At this moment, the 2 people in last place were eliminated from the competition and only the top 10 moved forward for the "finals".

Event 5 of the competition was the 25kg (55lbs) front hold. I placed 7th or 8th in this event with about 32s. I knew this was going to be my worst event and just wanted to make sure I didn't lose too many points.

Event 6 was the car deadlift with what looked to be a handicap van. The weight was approximately 350kg (770lbs), the frame was a front handle, and the pick was much lower than I have done before. I tied 3 other competitors with 2 reps. I came up short on the 3rd rep which was unfortunate because that would've helped give me more points.

Due to the tie and the poor front hold event, I was now tied for 8th going into the 7th and final event, the sandbag carry and load medley. We had to carry 5 sandbags weighing 100kg (220lbs) each approximately 7m and load them in a van.

Due to my placing, I was in the 1st heat to go. I immediately took off. I loaded the last sack into the van at approximately 45sec which was a great time! That time held until the final heat where Matjaž Belšak beat me by 3sec. I was annoyed by that but still pleased that I was able to pull out a top 2 finish.

My first PROFESSIONAL competition against some of the best in the world and I won 1 event and placed 2nd in another. A great start to my professional strongman career.

A little bit later when they announced the final standings, I found out I moved up to 6th place! This is why you need to give it all each and every event, you never know what could happen.

I want to first off and most importantly want to thank my wife, Olivia. I know it sucked with me coming home late from training, prepping for this show but thank you for always supporting me. Thank you for all you do. You are the best fan, friend, motivatior, fluffer, travel companion, and more that I could ever ask for. Just thank you for everything.

Ken Nowicki and Cerberus Strength USA, thank you so much for your support and supplying me with the boat equipment and supportive gear on the market. Without the gear you provide, I would not be able to perform like this.

Debbie Eckstein and Play Again, thank you for keeping me stocked with the best joint and tendon supplement on the market. If it wasn't for your product, I would literally fall apart. Your product has helped keep my joints, tendons, and muscles recovered to keep going back at it. I wasn't sore at all going into day 2 thanks to your product and allowed me to be ready to perform.

Christine Galvin and Galvinized Fitness, thank you for helping me get my act together with nutrition this year. I was missing something in my training arsenal until you got my nutrition in line. You helped me cut this wasted fat and build my frame back up more solid. The bulking program you led me on for this competition allowed me to be prepared to move heavy ass weight but also to keep my speed and agility for the moving events. It looks like we need to crank it until another notch now for the next show!

Eric Dawson and the whole Titan Barbell crew, I'm sorry there are just so many of you to thank that it would be disrespectful to mention names as I would wind up leaving someone out. Thank you all for being my family. I joined you guys in Nov 2015 and you all took me in as a family member. We have all supported each other through everything. You all have helped motivate me either in training, in messages, or in your own successes. Thank you all for everything. The world is going to fear our team!

Willie Wessels and USS, thank you for offering these international opportunities to your athletes. This has been an awesome experience and I have USS to thank for this opportunity.

Ilkka Kinnunen and Marcel Mostert of Strongman Champions League, thank you both for putting on such an awesome show! You two roll out the red carpet for the athletes and put on a great show, in a prime location, with some world class athletes. This was a competition I will never forget. I hope to be back next year but this time, win it all!


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