The u105kg World Strongman Championship is over. I finished 6th overall and I’m satisfied with that placing despite the competitive drive that pushes me to reach for a 1st place podium visit. The other America hero, Kevin Faires (Utah), came in to dominate the competition by winning four out of the seven events held at Worlds, which secured his victory by 14 points. He is now the u105kg World Champ. Im convinced they put something in the water out there in Utah, his coach Van Hatfield recently took 4th at Masters World Championship. I look forward to many more years battling it out with Kevin and building our friendship, hell maybe even one day I can actually beat him. Kevin had a pretty good rookie year, 1st National champ and now Worlds. Tim Kovach and Aaron Fondry performed like animals as well. Aaron literally had the blood to show for his performance and Tim was so determined he tried to run through a Toyota pickup. We all made it back to the homeland safe and sound, ready to get back to the GRIND!!!
I would like to thank the United States Strongman President Willie Wessels for creating this opportunity happen for us, and also for being there to support and coach all of us on Team USA. He’s still a coach at heart, hoarse by the end of day two with his stopwatch out for every event. I’d also like to thank my Coach Chad Coy for prepping me for this competition. Chad created strongman back in the 1930s, when he swam across the ocean to bring strongman to the U.S. (and if you don’t believe me ask Clint Darden). I started working with Chad in May of 2016 when I was new to the sport and only training about twice a week due to my work situation. We sat down and decided that we had a lot of work to do, but I was up for the challenge. My two main goals were to podium at nationals and then qualify for worlds. Something I always joke about Chad is that when we would train at other locations people often asked if he was my dad…and then I would mercilessly pester him about how old he was. However, placing 9th at Masters Worlds two weeks before my own Worlds competition, the old bull can still kick my ass and I know it.
Next I’d like to thank my fiancé, DeAdria, for being my number one fan, for always being there during the ups and downs, and for supporting me no matter what. There will never be enough space in this article to relay my profound love and appreciation to her. Finally all the friends and family that helped make this spur of the moment trip around the world possible. From everyone that donated to my GoFundMe account, The Broc Winn Memorial Fund, and Cory and Heather Brown at Samson Strong Implements for putting on a competition where the proceeds helped fund my trip. Cory also builds all my equipment and made a few of the implements to spec for the events at worlds. Cory will be making the farmers handles and axels for the USS National competition in 2017. Hit him up for top quality equipment made in a timely manner. He might even give you a kiss.
The overall experience in Finland was, to put it lightly, different. We flew through seven time zones, adjusted to living eight hours ahead of the time in Illinois, and became attuned to competing in 40 degrees weather. Kevin and I roomed together along with our professional videographer, Shane Wasiloski. We split a room so small that all three beds touched…you could say the bromance was real. I believe that all us woke up every night between 2-3am starving because that was our normal dinnertime in the States. Only two channels were in English and there was NO SPORTSCENTER!!! Holy hell, how did we survive? We messaged the promoter asking where we should go for sight seeing. His response? “Just relax, Kokkola isn’t a very big city. There is not much to do.” I was kind of bummed about that; being my first time to a different country, I was really looking forward to strapping my fanny pack on and being super nerdy with my tourist camera.
Day one of Worlds you had to place in the top 12 to qualify for day two. Between Kevin and I, we won all three events of this first day, which were the farmer’s carry, front hold, and a sandbag medley. Our fellow American competitors Tim and Aaron advanced to the second day as well; GO AMERICA!!! The farmer’s carry was unique in that it was made out of snow tracks, which presented a difficult challenge for most competitors. I won the front hold, and then was interviewed by one of the promoters. Kevin and I noticed they like to come and talk to you right afte your event, if it wasnt hard enough to talk already from being winded their thick accent was tough to interpret, so I simply nod and reply “Yeah". As for my thoughts on the sandbag medley…they were blue lol and fairly easy event. The first day was a blur, and I was glad to be back in that cramped hotel room “snuggling” with my roomies and preparing for the next day of competition.
It was gloomy and a little cooler on day two. The 1st event was a rising bar 18-inch deadlift, an event I was looking forward to with the confidence that I would win it. That morning the officials changed it to an “Eddie Hall style” which means there were 10 seconds between each pull to hit your repetition where they added 44lbs to the lift; the starting pull was set at 680lbs. I missed my 860lb pull, tapping out at 814lbs. I was absolutely not happy with this performance at all considering I’ve hit over 860lbs multiple times both suited and raw, yet I still managed to place 3rd in the event. Day two I just couldn’t find my mojo; I’m not sure if jet lag had finally set in or what was going on with me, but there wasn’t enough pre-workout or nose tork to hype me up. Event two didn’t go well either; it was the Viking Press or I like to call it “Big Bertha,” and she was brutal. In training I had routinely hit 15-19 reps, but in competition I hit a whopping single lift before it chewed me up and spit me out. There were five competitors who zeroed on this event. Events three and four I pushed through and got some PR’s. I thought to myself, “This is a f@%k*n World Championship…LET’S GO!!!" Then I hit myself in the head a few times and took a hit of the Scottish smelling salts (FYI these will make you see stars). The truck pull being 9.5 tons was the heaviest truck I’ve ever pulled and then I carried the shield for roughly 60 meters, which made for two personal records to end my day.
Looking back at it now I think it is crazy. Even though I wanted a better result, 6th place in the world isn’t too damn bad. I put a southern Illinois small town on the map, made tons of new friends, found new fans, and hopefully opened the eyes of some of today’s youth by showing them that anything is possible if you have discipline, desire, and drive. The glory of the sport of strongman isn’t in trophies and titles, it’s about motivating others to believe in themselves. God gave us the athletic ability and physical strength so that we can use our platforms as athletes to lead by example and become role models…for that child watching in the crowd to see what it looks like to reap the benefits of working hard. The sacrifice of strict nutrition, grueling workouts, and traveling to competitions is all worth it when I remember who is watching, who is supporting, and who is inspired by this dedication. No one ever said that a little blood, sweat, and tears have failed them. Iron sharpens iron so one strongman sharpens another through camaraderie and competition. The trophies are material things, I’d rather be remembered as the man that made more athletes go out of their element and join the sport of strongman.
Strongman has played a huge role in my life considering the fact that for two years I was in a very dark place personally. After a DUI charge I was looking at 3-7 years in prison. Two months later, on October 8, 2014, I lost my best friend, Broc Winn, to suicide. His death destroyed me, and I blamed myself as I was supposed to go see him in Nashville the day after my DUI. But, because of my selfishness I never got that chance. I fell into a dark hole battling depression, sleeping disorders, and suicidal thoughts; I was anti-social and closed off to the world. On top of that I’ve struggled with addiction my whole life. As humans I believe we have addictive mindsets, but we have to find the right things to become addicted too. So my addiction now is helping people succeed in all aspects of life; without struggle there’s no progress. We can’t overcome life’s challenges with strength and grace. Honor the struggles by facing them and conquering them, come to peace with them, and accept that God has chosen you because He knew you were strong enough to overcome the challenge.
In closing, thanks again for all of the love and support from everybody. Strongman has saved my life and I am proud to part of the USS family. Congrats to Kevin Faires U105kg World Champion and Nick Hadge Jr. World Champion. United States Strongman sported two World Champions in two weeks. Forever Strong…