This year my brother Tyler and I competed at USS Nationals, and took first and second place respectively in the Heavyweight 275 class. About a week after Nationals, I got a message from Willie Wessels that he had set up an opportunity for us to compete internationally with Strongman Champions League. Ever since we started competing in strongman, it had been a dream of ours to be able to compete internationally so of course we accepted. Willie put us in touch with Ilkka Kinnunen of SCL, who let us know that we’d be competing in the SCL Finnish Open in Kokkola, Finland on August 24th. Both Tyler and I were very excited for the opportunity, and trained harder than we ever have before in preparation for the contest.
We arrived in Finland on Wednesday 8/22, two days before the competition. The event organizer was Jouni Kivela, and he was extremely accommodating, gave us all the details we needed, arranged for rides, hotel check in, etc. SCL as an organization was also very accommodating and generous, and paid for our hotel room (including a discounted second room, since my wife and Tyler’s girlfriend accompanied us) and gave us meal vouchers during our stay. We were both very impressed with SCL and how well they treat their athletes.
The competition itself was held in an outdoor town square setting. There were film crews there, as the event was televised, as well a large crowd of very energetic spectators. The contest was very well run, and fast paced; although there were 12 competitors and 6 events, it was completed in 5 hours. The events were Max Log, Truck Pull, Front Hold for time, Farmer’s Carry, Truck Deadlift and Loading Medley. The weights were difficult but manageable. There were a variety of competitors from Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Holland (and Tyler and I from the US). The competitors were very good, many of them have competed with SCL in the past and the winner of the contest had also competed at World’s Strongest Man this year. Since it was an open contest, there were no weight classes, and Tyler and I found that even at over 6’ tall and 285lbs bodyweight, we were two of the smallest there!
The level of competition was very tough, but we made a good showing and were able to keep up with the rest of the pack for the most part. Tyler won the first event with a 185kg log press, and broke the previous Finnish log press record! We ended the contest at 9th place for me and 7th place for Tyler. We both made a few mistakes and we both have some areas that need improvement, but all in all we were very happy with our placing at such a high level of competition.
After the contest was over, the SCL staff and event organizers took us all out to dinner, then to a sauna house for some relaxation (there may have been some vodka involved as well). They treated us and the other competitors like royalty, we were very impressed and very thankful.
I’d like to personally thank Willie Wessels, as well as United States Strongman as an organization. This was by far the coolest thing Tyler or I have ever done with the sport of Strongman, and it was made possible by USS. It’s really nice to see an organization that cares about its athletes, and makes opportunities like this possible. I plan to continue competing with USS, and I can’t wait to see what other opportunities will arise.
I’d also like to include a word of encouragement to athletes newer in the sport, or those considering entering their first contest. My first contest was in 2015, I took 4th place in the novice class. I wasn’t very strong and had no idea what I was doing with the implements. Fast forward three years later, and I got the opportunity to compete on an international stage, something I NEVER thought would be possible when I first started. Don’t be afraid to enter your first contest, or to do things that you think you can’t do, or things that scare you. Through hard work and most importantly smart, CONSISTENT training, you can and will achieve far more than you think you are capable of!
Jonathan and Tyler Cotton