|Location 2016: Botswana||Established 1977|
|Format Multi-event competition|
The World's Strongest Man is a strongman competition. Organized by TWI, an IMG Media company, it is broadcast around the end of December each year. Competitors qualify based on placing in the top three at the four to eight Giants Live events each year.
- Competition format and commonly contested events
- Official results top three places
- Most top three places
- Championships by country
- Hall of Fame
- Hall of Fame Members
The current event sponsor is the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, California; other past sponsors include DAF Trucks, Tonka, MET-Rx, and PartyPoker.com. The event has a number of rival and parallel competitions with which it is sometimes confused, including the Strongman Super Series, the now defunct IFSA Strongman World Championships (run from 2005-2007 after the International Federation of Strength Athletes parted company with WSM in 2004) and Strongman Champions League.
The concept behind "The World's Strongest Men", as it was originally named, was developed in 1977 for CBS by Langstar Inc. David Webster, a Scot who later received an OBE for his services to sport, was the head coordinator of the competition from its inception. Dr Douglas Edmunds, seven-times Scottish shot and discus champion and twice world caber champion worked with Webster and when Webster retired Edmunds took over. These two men were responsible for inviting the competitors and choosing the events. In the meantime, in 1982, CBS sold the rights to the BBC, who in turn sold the rights to TWI. In 1987, the WSM was not held for the only time since its inception. In that year the first and only non-team Pure Strength competition was held but it was not part of the WSM franchise.
In 1995, Edmunds and Webster, along with representatives from the competitors including Jamie Reeves, Ilkka Kinnunen and Marcel Mostert formed a governing body called the International Federation of Strength Athletes ("IFSA"). The IFSA began organizing its own bespoke events, such as the IFSA European Championships but also took the lead in working with BBC and TWI to organize the World's Strongest Man competition. For almost a decade the IFSA and WSM were inextricably mixed, but this changed in 2004. The InvestGroup Ventures' sports rights management arm, InvestGroup Sports Management, invested heavily into IFSA and this led to the creation of IFSA Strongman. The strategy was to acquire most of the international assets and properties relating to the strongman sport. In essence this was a new organisation with some, such as Magnus Samuelsson describing it as "a new company...with the same name as our old federation". The attempt at dominance was not well received by TWI and disagreement ensued leading to a split in the sport. Previously, in 2001, the IFSA in its former guise had entered an agreement with World Class Events (WCE), headed by Ulf Bengtsson, to run the Super Series. This Super Series was designed to award the World Championship title, but also acted as a qualifying vehicle for the WSM. When strongman split in 2004, the Super Series sided with TWI forming a rival federation to the IFSA. With the WSM being a TWI owned event, IFSA Holdings announced its own World Championships for 2005, to be held in Quebec, and thus from that point had no involvement in the WSM contest.
The split with IFSA, which banned its registered athletes from competing at WSM, meant that not all the recognised best strength athletes in the world were eligible to compete. However, the reputation of WSM as the premier event maintained its lure for broadcasting purposes. In recent years, the competition has been broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2, TSN, Televisa Deportes and Five. The longevity of the contest in strength athletics and its high levels of TV exposure over the years has led to it being described as "the granddaddy of all strongman contests". In recent years, to curb injuries, the contest events have included a certain amount of athleticism rather than being about raw strength. This has led some critics to say that contests such as the Arnold Strongman Classic or Fortissimus are the true strongest man competitions. However, it is routinely described as "the Worlds" by top strongman competitors and despite the critics, it is the leading brand name in the field. No other strongman contest commands close to the WSM's levels of TV exposure.
The 2006 competition ended in dramatic fashion, with Phil Pfister edging out Mariusz Pudzianowski in the final event, the Atlas stones. Pfister became the first American to win the competition since 1982, and the first American ever to win the competition outside the USA.
In 2008, Derek Poundstone had a large lead over Mariusz Pudzianowski after 3 events but Pudzianowski tied the deadlift event for first place and then won the crucial plane-pull to narrow the gap. Pudzianowski and Poundstone then battled for the title of World's Strongest Man in the last event, the Atlas Stones. Pudzianowski blistered through the event and was able to keep pace with the heavier Poundstone. On the final stone, Pudzianowski was able to capitalize on Poundstone's drop and clinched his fifth title.
In 2009, the long running IFSA/WSM split had ended resulting in finally having all of the top strongmen from around the world all in the same contest. 2 time IFSA World Champion Žydrūnas Savickas claimed his first WSM title, with defending champion Mariusz coming in second in his final ever WSM contest. Another up and comer Brian Shaw placed third.
Žydrūnas repeated his victory again in 2010, winning by countback against Brian Shaw in the closest finish in WSM history. Top IFSA competitor and fan favorite Mikhail Koklyaev finished third in his WSM debut. Žydrūnas set a world record in the giant wooden log lift with a lift of 212.5 kg (467.5 lbs.).
in 2011, Brian Shaw was able to finally capture his first WSM title, just edging out Žydrūnas. Both athletes were tied going into the Atlas Stones and Brian was able to capitalize on his massive height advantage and claim the title. England's Terry Hollands finished in third place, his second podium finish after finishing third back in 2007.
Going into the 2012 WSM contest, Brian Shaw suffered from nerve damage in his hands and slipped down to fourth place. This opened the door for Žydrūnas to capture his third WSM title, with fellow Lithuanian Vytautas Lalas coming in second and the Icelandic giant Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson placed third. Žydrūnas set a world record in the log lift with a lift of 220 kg (484 lbs.).
Competition format and commonly contested events
Initially, eight men representing various sports and strength disciplines were invited to compete against each other in unique events designed to test each individual to the fullest extent. The earliest events were relatively crude, but new ideas were introduced over the years. Some events had a basis in both powerlifting and Highland Games heavy events, and others were created based on mythological feats of strength. There are a number of events that make up each competition. The events used in each individual contest vary in order to prevent favoring certain types of competitor.
Official results – top three places
Most top three places
Most times qualified for WSM: Magnus Samuelsson - 13 times
Most WSM finals: Magnus Samuelsson - Žydrūnas Savickas, - 10 times
Most consecutive WSM finals: Terry Hollands - 9 times (2006-2014)
Most times WSM top 5 placings:, Žydrūnas Savickas, - 10 times
Championships by country
Australia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Fiji, France, Germany, Grenada, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Serbia and Samoa have all placed in Top 10 but never won a medal.
Hall of Fame
The WSM Hall of Fame was created in 2008, to recognize the greatest competitors in the history of the contest. As of 2015, there are 4 members of the WSM Hall of Fame, Mariusz Pudzianowski, Svend Karlsen, Jón Páll Sigmarsson and Bill Kazmaier. The official WSM website holds online voting to determine who is elected to the Hall of Fame as voted by the fans.