‘Strongmen’ set to return here Saturday

Lucas Punkari

Heavy lifting will be the order of the day this Saturday at the ’52 Canadians Arena as some of top “Strongman” competitors from both sides of the border will compete in the second-annual Fort Frances competition.
After 10 competitors took part in last year’s inaugural event, the field has become bigger and tougher this time around, with 16 set to take part.
“I was actually getting contacted by a lot of different guys who said they wanted to come up here,” noted Luke Skaarup, who is both the event organizer and defending champ.
“We have a higher calibre of guys that we have coming here this year as we have six of the top guys in western Canada, some of the top guys from Northern Ontario, and three of the top Americans coming, as well,” he added.
While all of the competitors may hail from different locations and backgrounds, all of them get along with one another and support each other during their events, which was a noticeable occurrence here last year.
“It’s kind of an interesting sport in that respect,” Skaarup said.
“We are guys who come from different walks of life that have this sport in common, and it’s a great time be among competitors and to also have a lot of fun, as well,” he added.
This year’s competition will see six events take place over the course of the day, up one from a year ago, with the challenges themselves being quite different than what took place here last May.
“Last year we had an event where we would be sitting down and pulling a truck,” said Skaarup.
“But this year, the competitors will actually being standing up and pulling forward a dump truck full of gravel, which will be a lot more visually impressive,” he remarked.
“Also, instead of single log press that we had here last year, there will be a press medley that will involve lifting five different things as fast as you can.”
Other events that will take place include a deadlift of a Ford Focus, a Crucifix Hold (where competitors will have to hold out 45 pounds in each hand), the Atlas Stones (where a 350-pound ‘stone’ will have to be lifted over a 56-inch bar), and a medley event that will include the farmer’s walk, a keg carry, and a tire flip.
As for the competitors, about half of the field from last year’s competition will be back, including runner-up Kyle Rayner of Thunder Bay and third-place finisher Joel Dircks of Mankato, Mn.
“We also have Dallas Hogan and Ben Thompson from Thunder Bay who are coming back, along with Chris McDole of Winnipeg,” said Skaarup.
“Jon Wade [of Winnipeg] would have been back this year, as well, but unfortunately he tore his Achilles a couple of weeks ago so he’s out.”
The newcomers who will be making their first appearance in Fort Frances this weekend are no slouches, either, as they have come away with numerous top finishes at events across North America.
“Scott Cummine of Saskatoon has been a four-time winner of the Western Canada Strongest Man [competition], and he’s also finished third in Canada for the last two years in a row,” Skaarup noted.
“Jacob Bodi of Wisconsin is a top light heavyweight in the United States, and he just finished in fifth place at the world amateur ‘Strongman’ in March.”
While the competition will be very tough, Skaarup already is looking forward to trying to defend his title in his home event.
“It’s kind of funny as I have a few crowns to defend this year, I guess,” he laughed.
“The training has been going really well, actually, and I feel that I am currently in the strongest shape that I have been in my life,” Skaarup added.
“I’m still able to find time to train with having four kids, and I’m very thankful to have a supporting wife and family that allow me to do this,” he stressed.
This year’s “Strongman” competition is slated to get underway at 3 p.m., with the admission from getting into the annual Fort Frances Home & Leisure Show serving as the entry fee.
In addition to the regular competition, a 95-pound press for reps event will be held for any women who want to take the challenge.
An after party then will take place at Boston Pizza starting around 9 p.m.