Wednesday, 28 December 2011

World's Strongest Man Final 1983

The World's Strongest Man (WSM) was the premier event in strength athletics for 20 years up until the late 1990's. Men from four corners of the earth were invited to compete against each other in a series of unique events designed to test each individual to the fullest. The events had a foundation in Powerlifting, Highland Games and others were created based on mythological feats of strength.

It was at the end of a long day that we came across the televised final of WSM 1983. We'd found TV gold. It had the constituent parts of: a British underdog, early 80s hair styles and fashion, a brilliant referee and a crowd who were a bit too close to the athletes. We were instantly hooked.

A final to beat all finals. A truck full of tension, a barrel load of theatrics and the first time the event had been held outside the USA since its inception in 1977. Christchurch - New Zealand, I bring you, GB's finest, the 2 time Commonwealth Shot Put Champion and Budgie Breeding Behemoth...Geoff Capes.
There were 8 strangely named events which sorted the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys and the sheep from the goats. Farmers Walk, Bar Bending, Silver Dollar Deadlift, Truck Pull, Rock Lift, Weight for Height, Wool Hoist and Lorry Loading.

All were designed to sap energy, test physical and mental endurance and brutalise any muscle in the human body. There were other characters alongside Mr Capes and much of the focus fell on a young pretender from Iceland, Jón Páll Sigmarsson, with a series of one liners designed to psyche out his fellow athletes ("This is no problem for Jón Páll", "There is no reason to be alive if you can't do deadlift" and "I am not an Eskimo, I am a Viking!"). Jón Páll proved a fearsome competitor in 1983 and would go on to win the WSM 4 times in the future as well going down in history as Iceland's greatest athlete of the 20th Century.

However, 1983 was all about Geoff. Coming first in the Truck Pull and Weight for Height and finishing in the top 3 for all the other events meant Capes was leading with only the final event (Lorry Loading) left. It was captivating to watch as these 12 huge sacks of flour, weighing at least 12 stones each had to launched on to the back of a lorry. The fine flour kept seeping through the porous bags and it got into some of the athletes lungs, including poor Tom Magee who nearly died after he inhaled too much flour and could barely complete the task.

However, Capes knew that he'd done enough and gave a little leap of joy as the final sack landed on the back of the lorry and in his final interview, he declared many pints and drinks were going to be spilled in Christchurch that night in celebration of a little man from Lincolnshire being crowned the World's Strongest Man with a total score of 49.5.

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