Oleksii Novikov reviews his preparations and performance at the 2022 World’s Strongest Man competition
One of the biggest stories during the 2022 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) competition won by Tom Stoltman was the performance of 2020 WSM champion Oleksii Novikov, who finished in third place overall. But just looking at the podium that saw Martin Licis between Stoltman and Novikov, misses the bigger picture of the competition. A picture showing Novikov in the foreground on the verge of achieving a second WSM title with three final victories, including a world record of 246 kilos (542.3 pounds) in the Flintstone Barbell.
Unfortunately for Novikov, whose training was the backdrop of the ongoing war in his native Ukraine, a hiccup in the Power Stairs event gave Stoltman the window to dominate Stoltman’s signature event – the Atlas Stones – and retain the title. Despite almost grabbing the first place trophy and instead falling to the bottom of the podium, the WSM competition in 2022 will be remembered for Novikov’s achievement throughout all five days of competition, as it will make for Stoltman as the first strong man to win the subsequent WSM competition. titles since 2016 (Brian Shaw won the 2015 and 2016 WSM competitions).
Check out Novikov’s review of his performance at the 2022 WSM competition in the video below, courtesy of his YouTube channel:
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As expected, Novikov’s remarkable performance in Sacramento was driven by less than optimal preparations due to his involvement in the Ukrainian army, which continues to avert the invading Russian forces at the time of publication of this article. Despite consistently competing in the Giants Live circuit in the second half of 2021 and during the 2022 season, Novikov was already guaranteed a place in the WSM competition, as it will be forever. All former WSM masters have a lifetime invitation to compete in the WSM competition. Four WSM champions were at the WSM competition in 2022 – Novikov, Tom Stoltman, Licis and Shaw.
Painkillers were a routine part of Novikov’s preparation for the WSM competition in 2022, when he suffered from knee pain and was unable to treat it as “shock wave therapy did not work.” The war prevented him from having access to other anonymous recovery tools he would otherwise have turned to.
Novikov saw that the top competition in his group was Adam Bishop. Novikov thought that if he had stumbled on any of the qualifying events, he would probably have had to compete in a Stone-Off against Trey Mitchell – a rematch from the 2019 WSM competition that Novikov was not interested in repeating. If Novikov were to fight Mitchell in the Stone-Off, he felt that it would have compromised his back on the way to the final, thus hampering his chances of winning.
That version of reality never happened as Novikov was dominant in his group. The turning point for Novikov was to win the Deadlift Ladder event – the only event where he felt that Bishop was favored. Novikov defeated Bishop in that event and never looked back.
Despite the fact that Novikov worked perfectly throughout the rest of the qualifiers, there were some previously unnoticed mistakes he made. During the car ride, Novikov ordered the yoke to the wrong height. This meant that the car was placed too low to the ground and was less stable during the heat. The result was to walk more on his toes to move down the field, which put more pressure on his already sore knee. He was in pain after the run.
Novikov believes that the most objective way to decide who will advance to the finals is to have all qualified athletes on the same leaderboard. rather than having separate groups. However, he accepts the Giants Live’s choice to run their events as they see fit.
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2022 WSM Finals
Novikov’s takeaway from the Giant’s Medley event was that human error is a factor when athletes can post extremely tight times. He feels that the time it takes a judge to stop a stopwatch can be the difference in ranking. He proposes an “electric time fixator”, which will clock the exact time each athlete crosses the finish line for a more accurate result.
Car ground clearance was right in Novikov’s wheelhouse. He excels in partial deadlifts and deadlifts, such as Car Deadlift, and “knows how to work in these events,” which is almost always for max reps. In that case, Novikov knew he needed to hit at least 13 reps, but was third last in the attempt. Novikov especially got a nosebleed when he knocked out an event-winning 15 reps – a personal record for him in Car Deadlift.
Flintstone Barbell was a testament to Novikov’s weightlifting technique when he implemented the split jerk to move the barbell over his head. When he first learned the cane press, he used a split jerk, so this was not a new concept for him. He realized that leg drive was undeniably the difference in this event, and he found similarities with the heavy manual press, which is one of Novikov’s better events.
Speaking through the physics of Bus Pull, Novikov knew that the taller, heavier athletes had the advantage as they wanted more traction through more influence due to the height. Mass moves mass, and Novikov was aware that he had one of the lower body weights among the competitors in the final. Despite that, he won Bus Pull, which he did not expect to participate in the event.
The result of Novikov pushing himself so hard in Bus Pull was what he called an “emergency for the body.” He felt as if he did not have his legs under him and he felt pain in his kidneys. He drank water and recovered from the pain with the help of the medical team, but the incident “took its toll.”
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Power Stairs were the decisive event of the competition and the first time Novikov showed vulnerability. While the structure and equipment used for the event favored the senior athletes since they did not have to pull the equipment as high to mount them on each staircase, Novikov puts more blame on the preparations than the production. He trained to pull to a height of 90 centimeters, but the height in the competition was 116 centimeters.
Novikov credits Boudreault, which won Power Stairs, as an example that although height played an important role, it was not the deciding factor. Boudreault and Novikov have the same height, and Boudreault scored the fastest time in the event.
The atlas stones were a bit of an addition to Power Stairs. Although the stones are not Novikov’s best event, he felt unprepared and tired when he had to fight Tom Stoltman in the heat of the title. Stoltman accelerated the event, and less than halfway through it was clear that Novikov was not going to beat him. When Novikov knew that the top of the podium belonged to Stoltman, he mentioned that he wanted the event to be over sooner. That lack of final effort led to scoring only one point in the event, allowing Licis to move to second place overall.
While Novikov will be in the record books as a bronze medal winner at the WSM competition in 2022, the competition itself tells the story of a soldier who trained during a war and was inches away from getting his fingertips in first place.
2022 Strongman Classic
Novikov’s next strongman competition will be the 2022 Giants Live Strongman Classic on July 9, 2022, at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England. He won the competition in 2021 and will try to defend the title against a list that has seen several shakeups the week before the competition, including Maxime Boudreault replacing Konstantine Janashia, Gavin Bilton replacing an injured Adam Bishop, and Eddie Williams competing instead. Check out “Iron Biby” Sanou.
Featured image: @novikov_strong_wsm on Instagram