22 Year old Craig Bongelli from Canada was competing in the Bavarian Strongman Challenge when he was doing the Atlas Stones round where he lifts and places four 360 pound boulders on a platform. On the fourth and final boulder he blacked out mid placement and it all came crashing down on his chest.
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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.
The split with IFSA, which banned its registered athletes from competing at WSM, meant that not all the recognized 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, and currently CBS Sports Network in the USA. 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.
In the early 90s, Magnús Ver Magnússon (Iceland) won the title 4 times and became the second and only man along with the legendary Bill Kazmaier to win 3 consecutive titles. The late 90s saw Scandinavian countries taking control of the title, and this lasted until 2002. The relatively small 125kg (275lbs) but dynamic Jouko Ahola from Finland won 2 titles in 3 years during this period. He later became a referee in WSM/strongman events and an actor. The early to late 2000s were dominated by 5-time Polish winner Mariusz Pudzianowski, earning the nickname: “The Dominator”. Looking muscular and defined, he temporarily redefined what a strongman was in the world’s eyes. At about 142kgs (313lbs) at max weight, he routinely beat men much bigger than he was. He combined speed and massive strength in one package. His final win was in 2008 as bigger and taller men came into the sport.