BY JAMES WELLS
You thought lifting all of that beer was going to be the hardest part about Oktoberfest? Try lifting hundreds of pounds of weight instead.
The Bavarian Strongman Challenge has been an annual event for the past nine years at Kitchener-Waterloo’s Oktoberfest. Ten athletes from all over Ontario came to take part in the event for a chance to be dubbed the strongest man and win $1,000. According to the event promoter, John Dungey of Powerfest Productions, this year was its first year to be hosted by the Concordia Club in Kitchener.
Oktoberfest is well known for drawing a crowd, dancing to German music and yes, of course, the beer. However, on Oct. 8, the day after the keg was tapped, Oktoberfest got pretty hot and heavy.
According to Sam Dube, strongman coach and announcer, the challenges that the athletes faced were based on “survival events.”
“I’ve been a strength coach for over 25 years now and I’ll tell you this, some of the most difficult and challenging but beneficial strength events are the strongman events,” he said.
Some athletes participate every year.
“This is my fourth season competing,” said Karl Hjelholt, this year’s winner of the strongman challenge.
For some, it is a new experience.
“I just saw a flyer on Thursday (Oct. 6). I called John on the Friday (Oct. 7). I was like ‘Can I just jump in?’ He asked me what my back squats and deadlifts were. I told him and he’s like ‘Yes, you should be fine,’ and now I’m here,” said Matt Gibson, a first-time competitor.
The event consisted of five challenges – a farmers walk, tire flip, log press, super yoke and atlas stone pentagon – each having its own set of rules and style of workout. Each of the athletes had a chance to get 50 points in total, 10 points per challenge. Points were awarded depending on which place athletes finished in, in each challenge – from 10 points for first place to one point for last place, as long as the challenge was completed.
For the farmers walk, tire flip and super yoke, if the athletes were unable to finish the challenge due to injury, fatigue or the given time was exceeded, the distance from where the weights or tire were dropped would be measured and scored appropriately.
The first challenge of the day began with the farmers walk. This involved athletes carrying 275 pounds of weight in each hand and walking 90 feet, then going around a pylon, and walking back, all within 90 seconds. It was a tough challenge to start with too. Half of the athletes were unable to finish.
The tire flip was challenge number two. This was a full body workout, getting the athletes to use both their lower and upper body strength. It involved athletes flipping a large tire that weighed 825 pounds. Each athlete needed to get the tire past the 90-foot mark within 90 seconds. This time six out of the 10 athletes were able to finish the full 90 feet.
Challenge number three was the log press, a movement that consisted of three fluid motions. Athletes had to squat down, grab a 250-pound log designed specifically for the competition, lift it onto their shoulders and then thrust it up over their heads. In order for a single log press to count, each athlete needed to hold the log up for at least a second.
Number four was the super yoke, which involved athletes lifting 740 pounds in weight that was distributed evenly behind the neck and across the shoulders. The athletes needed to successfully lift the weight over their shoulders, walk 90 feet and finish the challenge within 90 seconds.
The atlas stone pentagon, the final challenge, was the cherry on top. It involved athletes lifting five globe-shaped stones onto five separate pedestals within 60 seconds. Each stone had its own designated weight, ranging from 200 pounds up to 360.
Before each challenge could continue, the athletes needed some time to recover. This was the perfect time for the volunteers and organizers to have a kids’ challenge. After rounds one and three, Dube called upon any young boys and girls from four to eight years old to take part in a small tire flipping challenge. All of the children were able to successfully flip their tires, making everyone a winner.
Oktoberfest events, of course, wouldn’t be the same without some traditional Oktoberfest performances that included the Black Forest band and the Prince of Polka.
Oktoberfest food and drink, including beer, were also in abundance.
Dube said he has great respect for the athletes, because of how difficult it is to compete in these events.
“You can’t help but respect it (the sport) and understand what these men and women are really trying to do, how difficult it is to lift these objects,” he said.