For the first time in history, two brothers will be competing in the finals for the World’s Strongest Man, where they will meet the three other men who qualified Saturday as well as those who previously qualified in earlier rounds.
Tom and Luke Stoltman, who are from Scotland and compete for the United Kingdom in this competition, cheered each other on from the sidelines of the “Last Man Standing” round Saturday, which required athletes to pick up an Atlas stone that weighs hundreds of pounds and lift it up and over a bar to the man on the other side until one person cannot complete the task within a 20-second time limit.
As if that wasn’t physically demanding enough, it was all done under the hot mid-morning sun shining down on Anna Maria Island that even had spectators wiping sweat from their brows.
The Stoltman brothers, though 10 years apart in age, will continue to root for each other throughout the competition.
“I think both of us are feeling pretty good, we’ve trained really hard,” Luke said. “We’re Scottish warriors we’re going to carry on until we can’t do anymore.”
Luke took his qualifying spot in a face-off with American Rob Kearney, who, after multiple rounds, lost his grip and was not able to lift the Atlas stone over the bar in time.
Following the competition Saturday, 34-year-old Luke said he’s feeling the strongest he’s ever felt.
“All I look for in myself is progression every year. As long as I’m progressing I’m going to carry on competing,” Luke said.
Luke said his baby brother was built for Saturday’s event.
Tom qualified in a match against Aivars Smaukstelis of Latvia. Between lifts, Tom raised his arms to pump up the crowd of thousands, who cheered louder for the younger brother. Eventually, Smaukstelis dropped the Atlas stone and could not get it over the bar in time.
The brothers celebrated their historic moment embracing each other and loved ones.
“It’s a surreal moment not just for us but I’ve got my wife here, my dad here as well. Having dad here is extra special, it’s Father’s Day tomorrow so it’s one of the best Father’s Days he’s going to have. Got mom looking above us so we’re all here as a family and just going to keep working. It’s not over yet; so ready to fight again.”
The only American who qualified to move on Saturday was Trey Mitchell. The crowd chanted “U-S-A” behind him as he outlasted a long round with Oleskii Novikov from the Ukraine.
Mitchell will join fellow Americans Brian Shaw and Martins Licis in the finals.
“It feels great to be able to represent the USA,” Mitchell said.
He said he would spend the rest of the day recovering, clearing his mind and doing everything to be in tip-top shape for Sunday. Though he’s nervous, Mitchell said he’s ready.
“I’ve been here before, I’ve been competing for seven years now. Ready to prove that I belong on the big stage,” Mitchell said.
Other Americans, however, struggled in Saturday’s event. Robert Oberst injured his bicep while facing off against Adam Bishop of Great Britain, turning to event staff and saying “bicep’s gone.” Bishop will compete in finals Sunday.
In his match, American Kevin Faires, third in his group, was not able to lift the Atlas stone after days of competition. The fourth place competitor in the group, Ole Martin Kristiansen, was called up on short notice to face Canadian JF Caron. Caron qualified for finals.
Kearney also lost his match with Luke Stoltman.
Those who have previously qualified for the final leg of the competition — Hafthor Julius Bjornsson, Konstantine Janashia, Martins Licis, Mateusz Kieliszkowski, and Brian Shaw — had Saturday off.
Holmes Beach Police Chief William Tokajer said there were no issues to report on the beach Saturday even with a packed-full parking lot.
Business at the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe on Manatee Public Beach was normal, but the parking lot outside was busier than usual for the hours before competition started just after 10:30 a.m., said bar manager Jason Benn. Dozens of people lined up for breakfast on the beach while others set up camp along the fence line of the competition stage, some arriving even before 8 a.m.
Pushed up against the fence was Minneapolis native Shirley Madin, who said she and her husband had been front row at the event every day this week.
“We’ve been watching it for years on TV so we just decided it’s here in the U.S. for once, finally, and it was something we just decided, ‘Hey we better get going and do it now before we can’t go anymore,’ ” Madin said.
Though they’ve sat through beating sun and rain, the fans have been amazing, she said, and they enjoyed watching all phases of the competition.
About 200 yards away from the action, Analia Mansi, of Bradenton, stretched out on her beach chair, soaking up the afternoon sun’s rays. She brought her niece, who is visiting from Boston, to the beach Saturday morning, not knowing the World’s Strongest men would be right behind them but marveled at the feats of strength. They wondered why the parking lot was so full so early in the day.
“You watch it on TV and don’t realize how heavy things are,” Mani said. “Watching it live was pretty intense.”
As intense as competition may be, the athletes still made time to greet fans and spectators, stopping for photos and even to chug a beer.
Finals for the World’s Strongest Man are slated to begin at 8 a.m. Sunday at Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach.
Luke Stoltman (Great Britain)
Adam Bishop (Great Britain)
Tom Stoltman (Great Britain)
JF Caron (Canada)
Trey Mitchell (US)