2020 Arnold Strongman Classic Preview

February 19, 2020

Who will win the 19th annual Arnold Strongman Classic?

By Roger Lockridge

One of the traditions that comes with the Arnold Sports Festival is seeing the strongest men on the planet lifting the heaviest competitive objects in the sport of strongman. The 2020 edition of the Arnold Strongman Classic could be one of the most unique ever.

The lineup this year blends the current standard-bearers of the sport with some competitors who will be expected to carry the sport forward for the next decade.

About the Field

10 men from seven countries will take part in this year’s Arnold Strongman Classic. Two of these men have won the World’s Strongest Man while only one has been victorious in Columbus. Another man won the 2019 World’s Ultimate Strongman title. Each man either won a contest to earn his position or placed in the top two positions on points. The ultimate goal for all of them is to be the man standing next to Arnold Schwarzenegger receiving the trophy and being crowned 2020 ASC Champion.

Strong Favorites

Hafthor Bjornsson (Iceland)
Bjornsson is the two-time defending Arnold Strongman Classic Champion and the 2018 World’s Strongest Man. As the current title holder, he earned an automatic invite to this year’s contest. He suffered a foot injury at the 2019 World’s Strongest Man contest but is completely recovered and feels his training has been going exactly according to plan.

At 31 years old, he is just now entering his prime. He enters this contest as the favorite and looks to win the title for the third straight time which would make him only the second man to achieve that feat. Zadrunas Savickas won six in a row from 2003-2008.

Martins Licis (USA via Latvia)
Licis is the 2019 World’s Strongest Man as well as the runner-up to Bjornsson at last year’s ASC. He suffered a neck and shoulder injury which altered the rest of his 2019 campaign. He started 2020 by entering and defending his Arnold Strongman USA title in one of the greatest comebacks in recent memory. After Maxime Boudreault won the first three events, Licis gained momentum in the Deadlift for Reps and won the Bag Carry Medley to take the victory by one point.

The 28 year old who currently calls California home now plans on winning the major title that eluded him last year. If he arrives to Columbus healthy, he has to be considered a major threat to do so.

Mateusz Kieliszkowski (Poland)
The Poland native is a two-time World’s Strongest Man runner-up as well as the 2019 World’s Ultimate Strongman Champion. He qualified for the ASC by winning the Arnold Europe contest in dominating fashion. He placed 3rd at this contest in 2019 but his stock has risen several times over in the year since. The 26 year old is considered by many to be the future of the sport but he’s ready to take that mantle now.

The one point of his skillset that has been subject to criticism is the deadlift where he has a history of struggling. If he can hold his own with that and place high in the other events, it’s realistic to think he could leave Ohio as champion.

Other Top Contenders

Rob Kearney (USA)
Kearney earned his way in this lineup early in the season by winning the 2019 Arnold Australia contest. He is very strong in overhead pressing lifts like the log press in both max effort and performing reps. At 5’10”, he is one of the shorter competitors but still holds his own in big name lineups as he did in Australia. He didn’t compete in Columbus in 2019.

Olexii Novikov (Ukraine)
Novikov is the only man in this lineup to have won two Arnold contests in 2019. He was victorious in both South America and Africa. He was 7th in the Arnold Strongman Classic last year. At 23 years old, he has only begun to tap into his potential and can easily improve upon his previous placing in this contest.

Jean-Francois Caron (Canada)
Caron is noted for his ability in the deadlift but is also very successful in other movements like the various carry events. He earned this year’s trip to Ohio by winning the 2019 Fort Warwicks contest. He placed 10th at the ASC in 2019. He had placed as high as 5th in his career at this contest. He was 4th at the 2019 World’s Strongest Man contest.

Mikhail Shivlyakov (Russia)
Shivlyakov earned his position thanks to his 4th place finish at the Arnold Europe last fall. The top three at that contest were already qualified for the Arnold Strongman Classic. Aside from being famous for his nose-bleeding deadlift effort a couple years ago, the former Russian Forces soldier is strong in pressing events too. He placed 4th here in 2019 and has been a past champion of the Arnold Africa contest. He was the 2013 Arnold Amateur World Champion. He will be the oldest competitor in the field this year at 39 years of age.

Dark Horses

Matjaz Belsak (Slovenia)
Belsak has become a fixture in several contests in recent years. He was fifth at this contest last year. He earned his position in this year’s lineup thanks to winning the season’s points title out of the athletes that didn’t win a contest in the Arnold Pro Strongman World Series. This will be his third appearance at this contest.

Jerry Pritchett (USA)
Pritchett was 9th at the ASC last year and earned his spot this year as the second place finisher in points. This will be his 8th appearance in Columbus as a competitor. The Arizona native was the 2017 America’s Strongest Man winner and is well-known for his deadlifting prowess.  

Bobby Thompson (USA)
Thompson is the 2019 Arnold Amateur World Champion. As a result, he earned an invite to this contest and this year will be his professional debut in Columbus.

The Events

The contestants will test their strength in six different events that will tax and challenge their entire bodies while inspiring and entertaining the fans in attendance. On Friday, March 6, they will start with the Trial by Stone event followed by the Bag Over Bar. They will conclude that day with the returning Wheel of Pain.

Saturday, March 7 starts with a fan favorite: the Rogue Elephant Bar Deadlift. Next up will be the Frame Carry. The day and contest will conclude with the Cyr Strategic Dumbbell Challenge which takes place at the Arnold Classic finals on Saturday night.


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