Helsinki GP 1999 

Hartwall Areena, 6.3 
Report 7-9.3 by Sami 
According to our newspapers, next on GP tour will be England, 3rd day of May?  

Svend and Gary, just direct your energy to that competition, and do not repeat your previous mistakes. Remember: It's betta to have a bad start and a  
good finish than ... !

Magnus, from your look in this picture I can see that it's time to start serious training again! You've spent three months just doing sponsor shows - don't forget that both Jouko and this other Magnus lost their title partly just because they were too busy to train. 

Bury your trophies somewhere you don't even get to see them and put this pic on your fridge door. 

The other Magnus once said: If you win WSM once, that's nice, but if you win it twice, people will remember you forever! 

Jouko told me you have just done a 260kg bench press. Well done. Now start training overhead press, Jouko hasn't benched in months! 


Victory ceremony 
From left: Juha, Janne Virtanen, Jokke, Sami Heinonen and Magnus 

In picture below also the sisters Graaf

Results (corrected 24.3)
The event weights are accurate, competitor info however just taken from the program
Competitor Event 1  
5x100kg sacks 
8 meters
Event 2  
Conan's Wheel 
9m diameter, 260kg
Event 3  
Viking Press 
120kg on hands, was 140kg originally (total weight 400kg)
Jouko Ahola (Finland) 
28, 185cm, 123kg (weight accurate)
1st 38.92s 1st 830deg 3rd 14 reps
Laszlo Fekete (Hungary) 
40, 187cm, 140kg
10th 47.37s 7th 240 deg 12th 0 reps (back prob?)
Sami Heinonen (Finland) 
26, 196cm, 135kg
2nd 40.92s 3rd 530deg 2nd 15 reps
Svend Karlsen (Norway) 
32, 188cm, 145kg
Gary Mitchell (USA) 
34, 190cm, 136kg
Heinz Ollesch (Germany) 
32, 190cm, 150kg
11th 49.22s 8th 230deg 7th 10 reps
Phil Pfister (USA) 
27, 201cm, 140kg
4th 41.14s 12th 1 deg barely got it up 1st 16 reps
Wayne Price (R of South Africa) 31, 190cm, 145kg 9th 45.09s 9th 165deg 9th 8 reps
Glenn Ross (Ireland) 
188cm, 165kg
13th 90,13s 10th 55deg 8th 9 reps (approved of 14)
Magnus Samuelsson (Sweden) 
29, 201cm, 140kg
3rd 41.11s 6th 365deg 5th 11 reps
Juha Tuhkasaari (Finland) 
22, 178cm, 115kg
5th 41.36s 2nd 740deg 4th 12 reps
Matti Uppa  (Finland) 
30, 190cm, 130kg
6th 42.52s 5th 370deg 10th 2 reps (shoulder)
Janne Virtanen (Finland) 
28, 200cm, 135kg
7th 42.55s 4th 494deg 5th 11 reps
Wout Zijlstra (The Netherlands) 
34, 202cm, 137kg
12th 50.0s 11th 25deg 11th 1 rep (shoulder?)
Tony Halme (Finland) "13 reps" (was lighter) and a good show
Competitor Event 4  
Event 5  
Crucifix Hold 
very strict
Event 6 
(300kg on hands)
Final results
Jouko Ahola (Finland) 2nd 21.25 1st 44.59s 5th 17.72s (dropped once) 1st 77p
Laszlo Fekete (Hungary) 1st 21.13s 5th 31.87s 4th 16.85s 7th 51p
Sami Heinonen (Finland) 3rd 23.25s 8th 26.11s 3rd 13.37s 2nd 70p
Svend Karlsen (Norway) - - - 13th 24p
Gary Mitchell (USA) - - - 14th 18p
Heinz Ollesch (Germany) 8th 4 stones 9th 22.67s didn't get it up 8th 37p
Phil Pfister (USA) 7th 64.08s 6th 28.01s 7th 24.84s 6th 52p
Wayne Price (R of South Africa) 10th 3 stones 10th 17.86s 6th 24.09s 9th 36p
Glenn Ross (Ireland) 9th 4 stones in 42s 7th 26.54s 8th 39.33s 11th 34p
Magnus Samuelsson (Sweden) 5th 30.86s 4th 32.01s 1st 13.26s 4th 64p
Juha Tuhkasaari (Finland) 6th 52.44s 3rd 33.04s 21.66s 4th 64p
Matti Uppa (Finland) - - - 9th 36p
Janne Virtanen (Finland) 4th 23.38s 2nd 35.73s (2 warnings) 1st 13.26s 3rd 67p
Wout Zijlstra (The Netherlands) 10th 3 stones SHOULDER OR PEC PROB? 12th 25p
This is how the whole competition started: Svend with loading.  

He won the same event last year, and people kept telling me this time Svend will challenge Jouko also in the total competition points. But something was/went wrong. Svend started out faster than anyone, maybe even too fast. It slowed down heavily with the last sack, but nobody was different really. He slipped (legs numb) when he was running back to the finish line, but got up after just two seconds or so and came over the line (actually hit a trigger button). Was unfortunate, but what was the problem? Later we heard he is out, but nothing more. Must have injured his hand or thigh we figured.  

I phoned Svend yesterday, but we had a very noisy connection and all I could hear was "I'm ok". And I got that he doesn't want to talk yet. Then I hung up because of the noise, thought he'll call back later when he feels like it. Jouko had earlier told me, that Svend wasn't at all happy with his performance and his feeling wasn't too great.  

Lactic acid must have been at least one part of the decision to drop out. It can take even 20 minutes to recover (move a little and it's faster then, and remember to sip water to stop vomiting), but from my own experience I'd say it doesn't affect performance as heavily afterwards as one might think. At least when the weight used are relatively small, and you don't take it to a complete breakdown like Gary Mitchell did??  

If it was the fall Svend - try a jiu-jitsu basic course! If it was the leg - stretch more often and train something where legs get to move faster, that would help in avoiding injuries. If it was a flu or like that, get better soon. If it was exhaustion and disappointment, you should've maybe just continued.  
And if you do something like this ever again, I'll come kiss you on TV! You're on a right path in your training, don't slip again!

More about endurance and lactic acid:  
Loading was the only event in this competition, which actually required some endurance. Well, Viking Press maybe also, but they intended it to be heavier originally (Pfister did 16 reps). More of that later.  

Yes, loading was the only "killer event". But it was known beforehand I'd have to say. Just that usually in loading there are less and heavier objects (is five much?). Anyway for the next year I might recommend 3x130kg sacks, that would be easier for some.  

Actually it's not just endurance loading is about: Loading is about speed! Like many of you readers might be able to load 5x100kg if you WALK. Then the acid won't hit you as bad. Running with these sacks is equivalent to a 20 rep FAST squat (say with 140kg), no rest between reps. And like Jouko says, it takes getting used to. Then again, it's just 30-40 seconds. Should a strongman be able to do that? I'd say yes, but probably they will change this event a bit for next year. Still, loading in some form has always been in strongman competitions and guys should be well prepared for it.  

Point being, try it too fast and game over. Glenn Ross had really "no problem" when he started to walk after feeling a problem in his muscles. Well, he finished the last but one...  

The other secret in loading is getting used to walk with weights, carrying stuff around. It really seems to be a problem for some, and they waste too much energy for nothing. The powerlifts and "strict form" exercises don't prepare for carrying anything, or even walking with weights. Farmer's walk, that's a good beginning, but sacks and Husafel Stone, there's something even different!  

Jouko once said in a magazine that big legs take off speed. I don't really agree - remember Ben Johnson? More likely it's about what and how you train - big muscles take off endurance of course, but more or less it's just about training the event. Like if you load these sacks even ten times at gym, you pretty much know what to expect and how to do it. And muscles will adapt to those "20 rep fast squats" in no time. Athletic build would be an advantage of course in this event (and in some others also). 

I did one 20 set today, and nearly vomited still 15 minutes later, when I thought I was ok already. I'm pretty sure that warming up to this kind of stunts helps, because then the pulse won't shoot sky-high instantly. Might try fast walking before loading, and slow afterwards (active recovery)... 

(Remember I'm not a serious strongman myself and can't really give much advice. I welcome all comments about training)  

How did Jouko feel about it:  
The commentator asked Jouko at the stage, if the first event was too tough. Jouko said every event in WSM is tough, and there's no point coming to a competition to cry about it.  

This was for a FINNISH audience then! Later on phone he felt bad for Gary, and wondered what happened to Svend. Jouko had himself gotten Gary invited to Helsinki... and expected he would be prepared for all events.  

Jouko was also very disappointed with his own performance, because he slowed down about as bad as the others. That must be fixed before England GP, he said. Jouko hasn't trained enough with sacks, just barrels (no lift at start really), but he just started (has bought some good sacks only recently?) So it was far from easy for him also. But "because the pause before the next event was so long, I recovered fully".  

He must have made a miscalculation trying to do it as fast as he has used to with barrels. Also no warming up, because he used to warm up with this event...  

Svend would have probably won the next event, Viking Press, and finished 2nd in Conan. And if Gary would have just stopped earlier with the last sack (was impossible because the audience tried to "help" him and he had set his mind in it), who knows what he might have done later.

Here's The Gary Pictorial. He "finished not first, but second in Finland".

Life goes on and so did the competition. Just that some Swedish guys, who weighed 50kg less than what they should've to get on the stage, tried to kill the atmosphere with their singing after the first event. Pretty much succeeded also, the crowd liked Svend's singing better last year and would have wanted just to see more of the competitors and hear some interviews for example. 

Jarkko Hyvärinen, who was in our group of four, reported: 
There were a few bands or dance groups or what so ever entertaining us between the events. One of them was two Swedish boys, which was nothing to listen or see. If there is going to be more of those next year I will take some bricks and stones with me so I can use them as missiles. Other one was a Danish group of three girls and one boy, that was nothing to listen but a LOT to see. And lastly there was Graaf Sisters, which was a lot to see but they didn't sing AC/DC, so there was nothing to listen :( 
Outside the competition I didn't see Eddy Coan, I didn't see Chris Mavromatis. But I did see a lot of XXXX sized guys and a few with more X's. I did see some fitness-bunnies and of course the Graaf Sisters :) 
There were over 8000 spectators, but the atmosphere was not the same that is was last year. I think that there were too many competitors. It is impossible to keep on cheering and yelling to so many competitors for hours. The whole competition lasted about 4 hours with a 30-min break. 

Ok, now it's the time to complain about my photography skills. Most of the pics I took failed miserably; they were blurry which means the shutter time was too long, also meaning too little light and that the film wasn't sensitive enough. I'll write a note here for myself for next year: ISO 1600 film, shutter time forced to 1/60 or 1/125 second. Or just get on the stage (but keep those hands off the sacks and artists). Well, we learn from our mistakes don't we?
The Conan's Wheel of Fortune was next. Jouko got to the bandit sector? Didn't see much of this because the arena was divided into too many parts and some of the equipment laid in the far corners. The sponsors wanted their name visible all the time so... couldn't help it. Of course I was able to follow what happened, and see close-ups from TV screen. 

I'm not sure which part of the Finns' success in this event was being able to try the equipment before, but I think any Conan's Wheel would do if you have one at home... Jouko has said the secret about it is front squat. Pfister, who otherwise did fine in the competition, made even a worse first try than I did a month ago. Surprisingly he had trouble lifting it up. Well, Phil will do fine in later competitions, this guy is athletic, strong and didn't mind even loading at all. He even won the next event, 
Viking Press! Here's a blurry shot from that event, krhmm, might be Phil himself. (the zoom was at max so can't really expect much without a tripod when it's this dark) 

When I saw this machine the first time, the weight on hands was 140kg. It was a very difficult task technically. They made it more a spectator event later and took off 20kg. Now it was much easier for shoulders and the rules also changed a bit; the lift must start from a very low position, not from the ear-level. Actually I think it was even too light now, 16 reps is quite a lot. Jouko with 14 wasn't even at his very best. Jouko complained later that he was only able to do an 80% performance in some events and that he wasn't actually in his top form. It must have been also that the competition was once again over too soon. 

Glenn Ross I feel sorry about: He did like 14 reps, was the first to try the event, and 5 of them were discarded because he didn't lockout or started the presses too high (would have helped a lot if he had seen somebody else do it first). Glenn is obviously a terrific overhead presser. 

The Challenge
"If Tony beats me in my sport, I will beat him in his sport" - Jouko 
(publicly promised to start boxing if he loses Viking Press to Halme)

Here's Tony, over both 190cm and 140kg I'd say. A very big and strong showman/boxer/speaker of a TV program/ex wrestler/ex bodybuilder/ex UFC-competitor/gladiator, who has trained all his life. At least he has a larger mouth than Ahola, and still a bigger name also? Jokke and Tony advertised the competition with the challenge for weeks. Tony said when all events counted, Ahola is stronger for sure, but he wishes to prove a boxer can be strong also, and this is a good event for him. He intends to stick to boxing and this was "mostly just for motivation in training". The bet was 2000$. Even I started to ponder if Tony could have the strength to win. Not likely, but how close it will be? 

Very close, 14 to 13 for Jouko. Except for one thing, they had taken off 2x15kg hidden weights during the half time (I'd estimate the weight on hands was then around 105. I didn't see the trick for I sat so far and spent the half-time chatting with people). The competitors did their performance before the break, Tony just after. It was a better show this way. When Tony had tried it a couple of days before, it didn't go that good so... I could use more colorful language here, but hey I'm not one of those who hate Tony. Things people hate about him are mostly part of his show, and he has started to cool down already.. at 36 years old or close to that. 

The only bad thing about this trick was that he made some of the other competitors look bad. Very few got 13 or more. Actually Tony did even 16, because he told he had no time limit and went to do 3 more a while later... 

Jouko was slightly offended or at least surprised when I didn't get this stunt right away. Ok, take a look at the pic above and tell me Tony can't be quite convincing. 

Back to the reality then, every guy in Finland can't be a world class strongman. 

Or... then again, how's this, four places in top five in this GP? It's a fact however, that the Finns benefited from knowing two events beforehand, the Conan's Wheel and the Viking Press. There won't be that kind of advantage in the following competitions, although the same events will be very likely used later this year, just with a different set of equipment. 

Sami Heinonen and Janne Virtanen are world class strongmen yes, but not at the very top yet. It was not their fault they placed this high here, but maybe it's not the whole truth. There are still others as good, even better. For how long, that's another question of course. Virtanen was a wrestler, and he must still train max strength. Heinonen benched 250 already in junior classes and next weekend he'll try to deadlift 365kg in a competition, so he might have potential if the event training goes well. Just that lately I have realized even max strength can't be measured with the powerlifts really. Take M. Samuelsson for example, he really HAS a great max one-rep strength in many events, even though he is not at his best in squat or deadlift. 

And for Finns doing this great, it was bad for the sport. Also that didn't make me as happy as you might think, as I don't clap to competitors according to what country they happen to live in. Even if a guy from States has a sound attitude towards this sport, I might.. hmm. :-)

The Round Stones, or whatever you happen to call these, haha. There are at least ten names I could think of. Made from a heart of iron, concrete skin, two halves glued and bolted together... Like most of the competitors? 

FEKETE WON! This wasn't a HUGE surprise really, as he did very well in both the team competition and WSM last year, and has competed when Jouko was still just... lifting 2kg dumbbells? This was really something, and Laszlo got loud well-deserved applauses. 

Jouko kept telling me about that bad performance, haha don't start to explain now. When interviewed for cameras he was naturally still very happy with his performances. 

Take a look at the figure next to Jouko - 173kg!! Also Phil Pfister lifted that up, well done! The next pic is about these two again in the next event,


Judging seemed to be difficult this time. Basicly they strived to very clean performances, and Jamie Reeves kept his line all the way. Just that Veneberg (on the other side, can't be seen in the pic) accepted slightly bent arms. 

I think the rules should be even more strict (arms completely straight, no leaning back, a certain level where the weights must be held, and when they drop say 5 cm from that mark, it's over), because now some competitors didn't really even know what was going on. Or tried to cheat a little. 

Wheelbarrow I didn't get good photos of and there wasn't much going on any more really, just that Virtanen kept his 3rd place although Magnus Samuelsson went very fast in this one. Jouko, when he did it with Sami Heinonen (the two last competitors, Jouko had already won - 10p lead), was probably feeling quite relaxed already until Sami started to build up a competition between them. So Jouko ended up trying to do it even too fast, so dropping it once and that's one too often in this event. But I don't think he did mind too much, for the trophy already seemed to be much easier to hold up.

Misc comments and later additions

Somebody asked if Glenn Ross had eaten one of the smaller stones... 

The guy next to me said that it will take five years, but then all the competitors will be prepared for any strongman event. 

Info about doping tests: Sponsors require it, also in Morocco there was a test after each event. If somebody gets caught, he's out of the competition and loses all prize money. It won't be announced however, but you can follow who's missing from a competition. I don't know the actual policy exactly... 

Grip strength comes with genetics, either you have it or you don't - My friend claimed Jouko had said this in a interview, don't know for sure 

However in an interview I heard, Jouko said like: "This may be a strong statement, but I think I train harder than anyone else in the sport. Saturdays/Sundays the whole competition through, 5-6 hours, plus 3 hours workdays, together 5 times a week." 

Jouko told me he doesn't know right now if Ed Coan and him are going to deadlift against each other, and when. 

Other interview, about strongman events being very dangerous: Jouko thinks they certainly are not, if you train well and use some common sense. Usually the weights aren't at the extreme limits. 

I wrote: "four places in top five in this GP goes to Finns, that's not good for the sport." 

Gary Mitchell commented: "If the top ten in the world are Finns, that's great! Keep up the good work. If the top ten in the world are from all different nations, that's great too. We shouldn't let politics enter into our great sport. Remember this sport is about who is the strongest and is not about nationality or even personality. Displaying who is the strongest is what is best for the sport." 

Jarkko:Ed Coan was in Arnold's bench press competition (source

Additions 4.4.

Svend's and Gary's pulses were dangerously high after Loading so the doctor at the place thought it might not be wise to continue.

Samuelsson used knee wraps, Pfister wore two belts in Viking Press. Virtanen tried to nearly jerk it up. 

TV commentator asked (in Finnish) what did go trough Jouko's mind during the Crucifix: He answered 'I don't know if there generally goes anything if one practices this kind of sport!'

Wasn't quite enough Magnus, but
better pics next year!
Next we loaded the Graaf sisters to the back seat of our car and took a longer route to the airport.