Arnold Sports Festival – A post event report
The Arnold Sports Festival is the largest multi-sport festival in the world, with events taking place all over the world. The event was founded in Columbus, Ohio in 1989, and has been a regular event ever since. Now it is also being arranged on every continent. We had the honor and pleasure of being invited to the event in USA this year, where the first Disabled Strongman competition was to be arranged during the Arnold Sports Festival.
The event in Columbus 2017 saw the attendance of 18,000 athletes from 80 countries, competing in 70 different sports and events. Although we have not seen any official numbers, rumors suggested more than 100,000 visitors daily to the EXPO part of the event, which was held at the Columbus Convention Center, downtown Columbus. This was also the location for the Strongman competitions.
Our travel to the event started on Thursday 2 March, and took us from Frankfurt, Germany via Newark, NJ, to Columbus. Although the flights were pretty uneventful, it was a long and very tiring journey. Having a delayed flight and engine troubles at Newark added so much exhaustion and stress to Karen, that she at one point was ready to call off the whole adventure. Her special meal on the transatlantic flight had mistakenly been given to another passenger, and with severe food allergies it is difficult to find any real food at airports. So being very hungry and tired, she could not see how she would be able to get back into shape for such a big competition. But eventually we arrived in Columbus, got some food on the way to our motel, and headed straight to bed.
On Friday we had arranged to meet with Toby George, one of the organizers behind the competition and partner in the Worlds Strongest Disabled Man, to receive our armbands that would provide us access to the EXPO during the event. With this out of the way we could enter the EXPO and take in the fantastic atmosphere and see all the vendor exhibitions. We also had the pleasure of for the first time meeting Magnús Ver Magnússon, 4 times Worlds Strongest Man, and co-owner of the Worlds Strongest Disabled Man.
As we were walking around we were approached by a local NBC4 journalist who was making interviews with foreign visitors and athletes. When she learned about Karens background and reason for attending, she did an interview that was aired as the main news story on their local channel the same day, and created awareness about this at a level we could only have dreamt of. In fact, during the next few days we had numerous people approach us to let us know they had seen this interview on TV. Some even claimed this being their one reason for coming to the EXPO.
Still feeling the long journey in our bodies, we made a relatively early exit from the EXPO, in order to get sufficient rest to prepare for Sundays competition.
For Saturday it was scheduled a meeting for all disabled athletes at 5pm, in order to see the equipment and get a run-through of next days competition. Knowing that the EXPO is packed with people and can be quite exhausting, we delayed going in until the afternoon. With a bit less people now, we had a chance to speak more with some of the vendors, and we would especially mention LA Tuning Elements and Rock Tape, both companies that provide products we are impressed with. More info on this later.
At 5pm we met up with all the others as scheduled, and got all the information and instructions required prior to the competition the following morning.
On Sunday we were up bright and early, making sure we were out in good time. Also, before a competition like this, a good breakfast is mandatory.
The competition itself was held on the strongman stage, with a 10am start. The events held during the competition were:
– Arm over arm pull
– Front hold
– Dumbell press
– Atlas stones
The athletes put in some amazing performances throughout the competition, to the astonishment of a good size audience. The equipment provided for the athletes was of a good quality and standards, and sufficient number of helpers ensured the whole competition ran very smooth.
After the competition was over and the medals had been given to the athletes, Karen had an attempt of setting a new World Record for female disabled strongman deadlift. With everybody’s eyes on her, she managed to set a new record by lifting 125kg/275.6lbs. A great achievement.
After returning to the motel with Karens new World Record and new gold medal, it was time to pack our things together in preparation for our return to Europe.
The final evening was spent in good company with key people in the Disabled Strongman arena; Magnús Ver Magnússon, Toby George and Gary Clarke, as well as Volundur Wally Thorbjornsson and Darren Watson. A good meal combined with a very good opportunity to also discuss our plans and involvement in setting up a disabled strongman competition in Germany in collaboration with our partner Crossfit-Saar.
The return home went reasonably smooth. Fortunately the flight across the Atlantic had few passengers, so we managed to secure Karen a 4-seat row where she could lie down and sleep for almost the duration of the flight. This really turned out to be a life-saver, as we totaled 27 hours on the road until we arrived at our final destination of Bergen, Norway in the late afternoon of Tuesday.
We would like to thank the Arnold Sports Festival, Strongman Corporation and the Worlds Strongest Disabled Man for a fantastic event. The people mentioned above in particular, as well as Arnar Már Jónsson, the founder of WSDM who unfortunately was prevented from attending. Also a great thank you to all the people working around and during the competition to make it happen – none mentioned, none forgotten. A final thank you also goes out to the fellow competing athletes, for their good camaraderie and good sportsmanship.