The 10 Best Strongmen & Strongwomen of 2023

The 2023 strongman season was one the sport won’t soon forget. It saw a bevy of records fall, some of the sport’s all-time greats retire despite posting impressive results, and arguably the greatest year any strongman has ever had.

While there are certainly more than 10 athletes with notable performances in 2023 worth discussing, including Kevin Faires‘ dominance in grip events, Mark Felix‘s retirement from World’s Strongest Man (WSM) competition, and Evan Singleton‘s surge to the top tier of the sport, among others, below are 10 athletes who’s 2023 strongman accolades and moments topped the charts:

The 10 Best Strongmen & Strongwomen of 2023

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Mitchell Hooper

Did Mitchell Hooper have the greatest year of any strongman ever in 2023? It’s certainly arguable that the answer is yes. His performances at the top contests of the year paint the picture of unseen dominance in the modern era:

Competition Results

Hooper did not miss a single podium across the seven major strongman contests he competed in throughout 2023. He had a 57 percent wing percentage that included gold at the three most prestigious competitions in the sport today: WSM, Arnold Classic, and Rogue Invitational.

It’s arguable that the Shaw Classic is on the cusp of entering the echelon of contests with the three aforementioned tentpoles, if not already considered as one, and the Canadian pulled a silver with a torn hamstring. To go from an unknown rookie at the 2022 WSM to the most dominant athlete in the game after only a year and a half on the circuit is crazy.

Hooper’s career trajectory is trending toward GOAT (greatest of all time) status, and he’s barely out of his sophomore season.

Erin Murray

If you didn’t know who Erin Murray was before, that almost certainly changed in 2023. She was a highlight reel of competition excellence from right from the first quarter.

Murray scored the gold at the 2023 Arnold Amateur Strongwoman World Championships in March. She coveted a spot on Team USA for the 2023 World’s Strongest Nation (WSN) contest in November, triumphing over Team UK.

Murray capped her year by winning the U82KG World’s Strongest Woman (WSW) contest. 2023 was a star-making year for Murray, who is likely to enter 2024 contests as the athlete to beat.

Aivars Šmaukstelis

While Šmaukstelis failed to reach the 2023 WSM Final, the rest of his year was one most strongman historians would likely calibrate as one of the most consistent and impressive performances in recent memory.

Šmaukstelis kicked off his 2023 season highlights with a bronze medal at the 2023 Europe’s Strongest Man (ESM) contest. The Latvian then went on the most insane tear on the Strongman Champions League (SCL) circuit one could envision:

Strongman Champion League Results

In addition to all that hardware, Šmaukstelis scored a win at the 2023 World Strongman Championships (WSC). The only lull in Šmaukstelis’ season was a 12th-place rank at the 2023 Shaw Classic.

While Šmaukstelis certainly has room for improvement against the world’s best at the tentpole competitions, there is little doubt that he is a favorite to win anywhere in Europe.

Cheick “Iron Biby” Sinou

One could argue that Iron Biby had a relatively subpar year. He ranked 10th at the 2023 Strongman Classic and had to withdraw from the 2023 WSM competition before it began due to a biceps injury.

What Iron Biby did accomplish, however, is continued to push the boundaries in a way no other strongman could: he toppled the log lift world record again.

At the 2023 Log Lift World Championships (LLWC), Iron Biby successfully hoisted 230 kilograms overhead, ousting his previous record, which stood since 2021, by a single kilogram. The record before that of 228 kilograms was held by four-time WSM champion Žydrūnas Savickas since 2015.

The alteration to the record books in one of strongman’s most notable events would garner a spot on this list in any year, and 2023 is no different.

Pavlo Kordiyaka

Pavlo Kordiyaka had what can only be described as one of the biggest roller coaster years in the sport. He started it off with a bang, winning the 2023 ESM title, the most prestigious trophy on his mantle to date.

From there, he crushed the group stage of the 2023 WSM competition, and the event breakdown for the WSM Final is quite favorable for him to claim the leader’s advantage early on. The leader’s advantage is when an athlete competes later in turn order on subsequent events — a sizeable information advantage over their opponents.

However, in the Reign Shield Carry event, the most unimaginable penalty effectively eliminated Kordiyaka from podium contention. He logged the farthest distance of any athlete in the field, but a miscommunication with the judge at the turn of the course caused the judge staff to penalize Kordiyaka a staggering 20 meters.

While it is clear from the above video that Kordiyaka’s foot did not touch the line, he has to trust that the signal from the judge indicated as much is sufficient. However, the judge’s arm lowered, signaling he was clear to turn, only to be yelled at to come back — far too late with a 400-pound shield in hand and a language barrier to overcome amongst a cheering crowd.

The 20-meter penalty — equivalent to the full length of the course — was so severe and so out of alignment with the structure of the event that it baffled both Kordiyaka and the crowd that looked on. It cost Kordiyaka six points directly in the standings and affected the remainder of the WSM Final.

Despite encountering one of the most unforgiving (and memorable) penalties in WSM history, Kordiyaka rebounded to win the 2023 SCL Cyprus event in October and claim bronze at the 2023 WSC.

Brian Shaw

Brian Shaw is a four-time WSM champion and promoter of the Shaw Classic, which has risen to prominence in the sport to be considered a tentpole event alongside the WSM, Arnold Classic, and Rogue Invitational. In 2023, Shaw won his second Shaw Classic to cap a historic competitive career.

En route to that fairytale ending for one of strongman’s all-time greats, Shaw competed in. his final WSM contest, finishing seventh overall, but securing his record 15th consecutive WSM Final appearance. It is a record that will likely stand for at least a generation, if not longer.

While Shaw’s time in the competitive strongman arena came to a close at age 41, his impact on the sport will continue to be felt, and his presence will likely remain a mainstay at high-level competition. He’s also going to make his MMA debut in February.

Lucy Underdown

Lucy Underdown’s highlight reel in the gym throughout 2023 could have filled this entire article or worthwhile lifts. From deadlifting 667 pounds or 680-pound quadruples, both of which are more than her current world record, Underdown became a pinnacle of the strongwoman sphere in 2023.

Underdown’s competitive season opened with a silver medal at the 2023 UK’s Strongest Woman contest in May. She improved upon that by securing gold at the 2023 Official Strongman Games (OSG) European Championships in August.

The podium finishes kept coming. Underdown scored successive silvers in the 2023 Britain’s Strongest Woman contest in September and in the 2023 World’s Strongest Woman contest in December. Underdown is a force and will likely step on many a podium in 2024.

Rauno Heinla

Heinla is a deadlift machine. Physicists should study the Estonian’s posterior chain and replicate it to improve the strength of construction cranes.

Heinla’s competitive season opened with a silver at the 2023 Australia’s Strongest International contest. He ranked second at the 2023 WSC and won the 2023 Masters WSC. However, his biggest accolade came in July when he locked out a new 18-inch deadlift world record of 540 kilograms (1,190.5 pounds) at the 2023 Tartu Rammumees ja Rammunaine contest in Tartu, Estonia.

Heinla’s most memorable moment of the year came in a legendary Stone-Off during the 2023 WSM qualifying stage against Brian Shaw. They passed the sixth and final stone back and forth a whopping six times before Heinla failed to make an attempt. Despite having converted the same number of stones as Shaw, the rankings meant Heinla’s failure first eliminated him from the competition.

At 41 years of age, Heinla continues to be one of the most dominant deadlifters in strongman and remains a threat to podium static strength contests. Expect to see plenty of the Estonian in 2024.

Inez Carrasquillo

Carrasquillo was a feature of two elite contests in 2023: the 2023 Arnold Strongwoman Classic (ASWC), where she ranked fifth overall, and the 2023 WSW contest, where she finished just off the podium in fourth overall. However, neither is why the Puerto Rican is on this list.

Carrasquillo earned their spot on this list via a remarkable feat of strength that altered the strongwoman history books. In July, Carrasquillo scored the all-time Women’s log press world record of 145.9 kilograms (321.4 pounds) at the 2023 Rainier Classic in Burien, WA.

Like Iron’s Biby’s spot on this list, Carrasquillo crushing a renowned world record such as the log press is, by itself, worthy of a spot on the top 10 for 2023. Luckily, the strength world will get to see more feats from Carrasquillo in 2024.

Kristján Jón Haraldsson

Haraldsson is easily one of the top strongmen in Iceland. He won the 2023 Strongest Man in Iceland and the 2023 Iceland’s Strongest Man competitions. Given that some of strongman’s most iconic champions have come from Iceland, including four-time WSM Magnus Ver Magnusson, 2018 WSM champion Hafthor Björnsson, and WSM mainstay Eythor Ingolfsson Melsted, Haraldsson is in historically good company.

However, the reason for Haraldsson’s spot on this list is for more than his impressive competitive resume. It’s also for his embodiment of the sport of strongman.

Strongman competition is often dealing with the unknown. Whether it be odd objects, inclement weather — for example, WSM is always in intense heat while the Magnus Ver Magnusson Strongman Classic is in frigid cold — or unforeseen circumstances, strongman competition is unpredictable.

When Iron Biby withdrew a half hour before the first event of the qualifying stage — a medley — at the 2023 WSM in Myrtle Beach, SC, Haraldsson was on standby and entered the competition on effectively no notice. Furthermore, Haraldsson finished second in that medley behind 2020 WSM champion Oleksii Novikov.

Hopefully, 2023 was only the start of Haraldsson’s foray into the elite level of strongman. At just 25 years of age, he has more than a decade of his prime to go.

Featured image: @e.murray_pro.strongwoman on Instagram

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