May 20th, 2024

Feats of strength on display at Clash of the Coulees

By BRENDAN MILLER on May 7, 2024.

Alli Martin is seen competing in the women's Yolk Walk event during the Clash in the Coulees Strongman and Strongwoman event Saturday. Women competing in the event lifted 300 pounds.--NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER

The sounds of hulkish grunts and groans mixed with metal clanking and a crowd cheering could be heard in the river valley Saturday as the Hat hosted its first strongman/strongwoman competition.

More than 35 strength athletes from as far away as Nova Scotia competed to test their brawn during the inaugural Clash of the Coulees held in the parking lot of the old Arena.

The competition, held in partnership with the Alberta Strongman Association, consisted of five challenging events including the long cleaning press, deadlift, farmers walk, yolk run and loading medley.

All sanctioned events are designed to push athletes’ minds and might to their limits against several hundreds of pounds in weight.

In the yolk run event, for example, athletes must walk 20 metres while carrying a loaded frame (up to 720 pounds for men and 300 pounds for women) balanced across their shoulders.

“You work hard. You push yourself,” said Ray Zich, event co-ordinator. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like, or who your dad is. You come out to work hard, you encourage other people, you’re going to have a home in the sport of strongman.”

The Clash of the Coulees is a regional event and the first step in an athlete’s journey to competing in nationals. Athletes who podium at regional events will then be invited to compete at provincials and then nationals.

Zich calls strongman and strongwoman athletes the ‘misfits’ of sports and says he’s seen its popularity continue to grow throughout the country as it appeals to a variety of people.

“Maybe they don’t fit in with the team sports or they played the team sports in the past,” explained Zich. “You know they’re out of university or they’ve gone out of high school and they don’t really have the athletic outlet anymore.

“If they find a strongman they have that outlet to push themselves to improve and to be healthy. If you go to a strongman event you’re going to see slim people, larger people, tall people, short people. It doesn’t matter, it’s all about the performance.”

Zich says the sport celebrates camaraderie and is especially welcoming to new athletes looking to test their strength.

“You kind of feed off each other’s energy,” said Zich. “Your fellow athletes are pushing you to be your best and you’re pushing them. We’re all competitors against each other, but at the same time, we are very often each other’s biggest fans as well.”

The next provincial competition called the Capital City Showdown runs June 1 in Sherwood Park.

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