The 2020 winner placed third at the 2023 competition in South Carolina.
2020 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) winner Oleksii Novikov was hoping to make the two-time champions list at the 2023 WSM competition in Myrtle Beach, SC. However, he finished in third place behind champion Mitchell Hooper and runner-up Tom Stoltman.
On May 8, 2023, Novikov shared a 42-minute video summarizing his WSM week on his YouTube channel. The former champion reviewed his performance through the competition’s 11 events. However, one important piece of information he shared could shed some light on his surprise third place finish in the Circus Dumbbell event on the final day of competition. Novikov has traditionally dominated this challenging overhead press in previous competitions, setting an unofficial world record when he lifted 153.2 kilograms (337.8 pounds) during training in 2021.
Novikov revealed that He entered WSM 2023 with an elbow injury sustained in training, although he did not discuss a specific diagnosis. Novikov spoke Ukrainian and the captions showed the English translation. He spoke about the injury at 30:36 in the video below.
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Novikov suffered the injury in training while performing the circus barbell with weights heavier than what he would ultimately lift in competition – at WSM 2023 Novikov was only able to successfully press 132.5 kilograms (291 pounds) overhead. He shared that he initially thought it was simple elbow pain and less serious than it actually was.
“In the last training session [before the WSM contest], I lifted 144 kilograms (317 pounds). At 148 kilograms (326 pounds) I didn’t get the lock. And during all of these processes, I sustained an injury that I didn’t pay much attention to. Just some elbow pain. I kept training and only then noticed this problem with my elbow.
The elbow lost its function at full extension and activation where it needed to be activated. And that caused problems with the lockout. And that’s why barring heavy weights became a problem for me… I don’t know if I need surgery or not, but I’ll definitely take care of my elbow,” he said.
He felt that the lockout issues were the reason he struggled during the last day of competition’s barbell event. He’s not sure if he’ll need surgery or not, but Novikov made it sound like it’s at least being considered.
Novikov realized that this issue and the outcome of that event could very well have cost him the South Carolina title.
“My signature event became my Achilles heel. It’s definitely a surprise for me and it knocked me down a bit mentally.”
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Novikov also appreciated that his problems for the competition went beyond physical problems. Many athletes feel that sport is as mental as it is physical, and Novikov is no different. Hearing and reading comments that suggested he “win or not come back” may have backfired.
“You all want me to win and so do I. I guess no less than you, but it puts a kind of pressure on me that I’m starting to think it’s super important and I’m planning my performance around win or nothing. And if any problem occurs, such as [Reign Total Body Fuel Shield Carry event]it hurts me mentally and overall it’s hard for me to focus on what’s coming next.”
Novikov also shared that he will be taking some time off to allow his body to recover from the competitions he has competed in earlier this year and allow his elbow to heal regardless of whether he has surgery or not.
Novikov also sustained a lat injury earlier in the year ahead of the 2023 Europe’s Strongest Man competition. An athlete of Novikov’s caliber clearly possesses world-class levels of strength in both brawn and spirit, but time to rebuild and realign may be what he needs to put himself in the best position to compete in the future to be succesfull. He hasn’t revealed what his next competition will be or if he will be doing another show in 2023.
Featured Image: Todd Burandt / Courtesy of World’s Strongest Man