By A. Ivanhoe

Western has a reserve of physical power that usually goes unseen as we bustle from class to class and share ideas with our friends and professors. Thankfully, that will change this month as two competitions are set to exhibit the raw, physical strength of some of Western’s mightiest students and staff.

The Ultimate Viking Challenge pits teams of four students—two men and two women—against one another in a series of physical challenges inspired by the television series “American Gladiators.” It will take place on at 5:45 p.m. Monday, May 18 in the Wade King Student Recreation Center (SRC).

Then, at noon on Saturday, May 30, Western’s Bodybuilding and Strongman Club will host the Strong Viking Competition at the SRC track and field, testing the physical strength of Western’s strongest and most daring students and staff in events demonstrating their ability to lift, carry and push extremely heavy objects.

Both events are free of charge for spectators.

The Strong Viking Competition consists of a lightweight and a heavyweight class. Ten contestants in each weight class will compete in five events during the course of the day.

The first event will be the “Overhead Medley,” where each contestant will lift various objects over their heads. These include a dumbbell, weighing 95 pounds for lightweights and 120 pounds for heavyweights, which must be lifted with only one hand. This is followed by the axle, a two-inch-thick barbell weighing 200 pounds for lightweights and 240 pounds for heavyweights, then a 205 to 230-pound log and finally by a 240 to 275-pound barbell.

Contestants will then compete in the “Yoke Walk.” A yoke consists of weights suspended from either side of a bar, which entrants will carry on their shoulders for a distance of 60 feet.

This is followed by the “Last Man Standing Dead Lift,” in which contestants will lift weights from the ground to their waists, beginning from a starting weight and increasing the weight with each lift until only one contestant is left who can lift the weight.

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u'Chris Lee demonstrates the tire flip in Red Square. Photo by Erik Simkins.'

Then, contestants will take turns pushing a 550-pound or 700-pound tire end-over-end in the “Tire Flip” event. The competitor who flips the tire a certain number of times the fastest wins.

The competition will climax with the “Atlas Stones” event, in which contestants will have to load five concrete balls onto a 52-inch-high platform. Lightweights will have Atlas stones ranging in weight from 180 to 292 pounds and heavyweights will have Atlas stones ranging from 240 to 350 pounds.

After all the events conclude, the winners in each weight class will each be presented with a sword as a symbol of their physical strength.

The Ultimate Viking Challenge is an event organized by SRC Fitness Coordinator Ron Arnold, who will also participate in the Strong Viking Competition as a contestant.
Teams consisting of two male and two female students will compete in “American Gladiator”-style events. These include “Powerball,” in which contestants must get a number of dodgeballs into barrels defended by “gladiators” armed with large pads they use to block and bump anybody who comes near a barrel with a ball; “Joust,” in which two contestants stand on an inflatable pad and try to knock their opponent off the pad using large, foam quarterstaffs; and “Pull and Plunder,” a game of tug-of-war in which a rope is attached to backward-facing contestants on either end and each contestant must pull against the other to capture a flag located in front of them.

The Ultimate Viking Challenge also includes a large obstacle course that teams must complete in the shortest time possible. Like the Strong Viking Competition, it has a “Tire Flip” component, although all four team members get to work together. The Ultimate Viking Challenge is currently in its third year.

Participants in both competitions must sign a waiver acknowledging the risks inherent to the competition and an emergency medical technician, a registered nurse and athletic trainers will be on standby in case there are any injuries.

The Strong Viking Competition was conceived by members of the Bodybuilding and Strongman Club, said senior Chris Lee, who is helping plan the event and will be vying for the sword.
“For me, the draw of the sport is it combines the strength of power lifting with the explosiveness of the Olympics,” he said. “When you see someone do a car dead lift, it’s that much more relatable than watching someone dead lift a bunch of weights.”

“It’s just [an] insane weight the average person can’t fathom,” sophomore Jake Renouard, a club member who has been involved in planning the event and will participate in the competition.

According to Singer, the process of deciding who would compete was a simple case of self-elimination.

“We originally called people and asked if they really wanted to do it … then we called some of the guys and told them the weights” they would be lifting, she said.
Most of the initial entrants decided not to compete, but “the people who dropped out wanted to volunteer and help out,” Singer said. “The more the better.”