2012 MHP Liberty Strongman Classic – Pope’s late surge proves victorious.
July 4th, 2012 – Philadelpha Pa
Done Pope laid in agony on the scolding hot pavement moments after he finished the 1,200 pound motorcycle drag to pull out a long chanced come from behind victory over John “The Moose” Connor to wrap up the 2012 MHP Liberty Classic this afternoon.
Connor mounted a seemingly safe 5 point lead after winning 2 of the previous 4 events while finishing no worse than 2nd in the other disciplines going into the final. Injuring a calf on the first flip of the 1,000 pound tire/ motorcycle medley, Connor effectively left the door open for Pope to Capitalize on.
Pope, the last competitor of the final event, seized the opportunity and rallied to finish the hell-ish final leg of the medley as the only athlete to complete the course.
After the event Connor quietly stated, “I’ve lost before, but nothing has felt like this…I feel this deep in my stomach.” Pausing, Connor continued, “To lead through two days and have it end like that is hard to take.”
Connor got off to a quick opening lead Tuesday night after burning through the atlas stone series as the electric sold out 10,000 seat Coca Cola Park in Allentown PA erupted when his final stone landed on top of the wood platform.
Pope finished with a quick 2nd place followed by Louis Costa and Mark Kimener.
Competitor John Dennis, after finishing the final 380 lb. cement atlas stone said, “Man, its just something you have to experience, this whole thing.” Dennis continued, ” No matter what your politics in the sport are: the crowd, the kids, the fans … It’s all very special.”
The events turned to the packed Benjamin Franklin Boulevard in downtown Philadelphia as part of the WaWa Welcome America 4th of July Celebration Wednesday afternoon. The group of strongman would fight not only the brutalizing events, but also the harsh elements as well.
“Hot, doesn’t describe what today feels like on the pavement,” retired professional strongman/head referee Walt Gogola stated behind a white ice soaked towel wrapped loosely around his head. Continuing, “Either way, the show must go on. This is strongman”
The show continued with Connor blasting out 9 reps overhead with the 300 pound log as many athletes had a hard time finding solid ground on the crowned blacktop.
Finishing out the top three were Mark Kimener with an impressive 7 reps and Don Pope hitting his 6th rep as the 75 second time limit expired.
The “Arnold Strongman Classic” inspired Hummer Tire Deadlift event was next up for the strongman as the humidity and temperature crushed down the athletes and fans.
John Dennis bowed out of contention at the 870 pound mark, while Connor and Team Ironmill athlete Louis Costa were left to duel it out at 900 pounds. After Costa successfully made his final attempt, Connor just nearly missed the bar lockout as the apparatus’ tires failed to pull off the pavement.
Since Costa is convenient for quote in these cases, Louis dryly joked, “Well, it’s not Shaw (Brian)…but…through my newly acquired power gut, I’ll take the 900.”
With three events down, the seated arm over arm truck pull was set up and tested. Steve Kirit, former top American strongman, motioned to the competitors and shook his head after the test saying, “its too lite!”
Kirit’s deduction would prove true as the top 5 competitors were held within 2 seconds of each other while all of the athletes including 7 time Worlds Strongest Man competitor Mark Phillippi blazed the course.
Pope handled the thickly roped 10,000 pound vehicle easily as Connor was right on his heals finishing in second place despite “The Moose” pulling an abdominal muscle on his last tug of the rope leaving the truck to roll across the finish line un manned. Kimener rounded out the top 3 finishing less than 1 second behind the leader, Pope.
The vaunted sled drag was set to finish the day. During the 2010 MHP Liberty Classic, Worlds Strongest Man competitor Brian Shaw awarded this grueling event the distinct title of “Hardest drag I’ve ever encountered.”
The drag, usually preceded in the past years with a shield carry or yoke run, has recently been coupled with a 1000 pound tire flip before dragging the 1,200 pound motorycle/sled combo for 60 long feet.
Mark Kimener started the event with one of the gutsiest displays of determination on the day nearly finishing the drag for a second year in a row and setting the leading distance despite being the lightest competitor. Midway through the competitors, John Dennis edged his way into the top 3 for the 2nd time of the contest getting the sled to mid course.
Connor then shocked the crowd and put the trophy ceremony on hold as he pulled up with what looked like a severe calf cramp on the first try of the tire.
After the scorer’s table announced to Pope a win in the medley would take first place overall, the Worlds Strongest Man veteran cautiously worked his way through the first 3 flips of the tire and battled his way through the drag falling across the finish line in spectacular fashion to solidify his win.
As the crowd erupted, Pope staggered into the competitors tent and collapsed on the ground in front of cooling fans with a towel draped across his head. After surviving through two venues, five events and scorching temperatures, both Pope and Connor along with their fellow competitors sat exhausted.
Following the show, promoter Al Thompson said of the afternoon, “I am proud of the guys (Strongman). The crowd loved these guys and they gave them everything they had in return. The fans are why we do this in the first place. We appreciate their support very much.”
Judging from the many autograph requests and pictures taken of the giant men from the awe struck fans, it was safe to say, the feeling was mutual.