Holly at the World’s Strongest Woman

We caught up with Holly to find out where she placed at the WEAH’s (World Heavy Events Association) World's Strongest Woman in Finland.

Team GB shows the world its sportspersonship

It was an experience of a lifetime representing GB at the World's Strongest Woman in Finland on the 9 to 10 September. I planned to place second or third on day one, so I’d ease into the competition and get my nerves out of the way.

Day one: logs, wheelbarrows and sandbags

The first event was the log for reps. The logs were slightly smaller in circumference than logs used in other federations. I wasn’t concerned about it while warming up. In fact, it felt great, and I knew I would be ok. I was in the first group to complete the event which put me at a slight disadvantage. I gave 100% so the other competitors had something to beat.

As soon as the whistle blew, I flew out the gates and got my first rep, followed quickly by what we trained for ‘a cluster set of two’. After the second rep, I paused, centred myself and went for a third. I was unsuccessful, but fortunately, because the log was heavy for my weight category, and my competitor failed this event, I placed second.

We moved quickly onto the wheelbarrow race. As silly as it sounds, the wheelbarrow was set at 210kg for 22 metres. I was paired with the event leader. I stormed out, and I won our heat – maintaining second place.

The last event involved carrying a sandbag on my shoulder. If you’ve been following my journey, you know this is my least favourite. But, to achieve what I truly wanted on day one, I had to place well. 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. I fumbled to pick up the third sandbag, dropping it twice before getting it on my shoulder. I was disappointed, but I knew I could pull it back on day two. I finished day one in joint third with my close friend Beau.

Exploring Finland with Team France and Canada

After day one, we, Team GB, joined Team France and Canada and some amazing Scottish athletes to have fun and clear our heads. We hired electric scooters to explore Kuopio in Finland, swam in a lake, walked through the markets and shared strongman tales from previous competitions.

Day two: sauna deadlifts and sandbag runs

On the morning of day two, I was convinced the Finnish lake we had swam in had magical powers because I didn’t feel fatigued. Today was going to be my day. 

We kickstarted the day’s events by throwing bags. Because I placed joint third, I was disadvantaged. I had to aim for second place and give an absolute flying performance. And of course, that’s what I did. I came second by 0.06 of a second. 

The next event was the sauna deadlift. I’ve been given the title of a ‘deadlift superstar’, and wow, what a deadlift machine I was! I had to win this event to pull myself up from third.

My handlers, Lewis and Josh, prepped me, shoving salts under my nose and reminding me what we had prepared for. “Work for a set of 7. Everything after that is an extra.” I won the event completing nine reps, taking me back to the second spot.

The last event involved a sandbag load and run. I hate sandbags, but sandbag runs are fun, and I love picking up speed. I knew if I placed fourth, I’d keep my position and maintain my spot on the podium.

By the end of the fourth sandbag run my legs turned to jelly and I was forced to rest quickly to prevent myself from passing out. Although it wasn’t my best, I completed the run!

Announcing the winners

Finally, places were announced and we reviewed our score sheets. Me and Beau had secured second and third place representing Team GB. Amazing results! 

Unfortunately, once the placings were announced, one of our competitors left the arena, refusing to return as she was disappointed with her performance. She then contacted the promoters and contested her scoring. 

This behaviour is against federation rules that most athletes follow, but the promoters listened and frustratingly awarded her second place, pushing me to third.

Neither I nor Beau let it taint our experience or achievements. I couldn’t have given any more. I pushed my limits to near exhaustion, respected my competitors and cheered them on. I laughed and made so many memories and friends. But it's hard not to feel disappointed when I did not get the opportunity to stand on the podium.

The federation formally outlined its pride in providing a neutral environment and refereeing in a fair sport. The promoter's behaviour could have been better and consistent with WHEA's expectations for their home countries' athletes. The individual in question will be fined and banned for a set amount of time. 

So what’s next?

Although I’m happy WHEA has shown a great amount of support, this has tainted our experience of WHEA's World's Strongest Woman. I have been offered a place to compete in the world championships in 2024 and the team and I will discuss what we think is best. However, I’m super proud of our 2023 achievements. 

Training in off-season

I’m now in the off-season, and as much as that may sound fun and easy, it’s the time to build, grow and maximise my potential for next year, and focus on becoming a more all-round athlete. 2024 has some huge opportunities coming, and I can’t wait. Onwards and upwards. I’ll never give up.

You can also find out how we’ve supported Holly’s journey and how Holly achieved second place at the Ultimates.