Paul Smith Strongman
Paul Smith suffered the disappointment of losing the England’s Strongest Man title this year but wasted no time picking himself as he bounced back with a Ultimate Strongman Junior World Championship title. Sport in Profile Magazine recently caught up with Paul to find out how things are going.
SIP: How long have you been involved and what first attracted you to Strongman competition?
PS: I have been training for strongman for just over six years now. I was training in a local gym when I was 16 with no real competitive goals when I met a guy that had trained for strongman previously who was coming back from injury. I ended up training with him regularly and after a few weeks he asked if I’d ever considered strongman.
I said I hadn’t but it sounded intriguing so we carried on training and after several months I entered a local competition just after my 17th birthday and although I had a terrible placing I really enjoyed the competition. The biggest thing was the individual nature of the sport where all the success or failure was down to me, as I got stronger some of the more visually impressive feats of strength became really enjoyable to achieve such as deadlifting a car for example.
PS: The mentally most challenging aspect of competing is on the actual competition day when you have an event you are looking forward to that should be good for you on paper that then goes badly and you have to pick yourself up and come back with a better performance in the next event.
Physically, it is pushing yourself at the end of a training session when it feels like you have nothing left but you know you have to get through it. The most rewarding aspect of competing is simply the feeling of accomplishment after winning a competition that has taken months of hard work and knowing that you really did give your all in the preparation.
SIP: How would you say the year has gone for you so far?
PS: This year has been up and down for me with some big successes and some big disappointments. My first competition of the year was Britain Strongest Man in January where I was feeling very strong going in and had a good showing through most of the day, sitting in 4th going into the last event where I completely messed up. I dropped from 4th down to 8th and lost my chance to go to Worlds Strongest Man which was tough to take.
I had a good result at the World Team Championships, placing 4th with Graham Hicks against some massive names in the sport but then in July I had a terrible performance at England’s Strongest Man where I lost my title. That was pretty rough and I found it got to me quite badly for a few weeks.
Fortunately at the Uks Strongest Man competition, after giving myself some rest and feeling much stronger than at England’s, I ended up with 5th place which although wasn’t as good as I’d hoped was much better than my performance at England’s Strongest Man which helped my confidence massively.
After that I carried on feeling stronger and stronger and then competed at the Ultimate Strongman Junior World Championships where I finally felt at my strongest ever for the first time since January. I managed to win the title which has been my biggest win in my career so far so it was a perfect way to end the season.
SIP: What do you think has been the key to your success?
PS: My approach to training is not typical for a strongman. I have had experience in a wide variety of sports which has formed my approach to training which comprises of many different methods. I think this training philosophy has led to me being quite good as an all-around strength athlete instead of just excelling at one area.
I also have a very analytical approach to strongman so I break events down to their constituent parts and work out exactly what fitness components and skill I need to train in order to be good at an event.
The last thing to cause my success is purely having a lot of determination and a lack of willingness to give up; I think I got a lot of this from boxing as a teenager where I had to work very hard during the training sessions. There have been events where I have beaten physically superior athletes purely by wanting to win more and pushing through pain and discomfort.
SIP: Could you tell us more about your plans for 2018?
PS: So far my only confirmed competition is the Ultimate Strongman World Championships in February; it’s the strongest field I will have competed against so far so I’m really excited about the opportunity.
I really want to establish myself on the international scene in 2018 so I hope I can put in a good performance at the world championships and then compete at some of the other top level competitions across the world, hopefully including World’s Strongest Man.
SIP: What do you believe could be some of the biggest challenges you may face in the coming years?
PS: I think a big challenge over the next few years will be the ever stronger depth of competition in the sport. As strongman becomes more popular there are more and more athletes competing which pushes the standard up and makes events more and more competitive. There are more and more guys who focus on strongman from a young age like I did rather than the older approach of people getting into it after another sport.
With the weights that are currently used in competitions I think preventing injuries will be my biggest challenge over my career as strongmen are now performing feats of strength that really do seem to be pushing the limits of human strength. 500Kg deadlifts, 750kg carries, pulls using huge aircraft, they really are stressful tasks to put the body under so a lot of effort has to go in to being durable and capable of not only performing these feats but also recovering from them.
SIP: What are your ambitions for the next five years?
My big aim is to win the World’s Strongest Man competition in the next few years; that’s the motivation for training hard and the reason I take strongman so seriously as it’s the most prestigious title in the sport.
There are a few other international competitions that I want to win in the next five years and I’d also like to break some world records. I aim to attempt some farmers walk records in 2018 and then go from there with regards to other lifts.