Sean Hayes has set the bar high for himself.
The Courtenay athlete placed third at the 2021 Canada’s Strongest Man competition, July 31-Aug. 1, in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Que.
It was his first-ever professional competition, and the grandest stage of all, when it comes to Canadian strongman competitions.
“All roads lead to this one show in Canada,” said Hayes. “It’s bar none, the best… so third place is pretty good.”
Hayes, and the rest of the 17-man field, knew there would be a new champion this season, as nine-time defending champ Jean-Francois Caron was sidelined due to injury.
“He tore his hamstring at World’s Strongest Man this year, so he had to sit this one out,” said Hayes. “So the door was open. Maxime Boudreau was kind of the expected winner going in - he got third place in the world this year - but I actually beat him. He slid down to fourth.”
The Canadian championship consisted of 10 events - two each day - specifically designed to test all aspects of physical strength.
Points are awarded based on the number of competitors. The 2021 Canada’s Strongest Man had 17 competitors, so winning an event was worth 17 points, second place worth 16 points, and so on, right down to one point for 17th place.
Hayes placed third, with 120.5 points.
Gabriel Rhéaume of Quebec won the championship, with 142 points, and Ontario’s Wesley Derwinsky (127) finished second.
Day 1 consisted of the max log lift, the keg toss, the deadlift, the Hercules hold, and the atlas stones.
Day 2 featured the squat lift, loading race, Viking press, power medley, and power stairs.
Hayes was in third place after Day 1 and maintained that position for Day 2, despite some health issues overnight.
“I wasn’t able to sleep at all that night; I got quite sick,” he said. “I think it was just the adrenaline not sitting very well. Being my first pro show, I tried to force-feed myself, thinking I would need the energy, but that ended up turning my stomach absolutely sideways. I was able to put down one pancake for breakfast but that was all the food I had all day.”
If that wasn’t enough, Hayes also sustained an injury in Day 1, tearing his right quad during the atlas stone event.
“It was the last event of the first day, so I iced it overnight, but the first event of the second day was the squat lift, which is really hard on your quads, so it was pretty evident at that point that it was torn,” he said. “So I did a little worse on all the other events, based on that.”
Hayes suffered a second injury on Day 2. In the second to last event, the power medley, Hayes dropped a 365-pound implement on his foot.
“I don’t think it broke - it kind of hit right after the arch. It’s swollen, but I don’t think it’s broken.”
He said the deadlift event was the highlight of the competition for him.
“I went in kind of expecting to win the deadlift; I know I am good at it,” he said. “It was a car deadlift. So they park an SUV on this frame and you lift it by the frame. It was about 800 pounds and I got 10 reps in.”
No one else completed more than eight reps.
Hayes said he is hopeful to use this first competition as a learning experience.
“I’m not extremely happy with most events and know I should’ve done better, which makes third all the more surprising,” he said. “Hoping to return next year with this experience (my first ever pro show after just turning last year) and push for even better.”
Hayes thanked his sponsor, Comox Valley Dodge, for all the help getting to the 2021 Canada’s Strongest Man event.
Hayes expects his next competition to be a Giants Live event.
The Giants Live competitions are the direct qualifiers for the World’s Strongest Man.
“I think that’s my next big show, either that or one of the Arnold shows that are qualifiers for World’s Strongest Man.”
While he won’t be competing any time soon, he’s still involved on the amateur level.
As the organizer of the BC Strongman league, Hayes is hosting provincials in Victoria, Aug. 7-8.
Comox Valley athletes Kalem Nygren-Hardy, Andrew Tracey, Cain Mainton and Lataisha Maynard will be competing in that event.