When fans think of the Arnold Sports Festival, a few things come to mind. Of course, there's the man himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then there's the Arnold Classic and Arnold Strongman Classic, considered by many to be the top two competitions of the weekend in Columbus, OH, and the Expo, which attracts many fans from around the world each year when it's held .
One contest that has not received the attention it deserves is the World's Strongest Firefighter contest. In recognition of the bravery and dedication of these officials, Schwarzenegger is hosting this competition in hopes of raising awareness of their work and offering them an opportunity to find fame on one of the biggest stages in the fitness industry. The seven-time Mr. Olympia is as much a fan of this competition as one of the many events that take place each year.
"I love giving them our stage and spotlight to show the Arnold Sports Festival fans just how incredibly strong these firefighters are," Schwarzenegger said.
The original competition featured six firefighters but has since grown tremendously. "Arnold always wanted to bring strength training back to Muscle Beach," said ah Justin, competition organizer. "w we're in Columbus, we've had three times as many competitors and this time there were more countries represented than ever before and the goal is to make this thing grow every year."
The 2022 competition was held on Sunday, March 6th at the Greater Columbus Convention Center and included 16 firefighters from many locations around the world. The competition was streamed in full on Schwarzenegger's Facebook page. All of these contestants trained, ate, and did their best to prepare for this competition while pursuing their careers and passion for public service in their communities.
One contestant, Cathal McNally, felt this competition was so important that it was necessary to travel from Dublin, Ireland just to attend the event.
"I'm very proud to be a firefighter (like all firefighters) and just started strongman last year," McNally shared. "When I saw the advertisement for the World's Strongest Firefighter, I knew this was a unique opportunity to represent my fire department and my country on the international stage."
The stage and the audience provided additional motivation and an incentive to compete. McNally finished 9th overall, but standing in front of the crowd and knowing some special people back home was very meaningful to the firefighter.
“The other competitions I have done so far have been in a gym or in a parking lot. This was on the main stage at Arnold Expo and was in front of a few thousand people. My entire extended family could have a party at home and watch me compete online.”
Competitors had to compete in four disciplines - Log Press for Reps, Sandbag Carry for Distance, Deadlift for Reps and Sled Drag. The variety of events served as a mix for both the sport of the strong man and the real-world tasks that firefighters have to perform in extreme situations. The 2022 champion was Daniel Camacho of the Phoenix, Arizona Fire Department. Camacho placed third on the log press, lifting the 250-pound log overhead for six reps. He then finished second in the sandbag carry, dragging the 220-pound bag around the track for 10 laps.
Camacho then pulled 525 pounds for 11 reps in the deadlift event, which was the second highest in the field. Two men with 12 reps. Last but not least, he took second place in sled towing. He didn't win a single event, but the consistency of good placements in all four events brought him the overall victory.
- 1.—Daniel Camacho – 58 points
- 2nd—Brooks Larkin – 52 points
- 3rd—Marcus Waugh – 49.5 points
When asked about the decision to compete, Camacho revealed that he was about to end his 11-year career as a strongman when he made the decision to apply.
"I actually saw the first one back in 2019 when they had it in Santa Monica," Camacho explained. "From then on I knew I wanted this title for myself."
He applied in 2020 but was not accepted. Apparently he got the call to compete this year and was accepted two weeks before the competition. Camacho explained that the circumstances he and the other competitors faced were very different than those competing full-time as a strongman to make a living.
“We have calls to answer and long shifts. On any given day here in Phoenix, we have maybe 10-15 calls per shift," Camacho said. "We can miss a meal, skip a workout or not sleep before a workout, which of course is very important for recovery and essential health."
However, it was worth it in the end. Camacho almost retired to win the entire competition on the Arnold stage to a packed house. He had received numerous messages and positive comments from his fellow firefighters and supporters, and is receiving media requests for interviews. Retirement is clearly the furthest thing from him and he has previously said he will return to defend his title in 2023.
“The way they treated us there was like no other competition I've been to. We saw Arnold several times, his safety and team took great care of us and this was the best stage I have ever been on. I will definitely come back next year to defend my title.”
The World's Strongest Firefighter competition may have only started in recent years, but if the 2022 competition was any indication, it will definitely be happening again for years to come. Schwarzenegger put it best when asked why it was so important to have this as part of his festival every year.
"I play an action hero in the movies, but our firefighters and first responders are real action heroes," he says.