This Canadian just became the 1st to win World's Strongest Man

Mitchell 'The Moose' Hooper was crowned champion at the 2023 World's Strongest Man Finals in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  (Submitted by Mitchell Hooper - image credit)
Mitchell 'The Moose' Hooper was crowned champion at the 2023 World's Strongest Man Finals in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. (Submitted by Mitchell Hooper - image credit)

Anyone dubbed the world's strongest man might seem a little intimidating. But Mitchell Hooper, the first Canadian to ever capture it, wants to change that perception.

On the surface, that might seem difficult. Hooper, who is based in Barrie, Ont., is a towering figure who can pull a city bus with his legs and toss kettle bells into the sky with his arms.

But those skills only make up half of his motto: "Lift heavy, be kind."

"I want to start changing the narrative that the biggest, strongest person is also the most aggressive and standoffish," Hooper said.

"If you're around the people at World's Strongest Man, it's some of the sweetest guys, some of the nicest guys you'd ever meet."

Hooper was crowned champion at the 2023 World's Strongest Man finals in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, after achieving the highest combined score through five events in the championship round. The competition took place from April 19 to 23.

WATCH | Mitchell 'the Moose' Hooper becomes the world's strongest man:

'I just could not believe it'

Events in the final round included herculean tasks like atlas stones, which involve hoisting five spherical stones on top of platforms as quickly as possible, the stones increasing in weight from 100 to 160 kilograms. Hooper completed that in about 37 seconds.

He was in the lead from the first event, something he tried not to think about while completing the rest.

The final event was the stone lift. Hooper was still in first going in and behind him on the leader board was the reigning champion, who also happens to be the best stone lifter in the world, Hooper said.

Submitted by Mitchell Hooper
Submitted by Mitchell Hooper

When Hooper placed the final stone on the platform and became champion, he says he felt a wave a relief.

"You could see the first thing I do is put my hands on my head... I just could not believe it," he said.

"To me, the two titles in the world that matter the most are the fastest man in the world and the strongest man in the world, because they require no explanation."

Nice guys can place 1st

Hooper started competing in strongman competitions after a stint as a power lifter – he says the main difference is endurance, which is much more of a factor in strongman events.

As for where his nickname, "The Moose" came from, he says it started in Australia when fans "just started shouting it at me." Whatever the reason, it stuck.

The 2023 world championship was the second he competed in.

"It was really an unusually comfortable experience at my first worlds, almost a feeling like it's where I should have been, a feeling that I didn't get in any other sport," he said.

Vedran Lesic/CBC
Vedran Lesic/CBC

He attributes that to the kind and welcoming nature of his fellow competitors. Part of what ties them all together is they're all very large men whether they want to be or not, he said.

"We all started using it as an escape from something. And most of the time, guys pursue strongman [competitions] to see what they can do physically, as a way to remove themselves from a lot of the difficulty that they experience in everyday life."

He said a lot of the competitors are quiet and reserved, which can be misinterpreted as being standoffish or rude because of their size. But once people get to know them, they realize that's not the case.

As the new world's strongest man, that's a message he wants to spread.

"Hopefully, when people walk into a gym and they see the biggest guy, they can start to think of that person as an authority that they can go to for help, rather than an intimidation."