The 2023 Shaw Classic (SC) will mark the end of a competitive career by legendary strongman Brian Shaw. Unfortunately, a peer appropriately named “The Polish Terminator” won’t be there to help see the four-time World’s Strongest Man (WSM) champion (2011, 2013, 2015-2016) off into the deserved sunset.
On June 19, 2023, the organizers of the 2023 SC used an Instagram post to reveal that Polish strongman Mateusz Kieliszkowski had withdrawn from the latest edition of the contest, schedules for August 19-20 in Loveland, CO. Citing that Kieliszkowski wanted to take the time to get back into “fighting shape,” Welsh strongman Gavin Bilton was announced to take Kieliszkowski’s roster spot. The 2023 SC will mark Bilton’s debut in the contest’s fourth iteration later this summer.
After suffering a leg injury in the spring of 2022, Kieliszkowski returned to the strongman fray during the 2023 Arnold Strongman Classic (ASC). The competition, where the Polish athlete finished as the runner-up to eventual WSM champion Mitchell Hooper, marked Kieliszkowski’s first competitive appearance in roughly a year and a half since his injury.
However, even with a strong second-place result at the early March contest, Kieliszkowski seemed to understand he likely wouldn’t be at his best possible physical condition before a 2023 WSM return, just over six weeks later. Such a prediction would come to fruition when the athlete didn’t make it out of Group 3 in the Qualifying Round.
At the time of this writing, with no specific details on the extent of Kieliszkowski’s capabilities or limitations, it appears the strongman is taking a step back to further emphasize recovery before pushing full throttle again sometime in the future. That could be a wise decision, considering a full-strength Kieliszkowski was a back-to-back runner-up at the 2018-2019 editions of the WSM.
Kieliszkowski’s absence will allow Bilton, a frequent fixture at strongman contests throughout any given competition year, to try and make his mark at the 2023 SC for the first time. Bilton recently won the 2023 Strongman Champions League (SCL) Serbia and could be riding a wave of momentum into another stellar performance. Notably, Bilton was also the runner-up at the 2023 Britain’s Strongest Man (BSM), falling just short of the victor Adam Bishop.
Bilton and the rest of the roster in Colorado will be chasing Trey Mitchell, who is the two-time defending champion of the SC (2021-2022). Mitchell defeated the eponymous Shaw on both occasions for the two consecutive titles.
Whatever happens at the 2023 SC, it figures to be quite the dynamic show of strength. With a roster featuring Mitchell, Shaw, Hooper, and now Bilton, this Colorado battle is shaping up to provide an excellent test for everyone involved.
Featured image: @theshawclassic on Instagram