Altruism in Sports – Strength Fest 2009

May 9, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More

This past week I had the very enjoyable assignment of creating a short video of a four event strongman contest. The event was called Strength Fest 2009 and was held to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Iron Sport Gym which caters to athletes who compete in Strongman and Highland Games competitions.


I thought that the readers of DI might find this video generally interesting but, more than that, I wanted to point out an aspect of the sport that I find fascinating, refreshing and which reminded me of a recent post here at Dangerous Intersection.

One of the things that always strikes me about strongman competitions is the camaraderie. We are all familiar with teammates supporting each other, but in this case I am speaking about the camaraderie between rivals.

Starting at around 2:15 watch how the competitors try to inspire one athlete to complete his lift, going so far as to slap him in the face to help him get motivated! (Watch carefully, he asks for it!) I’m sure that there are many sociological/anthropological aspects of this moment that are happening simultaneoulsy, but I leave that analysis to those better educated in those fields than I!

What strikes me about most strongly about moments like these (and there are many at these shows) is that it is not to the competitor’s advantage to help a rival lifter. If that athlete had completed the lift it would have made it harder for those egging him on to win the competition.

In this particular sport it seems the bonds between competitors are more important than the trophies. I find that touching and inspiring and it is one of the many reasons I enjoy making videos for and about strength athletes.

Warning: Brief profanity


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Category: Athletics, Community, Human animals, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

Mike Pulcinella is a documentary filmmaker.

Comments (3)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Mike: I feel exhausted just by watching your video. Great focus on the intensity of the event, especially the facial expressions of the athletes. And, yes, on the camaraderie; it's unlike many other high level sports where it would be seen to be strange to root for the other guys during the competition. It made me wonder why that rarely happens. Maybe it's because so many sports that draw big audiences are team sports. You'd like to encourage and congratulate your opponents, but it's seen as improper, actually a betrayal.

    I must add that, watching your video, I sometimes found myself worrying that someone was about to drop something really heavy on their toes.

  2. I know what you mean! You can see a few of them jumping out of the way of the Atlas Stone!

    Actually, injuries of many kinds are common in this sport. In the video we see one lifter tear his bicep. Maybe knowing that any one of them can sustain a career ending injury at any time has something to do with the unusual support they show for each other.

  3. Tony Coyle says:


    I personally think that much of the camaraderie comes from the training regime. These guys (at least early in their careers) train with their competitors. They are with these guys almost 24/7. There are probably very few other 'serious' lifters at their gym, so they rely on each other for support – they are all part of the in-group of lifters.

    As they progress – that behavior (spotting for each other, supporting each other to make another lift, to try 5 more pounds, to complete that rep) carries through to the competition.

    I've seen the same in martial arts – where technique and prowess is seen as accomplishment and admired – regardless of who wins any particular event.

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