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 the Arnold Strongman Classic, which are considered by many to be the two best competitions of the weekend in Columbus, OH, and the Expo, which many fans from all over the world attend every year.
One competition that has not received the attention it deserves is the World’s Best Firefighter Contest. In recognition of the bravery and commitment of these public servants, Schwarzenegger is organizing this competition in the hopes of raising awareness of what they do and giving them the opportunity to achieve glory on one of the greatest fitness industry scenes. The seven-time Mr. Olympia is as much a fan of this pageant as any of the many events that take place each year.
“I love giving them our stage and our spotlight to show the fans at the Arnold Sports Festival just how incredibly strong these firefighters are,” Schwarzenegger said.
The original competition featured six firefighters, but it has grown tremendously since then. “Arnold has always wanted to bring strength sports back to Muscle Beach,” says contest organizer Noah Justin. “Now we’re in Columbus, we had triple the number of competitors, and we had more countries represented this time than we’ve ever had before, and the goal is to grow this thing every year.”
The 2022 contest was held on Sunday, March 6 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center and featured 16 firefighters from numerous locations around the world. The competition was broadcast in its entirety on Schwarzenegger’s Facebook Page. All of these competitors trained, ate and did their best to prepare for this competition while working their careers and passion for public service in their communities.
A competitor, Cathal McNally, felt that this competition was so important that one had to travel from Dublin, Ireland, just to be part of this event.
“I’m very proud to be a firefighter (like all firefighters) and last year I started the strongman sport,” McNally said. “When I saw the ad for the World’s Strongest Firefighter, I knew it was a unique opportunity to represent my fire brigade and my country on the international stage.”
The stage and audience also provided additional motivation and incentive for the competition. McNally placed 9th overall, but being in front of the crowd and knowing special people at home meant a lot to the firefighter.
“The other competitions I’ve done so far have been in a gymnasium or in a parking lot. It was on the main stage of the Arnold Expo and in front of a few thousand people. My entire extended family was able to throw a house party and watch me compete online.
Competitors had to participate in four events: the Log Press for Reps, the Sandbag Carry for Distance, the Deadlift for Reps and the Sled Drag. The variety of events served as a mix for both the sport of strongman and the actual tasks that firefighters may have to perform in extreme situations. The 2022 champion was Daniel Camacho of the Phoenix, Arizona Fire Department. Camacho placed third in the Log Press, lifting an overhead 250 pounds over six reps. He then took second place in the Sandbag Carry, carrying the 220-pound bag for 10 laps around the course.
Camacho then pulled 525 pounds for 11 reps in the Deadlift event, which was the second-largest on the court. Two men tied with 12 reps. Last but not least, he placed second in the sled race. Although he did not win an individual event, it was his consistency in placing well in all four events that earned him the overall victory.
- 1st – Daniel Camacho – 58 dots
- 2nd – Brooks Larkin – 52 dots
- 3rd – Marcus Waugh – 49.5 points
When asked about the decision to compete, Camacho revealed that he was about to end his 11-year strongman career when he made the decision to apply.
“I had actually seen the first one in 2019 when they had it in Santa Monica,” Camacho explained. “From that moment I knew I wanted this title for myself.”
He applied in 2020 but was not accepted. He obviously got the call to compete this year and was accepted with two weeks before the competition. Camacho explained that the circumstances he and the other competitors have faced are quite different from competing as a full-time strongman for a living.
“We have calls to answer and long shifts. In any given day here in Phoenix, we can have 10 to 15 calls per shift,” Camacho said. “We may miss a meal, have to skip a workout or not sleep before training, which of course is very important for recovery and essential health.”
However, it was worth it in the end. Camacho went from near retirement to winning the entire contest on the Arnold Stage in front of a packed house. He had received many positive messages and comments from his fellow firefighters, supporters, and receives requests for interviews from the media. Obviously, retirement is the furthest thing from his mind, and he’s already said he’ll be back to defend his title in 2023.
“The way they treated us there was like no other contest I had entered. We saw Arnold many times, his safety and his team took great care of us, and it was the best stage I had ever been on. I will definitely be going back to defend my title next year.
The World’s Strongest Firefighter competition may have just started in recent years, but if the 2022 competition was any indication, it will definitely be back for many years to come. Schwarzenegger said 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.