CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some called it chance, some may deem it good fortune or even dumb luck, but I tend to believe it was a healthy dose of irony that set the 2008 World's Strongest Man competition right here in Charleston.
After all, we have taken more than our share of low blows from the outside world in terms of our state of health. Even Men's Health magazine named our beautiful river city the unhealthiest place for men to live - several times.
So when Egypt exited and Charleston entered as host city, I smiled and gave thanks to Phil Pfister, the 2006 WSM champion who obviously has even more muscle than we knew by positioning us for such an international event.
Hosting worldwide competitors and all that goes with it in this unique, gravity-defying contest is no simple task especially with so little notice. But Gov. Manchin and Mayor Jones used their power to seal the deal.
The top 28 strength athletes will go head to head at a variety of sites in Charleston Sept. 6-14. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so clear your calendars and plan to witness up close and personal the men who continually rewrite the definition of strength.
Since the World's Strongest Man contest began in 1977, only two Americans have won the title: Bill Kazmaier, who is a three-time champion (1980, 1981 and 1982); and Phil Pfister, who claimed the title in dramatic fashion two years ago in China. Both men will be here - Kazmaier as commentator and Pfister as competitor.
To add appeal to the irony, there is one other West Virginian competing in the WSM event. Brian Siders, the world's strongest power lifter, will also vie for the title. I learned this during a conversation with yet another world-class athlete from our state, Arden Cogar, who is North America's top timber sports athlete. I have been fortunate to witness some of Cogar's and Pfister's intense training and asked them to share their insights about commitment and what it takes to compete at such a Herculean level.
Cogar, who competes in about 20 events a year says, "Excelling in sport takes commitment - a commitment to look at not only your physical output, but also your physical input. In other words, food. Your body is a machine that needs good fuel. You have to understand how your body responds to that fuel to get the most out of your performances. It also takes an understanding of what you can do and how often you can do it. Knowing your body is the most important thing - knowing what you can handle with an understanding of the frequency with which you can handle it."
Training to be the best at timber sports focuses on getting strong and fit during the fall and building a foundation of event training during the winter. As the competition grows closer, Cogar's workouts become more sport-specific.
Cogar describes himself as a part-time competitive lumberjack and a full-time lawyer, husband and father. He said his passion to be the best requires micromanagement of time and sacrifice. He doesn't watch television and allows himself only one unhealthy meal a week.