Sanou stepped out of the contest before participating in even one event.

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Before the 2023 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) even began, Cheick “Iron Biby” Sanou withdrew the first morning of strongman’s biggest competition. At the time of this writing, there is no official explanation for the athlete’s early withdrawal. Iceland’s Kristján Jón Haraldsson replaced Sanou on the 2023 WSM roster, even though he was not previously counted as an official reserve in case of a competitor’s withdrawal or injury. It is the reigning Iceland’s Strongest Man (ISM) champion’s debut in the WSM.

Though the 2023 WSM would’ve been his first appearance in the flagship strongman competition, Sanou is not new to the strongman scene. Sanou was the third-place finisher at the 2021 Giants Live Strongman Classic. Sanou has previously had to withdraw from the 2022 Giants Live Strongman Classic (due to travel-related issues).

The athlete from Burkina Faso has a well-established reputation for being proficient in overhead lifts. Sanou possesses both the current Axle Press World Record of 217 kilograms (477.4 pounds) and the Log Lift World Record of 229 kilograms (504.8 pounds).

Sanou officially joins Ukraine’s Pavlo Nakonechnyy and Canada’s Maxime Boudreault on the list of 2023 WSM withdrawals in the early goings, with Sanou being the first withdrawal as of the contest’s start time. Boudreault withdrew due to a shin injury in February, which also knocked him out of the 2023 Arnold Strongman Classic (ASC). Meanwhile, Nakonechnyy potentially bowed out because of complications from a deadlift-related ailment suffered during the 2023 (ASC) in March. The Ukrainian competitor did not participate in the early-April 2023 Europe’s Strongest Man (ESM) because of said injury, hoping to recover in time to compete at the WSM.

Here are the updated Qualifying Round groups for the 2023 WSM:

2023 World’s Strongest Man Qualifying Round Groups

There are five groups of six athletes in the 2023 WSM, which will be parsed down to 10 competitors for the weekend’s Final.

Group 1

  • Konstantine Janashia
  • Pavlo Kordiyaka
  • Pa O’Dwyer
  • Tom Stoltman
  • Bobby Thompson
  • Eddie Williams

Group 2

  • Kristján Jón Haraldsson
  • Gavin Bilton
  • Fadi El Masri
  • Thomas Evans
  • Oleksii Novikov
  • Luke Stoltman

Group 3

  • Graham Hicks
  • Mitchell Hooper
  • Mateusz Kieliszkowski
  • Mathew Ragg
  • Spenser Remick
  • Aivars Smaukstelis

Group 4

  • Adam Bishop
  • Kevin Faires
  • Rauno Heinla
  • Gabriel Rhéaume
  • Jaco Schoonwinkel
  • Brian Shaw

Group 5

  • Jean-Stephen Coraboeuf
  • Mark Felix
  • Eythor Ingolfsson Melsted
  • Trey Mitchell
  • Evan Singleton
  • Paul Smith

Haraldsson will take Sanou’s place in Group 2 of the Qualifying Round, joining former WSM champion (2020) Oleksii Novikov — the likely headliner of that mix.

At only 24 years old, Haraldsson might still be a relative unknown in the international strongman scene. That is not the case for the defending ISM champion in his native Iceland, who has started to dominate in various domestic contests. In Haraldsson’s only other international strongman competitive appearances, he finished in fourth place during the 2021 Magnus Magnús Ver Magnússon Classic (MVMC). He followed that performance with an 11th-place result at the 2022 MVMC.

The relatively young Icelandic athlete will undoubtedly look to improve that rap sheet at the 2023 WSM. Putting himself on the map now could portend Haraldsson becoming the next potential great Icelandic strongman, following in the footsteps of the legendary Magnús Ver Magnússon and Hafthor Björnsson.

Stay tuned to Breaking Muscle for live updates of the 2023 WSM leaderboard and any other breaking news that files in during the massive contest in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Featured image: @theworldsstrongestman on Instagram

About Robert Zeglinski

Robert is a seasoned and adept editor and writer with a keen, passionate penchant for the writing craft. He’s been a leader in newsrooms such as SB Nation, USA TODAY, and WBBM Newsradio, with various other content and art production teams, and first made a name for himself in his hometown of Chicago. When not knee-deep in research or lost in a stream of consciousness for a thorough piece, you can find Robert inhaling yet another novel, journaling his heart out, or playing with his Shiba Inu, Maximus (Max, for short).

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