A last-minute shake-up hits one of the biggest contests in strongman.

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Rauno Heinla, Estonian strongman and Masters Deadlift World Record holder (476 kilograms/1,049.4 pounds), has withdrawn from the 2023 Europe’s Strongest Man (ESM). A news release on The Giants Live Instagram page noted that Heinla suffered an undisclosed “illness,” leading to the withdrawal. Heinla’s ESM exit follows the departure of rising strongman star Pavlo Nakonechnyy roughly a week prior as he tries to get healthy for the annual World’s Strongest Man (WSM).

The 2023 ESM contest is just around the corner on Apr. 1 in Leeds, England, and, at the time of this article’s publication, there does not appear to be a replacement for Heinla on the now 13-person roster.

This is the second time Heinla has been forced to withdraw due to unfortunate circumstances in the approximate last calendar year. After prepping for a Silver Dollar Deadlift World Record (579 kilograms/1,278 pounds) he eventually achieved in June 2022, Heinla withdrew from the 2022 (WSM) roughly a month before the contest because of a short hospitalization.

Heinla is often regarded as one of the strongest deadlifters in the world, regardless of a strongman or powerlifting context. His victory in the 2022 World Deadlift Championships (WDC) and Masters Record are perfect examples of his pulling prowess. To date, Heinla has participated in three ESMs, with a fourth-place finish in 2021 as his best result.

With Heinla’s withdrawal, here is the complete 2023 ESM roster heading into England on the first day of April:

2023 Europe’s Strongest Man Roster

Here are the expected events for the 2023 ESM:

2023 Europe’s Strongest Man Events

Former 2020 WSM champion Oleksii Novikov is the defending winner of the ESM. He will enter the weekend’s contest nursing a minor lat injury that could potentially also linger into next month’s WSM.

The 2023 ESM is smaller in scale than the upcoming WSM — taking place on a single day with competitors from just one continent. That doesn’t diminish its standing in the sport. Even with Heinla’s last-minute withdrawal, it should be quite the showcase of strongman power across the pond.

Featured image: @giantslivestrongman 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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