CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Cameron Peters was one sandbag away from becoming the World’s Strongest Man.
His right knee had other plans.
The 2016 Clarion-Limestone graduate was exploding through a lift on the last bag of that event in the competition at the World Final in Daytona Beach, Florida, on Saturday when he felt something in his right knee pop.
He crumpled to the mat, the sandbag landing on top of him.
“The pain was just so bad,” Peters said. “It was something I just couldn’t control. It was unfortunate, because if I would have lifted that last sandbag, I would have left as the champion.”
Instead, Peters finished fourth. Only one and a half points separated him from first place. He was in first or second place most of the weekend.
“After I took some time to look at what I’ve done, I realized that I have a lot to be proud of,” Peters said. “I’m happy. I’m blessed that I got the opportunity to go out there and compete with the best in the world. I met a lot of amazing guys. Very respectful guys. Guys who are the real deal.”
Peters has certainly become the real deal in strongman circles.
Just a year ago, Peters, 24, was first embarking on his career. He enjoyed a meteoric rise in the sport, winning several competitions.
His crowning achievement came in July when he finished first in the Official Strongman Games Southwest Regional in Houston to earn a trip to the World Final.
Peters was performing well there this past weekend, in or near first place, until he partially tore the patella tendon in his right knee.
He had three more events remaining and battled through the pain and discomfort to finish the competition.
“It stunk,” Peters said. “I worked through the injury through the remainder of the finals with that knee.”
It was a feat for Peters to simply to finish out the competition.
A trainer on scene strongly recommended that Peters pull out because he risked further damage to the knee.
There was no way he was going to do that.
“I was told I made it to the top 10, that I proved my point, that no one could take that away from me,” Peters said. “For me it was a lot more than quitting. I was going to go out on my own terms. I worked way too hard. Thankfully, I didn’t hurt myself more.”
An MRI on Thursday revealed that Peters wouldn’t need surgery, just rehab.
He’ll be back training again in a month.
Still, being so close to earning the World’s Strongest Man stings.
“There was a lot of adversity to go through,” Peters said. “I lost a lot of explosion from my hips and lower body.”
Looking back, Peters said he is proud he was able to finish in the top 5 despite the limitations his injured knee placed on him in the final three events.
He made a bit of history, too. No first-year competitor had ever finished in the top 5 until Peters.
“Happy doesn’t even explain it now,” Peters said. “It’s a crazy thing when you realize that no one’s ever done that. No one’s ever gone in there the first year and been that close. I’m still 24 years old and it was my first big show. Nobody can take that away.
“The work ethic that I put in throughout the whole training, and when I was there, pushing through the pain I was in, nobody can take that from me,” he added. “Nobody can tell me that I’m not one of the best in the world because I proved that.”
Peters said he will get back to training as soon as he can for next year.
His next big competition is in February. Because of his top 10 finish at the World Final, he received an automatic bid into the event next fall.
“I’ll be back next year and I intend to go in with the same attitude,” Peters said. “I learned a lot over the course of the weekend. I think I will know what to do better next year. Now I know what to expect.
“It’s something I’m going to think about every day — if I would have just gotten that last sandbag,” he added. “I want to be a champion. It’s gonna be in my head every single day.”
Peters is still very new to the sport.
He was one of the youngest of the 42 competitors at the World Final.
Most strongmen hit their prime between the age of 28 and 32.
“There’s so much that I know I can still work on,” Peters said.
He will also be supremely motivated.
“I’m not gonna make an excuse about it,” Peters said. “I’m just gonna take the good things from the weekend and from the year that I’ve had, rehab the knee, and come back hungrier next year.”