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Friday, February 28, 2014

The California Open World Grand Prix

What makes it a World Grand Prix? The number of countries represented?
Buckley, Solodov, Vasilev and Mishen open the event.
Six countries and 13 states sent their best lifters, including an impressive team from the birthplace of Girevoy Sport, Russia! The fact that this event coincided with the finale of the Winter Olympics seems to have raised the quality and sportsmanship.

Credit must be given to Denis Vasilev for serving as translator for all the announcements between American and Russian communities. I have tremendous respect for the Russian Girevoy Sport Association President, Solodov, for making the trip to observe this event.

Wow, what a show! The DJ did his best to help us forget we were competing on an international playing field. Loud rock music disturbs my calm, and that was my personal least favorite part about the event. Naturally, I could not expect to find the same peace of mind I seek at home, so I take the ongoing craving I had for still space to be a sign that my inner cultivation is not complete. As was mentioned repeatedly in interviews by Olympians, and demonstrated by the Russian National Team lifters present at this event, we need to be ready to perform at our top level under all conditions. That’s what makes a champion.

The 5-minute set lifters started us off at a super high pace. In general, 5-minute sets are “entry-level” events that allow multiple hand-switches for Snatch and one arm lifts, and count just about anything that gets overhead as a good rep. That said, seasoned lifters enter these events to achieve rank and medals with clean sets (only one hand switch), including Ivan Denisov. I will most definitely do a 5-minute set myself in the future.

This World Grand Prix event drew an exceptional group of Elite level lifters. They each took the opportunity to do an “exhibition” set. A some members of this group focused on breaking personal records for reps with amateur level kettlebell loads.
Vasilev and team mate Pavel Petrov.

Okay, you have to consider 24kg amateur. Both Sergey Rachinsky and Denis Vasilev put up ridiculously high numbers. 
Rachinsky showed us 151 Jerk and 230 Snatch reps (which came down to an all-out sprint against Aaron Guyett’s 222 rep 24kg Snatch set in flight 9) on day one, and a nice and slow 101 rep. 24kg Long Cycle reps on the second day. 
His student Denis Vasilev reserved his effort for a 10-minute 24kg Long Cycle sprint, getting 152 reps total. For the record, this is just over the known speed limit for double Long Cycle. 
Another member of the super-fast-with-a-drop-weight club was Sergey Mishin, who ripped a 246 rep 16kg Snatch Only. This sort of thing is not meant to represent the specific quality of Girevoy Sport lifts, but rather demonstrates the excellent speed technique and physical conditioning of World Champion athletes. 
In contrast, Ksenia Dudhenkina performed a technically perfect 201 rep 22kg Snatch Only, dropping 2kg off her World Record Snatch Only load for the event.

Sergei Merkulin demonstrated World Champion technique with 32kg Snatch Only x 160. In the final Long Cycle flight loaded with 32kg kettlbells, Evgeniy Goncharov kicked out 63 reps well ahead of the 10-minute timer. This reminded me of the Super G ski racer who did her run first and still won Gold.
Merkulin, Khvostov and Farrell.

In the other extreme corner of Elite were examples of higher-than-professional weight loads perfomed as if they were normal. The King of Kettlebell Sport, Denisov amazed us with 36kg Snatch Only x 156 and a 5-minute 2x36kg Jerk Only x 85. Aleksander Khvostov pulled out the white kettlebell for a demo of 40kg Snatch Only x 100.

The Russian community had easily identifiable lifting uniforms and team sweat suits (that’s classy, I tell you). Clubs from all places wore their coach’s logos or team shirts. The flight announcements introduced the lifters, their rank achievements and their team affiliation, another detail that brought the California Open up to World Class standard.

Speaking of teams, this event provided an amazing opportunity to see how teams work in various ways with such distinct personalities. The teams were most evident by their t-shirts. The one thing I don’t quite understand is why women wear sports bras as their shirt on the platform. Maybe it represents athletes from CrossFit, maybe it’s the loud rock music… just a thought.

One out-of-country team that made an impression was Sistema Movimento Integral Acadamia (SMI)
Me with SMI Brazil! Photo by Luciano Oliveira.
Brazil, under coach Luciano Oliveira. These folks had fantastic cohesiveness as a group and demonstrated high-level lifting on the platform. If it wasn’t impressive enough to see 51.8kg Julia Oliveira Jerk Only with 20kg x 100 reps in the same flight with team mate Valentina Cesar
making MS rank with Jerk Only (28kg x 83), just imagine 61.7kg Davi Oliveira on the platform with the 24kg Biathlon next to team mate Maricelio Correla, same event, same load. Not impressed enough? SMI Brazil’s Roberto Rocha stepped up to a 28kg Biathlon, completing 72 Jerks and 107 Snatches. These folks have put some time into this sport. On the second day the entire team crushed the 24kg relay (Julia and Valentina used a single kettlebell while the men pushed double 24) with 207 repetitions in 15 minutes.

Kat Helcmanov. Photo: Jennifer Tan.
Individual athletes really stood out, namely self-coached Paul White of Way of Art, New Zealand, who lifted 32kg Biathlon the first day and 32kg Long Cycle the second, earning MS rank for both events. Why not join forces with the League of Extrordinary Jerks to finish the meet with a 3-minute leg of 24kg Jerk Relay?

Another stand out individual and sole representative of Commando Temple Gym, UK/Slovakia, was Katarina Helcmanov, under coach Gregor Sobocan. Katarina earned every woman’s respect with her 147 rep, 20kg Snatch Only set, standing side by side with world-famous Dedukhina. On day two Katarina earned the women’s absolute lifter award after 24kg Long Cycle x 120 repetitions (that’s MSIC if you don’t have a KETAcademy rank table handy), but not before working the middle leg of 2x24kg Jerk relay for the League of Extrordinary Jerks.

Amazingly, I met facebook friend Jennifer Tan the sole competitor from Singapore at this event, a true testament to the supportive community offered at OKC/Juno Fitness hosted events. Jennifer came with a 16kg Long Cycle set and to connect with her online coach, Sergei Merkulin.

My Snatch Only set. Photo by Jennifer Tan.
Having prepared a Snatch set with “the next weight up,” I was ready to see my deficiencies. It is a very vulnerable thing to take a first-time-ever lift to competition, especially one as big as the California Open. Even though I was going with a very small group from Colorado, there was great support for my first effort with 20kg Snatch Only. With Sergey Rachinsky as my judge, I knew the stars had already determined my set and didn’t even watch the rep count until the end. Unfortunately I lost feeling in the first hand before half-time and ended up folding early with only 107 reps, just 3 shy of the MS rank. Considering I did my own programming for this event I feel good with this result, and look forward to improving the set in upcoming events.

The Hero of this event for me is my student, Kimberly Hodes (that’s Hodees, with one “e”), who braved her first 16kg Long Cycle in a weight class with one other competitor! She truly has a sporting attitude about her results: this event provided a baseline number, not to mention Personal Records of rep count (48) and time (just shy of 10 minutes) with the 16kg bell. Her pay-off was a Silver medal (amazing on so many levels) and Rank 2! She lost to a more seasoned 16kg Long Cycler from Team Blackburn who definitely earned the Gold with 99 reps.
Way to end your first year in GS, Kimberly!

Last weekend gave me deeper respect for the integrity Orange Kettlebell Club brings to Girevoy Sport. This organization is truly focused on bringing new lifters to the sport, seeing lifters from all clubs improve and meet their goals, compete with a fair sporting attitude, and they attract athletes that can show us how World Class lifting looks. They gave away great swag from their sponsors, co-efficient cups for both Biathlon and Long Cycle, as well as the first ever Sergei Mishin Cup to the best overall male and female lifter. In his closing remarks, Mr. Solodov announced that based on this competition, it appears that Girevoy Sport lifters in America are ready to compete in Russia for Gold medals!

Bring an extra luggage if you plan to win one of these!
Even those of us who did not get the one of these beautiful prizes got well-made medals for first, second and third place. When I say this is “well-made” I mean this is a weighty piece of bling that could be used for self-defense. Though with the massive circle of friends surrounding OKC, it is more likely to be a gate pass at any given club or concert out of respect for the Awesomes.

I hear that in Russia athletes with Master of Sport or greater are afforded certain privileges.  What these are I do not know, but if there are any inherent privileges for MS athletes in the US, my feeling is that they are to be gained through OKC and it’s sister organization, Juno Fitness. This idea is yet to be proven, so I will continue doing research and report in future blog posts.

Thanks for reading!