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The day of lifting was intense. There were VERY talented athletes performing, someone under 70kg didi 135 jerks or so with 2x32kg. It was crazy to see that live. And I had thought originally that GS lifters were just weak and were cheating the bells up 🙂 Damn, these young guys blew all the ”kettlebell superheroes” away. The Team USA did a good job, and looking at their 2008 numbers, I can see the development has been huge.
In the end, I did 10 jerks and 40 snatches with the 32kgs. Guys lighter and younger than me did a hundred reps more. Still, I got applause and cheers and felt more accepted by the athletes because I stepped up and tried to do the same as they did. The Tatarstan’s team took a lot of pictures, and the Team USA was yelling at me all the way. Also my wife shouted louder than anyone for me during my snatch set. Man, it was an awesome experience. I still remember how heavy (too heavy) the bells felt, and still how good I felt standing there. Had I just been in the audience, I would have missed so much.
Back home I thought, how could a regular joe like me go to this big competition. Well, now, after coming coming down from the platform, I still questioned that but knew that it was important to step up. I hoped that someone from Finland would react like this: ”hey, if this skinny dude can do it, so can I!”. Well, I was right. Now, there are people who have trained less than me but are much better, and this is exactly as it should be.
After I got home, I got contacted by people who were training, and we got together. Things just started happening, and before I knew it, all these people were with me organising events and being excited about GS. My friend had the idea of forming an association, for making it easier to organise stuff, so that’s what we did. Active people came along, they have even taken the kettlebell sport to the weightlifting federation (safe from vultures in a way), and we’ve had some really good times lifting and being together. My role was to be the joker, the one who makes a fool out of himself in front of all these gifted athletes. Now it’s totally different, for example our team in Ventspils 2008 was no joke. I know some of these active people, and also probably someone I have no idea of, will make real good results in the future.
What I did in Ogre was a small thing, the results were ridicilous, but it was important for me personally. I also got a lot of contacts and met people who are now my friends in kettlebell lifting. I cannot thank the Team USA enough for helping me get started, especially Lorraine Patten, Catherine Imes and Steve Cotter, who have been supportive before the event and ever since. I got so much energy out of that event, that I still carry it with me. I knew right away that I want to do more of lifting and learn what GS was about. And I don’t see any other way than actually doing it.
Later on, I have also learned about the downside about sports and organisations, the politics. It’s part of the deal I guess, but I still feel it’s usually meaningless and more about ego, power and control than the actual sport. Human behaviour, and of course I’m as guilty as anyone else. Anyway, actions mean more that words when working for a sport (or anything else), in my opinion.
The important thing for me is getting to the platform and lifting, and being with people who share the love for the sport. I could care less who is the ultimate guru, or who’s the boss. Because I know that still those skinny russian juniors would lift more, lots more 🙂
In the morning of the weighing we all gathered to the team USA’s hotel. Another new GS-person arrived, Peter from Canada. He was the one man team from there, so we had something in common 🙂
Also, this morning Catherines Imes and Steve Cotter arrived to the lobby. I was very nervous at first because it was the day to go to the lions den, the actual Ogre competition hotel. Well, as we introduced, I felt very relaxed because no-one seemed to worry that much. People told jokes and were just hanging out, which was unbelievable. But of couse, they had done this before in Moscow.
After some waiting, our bus arrived. At this point it was the correct time to remember that Latvia is famous in Europe for it’s death toll in traffic, which is no wonder seeing how they drive. Matt M told that in Moscow it’s much worse 🙂
It was a 3 hour drive to Orge, or something like that. I heard some really funny stories about american kettlebell scene and last year’s competition in Moscow. I felt really good going in with this group, very safe.
Well, when we finally got there, we went to this competition hotel. It was the only tall building in that place, otherwise the town was really small and looked really rough. The hotel lobby was full of people dressed in their countrie’s sports clothes. Young athletes and their older coaches. At this time I started to actually see the roots of the sport, that it goes a long way, trough generations. This was natural to them, nothing like the ”KBs will turn your body to a fat burning furnace!” marketing lingo. There was older athletes, whose children had started to train, and very fit looking individuals from eastern european countries.
Before the weighing, I had to fill in this application to enter the competition and pay a fee. I had to fill a team name and previous records, and my coaches name 🙂 Well, I really had none. Trough our trusted translator, Matt G, the application receriver person asked, how did I learn the sport and what was my background. He wondered that I did not have a coach. I said, that I’d looked at some videoclips from the internet and that had asked questions trough email from the american team, and that I was training mostly at home by myself. The man laughed, shook his head and said in russia ”Good luck!” 🙂
The weighing itself went fine, some people actually ran to get some extra weight off. It was a sure thing that these people took their sport very seriously, it was not a joke. This was a totally different athmosphere that I had got from the DD forum and the finnish forum about GS. Before, I was told that GS was a boring, esoteric and a funny sport, but the feeling I got from the US team, the easter european athletes and the place itself was quite the opposite. I was very warmly welcomed, everyone seemed happy that Finland was taking part for the first time. Could it be that these western folks talking down GS really had no idea what it was about, I wondered?
Well, the next day would be the actual competition, I took off after the official weighing and went back to my family to our hotel. No sleep for sure, NOW I really started feeling the fear of getting to the platform for the first time. Hell, what if I drop the bells right away??….
The competition was two days ahead, the next day would be the weighing in Ogre. Ogre is a small village about 200km from Riga. I was told that the competition is organised by the IGSF. The team USA were repserenting NAKF, which was not a member but they had created good contacts last year in Moscow, so getting in should be no problem.
I found out that there was another organisation in the USA, USGSF, but for some reason they had not sent anyone to compete. Anyway, I was told also that the arranging organisation would be very happy to have competitors from new countries, and that I should not worry about the results.
While walking around Riga with the team, before going back to my family, I learned a lot about american kettlebell culture and the characters involved. The guys and girls from DVDs and forums were coming to life. I felt good, because I was accepted to the group so openly, even though I was a total newbie. Lorraine, Christine, Matt M, Matt G, Marty, Andrew and the guy from California were nice people. Tomorrow, we were going to be joined by the famous Cate and the fitness celebrity Steve Cotter.
Back in Finland, 2006 had been a year of
progress in KB related issues.
In march, there was a first public workshop, which I also attended. It
was pretty much the same as Pavel’s Martial Power combined with Super
Joints and some kettlebell drills. But of course it was a lot better
to learn live than from a book or DVD.
It was the first time I met other kettlebell people, other than those
from my thaiboxing gym.
Later, in August, we had a training session with some people from the
forum. One of that group went on to found a first crossfit-style gym
in Finland. In September, we attended the Cross World with friends. On
another occasion, I met with people who are now my fellow GS lifters
and very active people in the association. But of course I did not
know it at the time.
It seemed that in 2006 there were quite many individual people who
were already training, and had known about KBs for a long time. There
were at least 2 companies selling them, and one of those was offering
private teaching as well. Also, KBs were mentioned in martial art
magazines and forums. GS was not talked about very much, it seemed
esoteric compared to Pavel’s stuff and no one really had any
significant experience yet.
Well, anyway, KB culture was starting to grow slowly on many fronts.
Of course, this is all just my subjective view on the subject. Well,
back to Ogre…
I had two 32kg bells, one from Estonia and
one from Latvia. They are very rugged, but comp style. So, I used the
few weeks I had to train with those and asking lots of questions by
email and being very nervous.
Training went well, relatively speaking. The 32kgs were moving me more
than I was moving them but at least there was movement.
The day to travel came really fast. Suddenly we were in Riga, having
no idea what to expect.
I met the team USA in their hotel, well not all of them actually. It
was a strange experience, all these people who I didn’t know, were
very friendly and while I was nervous, it was actually very easy to be
with them. The first day we met had a tour in Riga, by a guide. We
talked about kettlebells a lot of couse also. There was a nice dinner,
and after that a visit to a university team’s gym in a rugged
building. It was a beautiful place, lots of kbs, gymnastics equipment
Marty did a test set of 30 of so jerks with 32ks. I tried the kbs also
but mainly wondered about the team’s very serious and enthusiastic
attitude towards GS and kbs in general. This was no joke to them, even
if they had a lot of humourous stories. I had never seen such a
passion towards kbs, or to the details of technique.
In October, after a lot of positive
pressure and encouragement from Lorraine and Steve, I finally decided
to take part in the GS world championships in Ogre. The competition
was 6 weeks away, and it had to be done with 32kg bells.
Of course, I had no illusions about my level. 24kgs were too heavy,
and my GS training experience was limited to my own tests at home
wathing some videos from girevoysport.ru. This was a time when youtube
had not yet exploded.
My mission was to go and see the experts and make it a learning
experience, and I knew my results would be crappy. But, I had nothing
to lose, and to be offered a place among the team USA was something
that would not probably repeat itself. Lorraine helped me with all the
registrations, I just had to get us to Riga and the team would help me
with the practicals.
But how to train to do long sets with too heavy bells?
Well, the idea was there but because I had
burned myself out with doing my EDT too hard, the idea kind of got
buried for a while. I knew I wanted to compete but the thought of just
arranging competitions on my own seemed too much. In the spring of
2006, someone on the finnish forum suggested a group training session
outside, to meet other screen names and try out different stuff.
Then, a disaster struck our family, my wife had aneurysm rupture in
the head and almost died. I was at home with our 2 small children for
two months while she was in the hospital, and the whole future was
uncertain and chaotic. It was hell. So, obviously I lost track of
everything requiring some kind of organisational stuff, competitions
did not seem very important at the time. I kept training to keep
myself sane but without clear goals.
We were extremely lucky, because my wife was back on her feet pretty
fast. It was a miracle, because the situation had been very serious.
Today she trains with kettlebells, with such fury I never could.
So, we were back home getting back to our life. For us, it was
important to start living in a full way, and not let the tragedy put
I’m explaining all of this because it has had a major impact on how I
feel about competing and the sport.
In August or so, I contacted Lorraine again after a long while, and
the competition in Ogre came up. She thought I should give it a try.
So did Steve C, who I had emailed probably because of Lorraine’s
suggestion. I was hesitant, because we had had such a major tragedy
and I felt weak. But, during the experience I had learned that
opportunities are not necessarily repeated.
And, actually my wife was encouraging me to go also, while I was being
a pussy and giving up on hope. We could go to Riga with our whole
family, to meet our friend and also to prove to ourselves that we are
still alive and capable of living a normal life.
So, suddenly going to the competition was not just about lifting
bells, it was also about survival.
Now, I’m not totally sure about the order
of events just now, but in the end of 2005 I read about the american
team traveling to the GS world championships in Moscow. They had a
blog up, which had stories about the preparation, the competition
experience and what happened afterwards, I was very excited, because
these people were there in the middle of the sport, and had very short
history of training GS.
So, I thought, maybe I could do that as well. Maybe. Somehow. I knew I
So, in the beginning of 2006, I was exchaging emails with Lorraine and
kept asking all sorts of stupid questions. I also got the tip of
contacting Andrew from girevoysport.ru and started asking about
competitions near Finland.
Well, there was nothing that was accessible for me. And, so I thought
about Lorraine’s idea of arranging competitions and kept trying to
train GS. I sucked very much, no idea of technique, tried to muscle
the bells and used a too heavy weight. I burned myself out in a very
Well, then I read about the 2006 GS world championships being in Riga,
Latvia, in November. I remember asking about them from Lorraine and
Andrew, could I maybe attend and what kind of a process it would be.
It seemed kind of possible, because Riga was so close, and my wife’s
good friend lived there. But how to get the permissions to compete
etc? I had zero experience and this was a world championship, not some
A bit of background to this.
I had started kettlebell training in the spring of 2005. My resources
were the RKC, Femme Fatale and other Pavel’s work, a finnish guide to
kb training, a Mike Mahler DVD,DD forum and a finnish forum which had
a small but relatively active section of kb training.
So, I was pretty much doing all the tension techniques and learning
the RKC movements. I also read all articles I could find from the
internet related to kbs. One of them was very interesting, it had an
interview of a belorussian girevik, who was old but very fit.
That article had me try a long set of LC with 2x24s. Of course the set
(not long) demolished me. I started to get more interested about this
Girevoy Sport, which I had overlooked totally. Before this experience
I thought the videos on girevoysport.ru just looked funny, with the
skinny guys having colorful bells and headbands. But, seeing what they
did with 32kg bells got me thinking that there’s more to it than just
Oops, got sidetracked…
Well, at that time, which was fall of 2005, I started asking around
about GS. Most of the replied were along the lines of GS being a
boring and a small sport, where people are just being flegmatic about
the lifting. So, not much excitement. I kind of lost a bit of hope
I’ve been thinking about writing an english
story about the Ogre competition which was in 2006 November. That’s
the first time I actually saw real GS live and also when I met Lopa,
Cate, Steve and Marty in person. I just don’t know where to start. In
2005 fall(?), I had written a message on DD about GS competitions in
Europe, after I had read about the team USA’s adventures in Moscow
At that time, there was no competitions in Finland but I knew some
finnish people had tried some local comps in Russia. This is what read
from DD forum anyway. Well, I got no info but instead was contacted by
Lorraine Patten from the USA. She told me about the NAKF, and how they
had started out. She told me that a good way to start was to start
arranging local competitions myself. I thought is was an absurd, but
also an interesting idea.