Arrival in Almaty… finally…

It’s 5:30AM local time and after a voyage that was only slightly less grueling than landing on a comet halfway across the solar system, I have arrived in glorious Almaty, Kazakhstan. This is not a place that’s easy to get to under the best of circumstances, and my circumstances were anything but ideal. After a flight cancellation Monday night, a reschedule, a four-hour layover in Frankfurt, and then a “direct” flight to Almaty that in truth involves a quick pit-stop in Astana, I stepped onto glorious Kazakh soil sometime around 3:30 this morning, where the promised IWF hotel shuttle was nowhere in sight…

but there was this giant billboard...

but there was this giant billboard…

Eventually I did manage to locate a shuttle, although the driver was curiously absent, and there was no sign he’d be returning anytime soon. So on to plan B: shouting “weightlifting” and “Ilya Illin” to anyone who will listen, all while miming the motions for the snatch and clean and jerk. The result, at 4 in the morning, was no doubt unsettling for the locals: this strange, bearded, sleep-deprived figure lifting his arms like a baboon defending his territory and shouting a mispronounced Kazakh name.

Me, arriving in Almaty and looking for food and a shuttle to the hotel (artist's reconstruction)

Me, arriving in Almaty and looking for food and a shuttle to the hotel (artist’s reconstruction)

Yet somehow I made myself understood, although I ended up in a cab that made me wonder whether the last leg of my journey would be the most dangerous. I’m no stranger to questionable cab rides—e.g., the aspiring rally driver of 2010 in Antalya—although there are certain minimum standards I like to see. In this case, my driver had a corked wine bottle (half empty) sitting in his door’s map pocket, and he was easily old enough to have been around during the era when Russian Tsars ruled over Kazakhstan. Shit he may have been a Russian Tsar, and this was simply his way of hiding out until the whole Soviet/Post-Soviet thing blew over…

But I have arrived. And there is still some damn fine lifting to see: later today, the women’s 63 A session and the men’s 85 A session, the latter of which promises to be one of the most hotly contested classes.

Until then, I need to restrain Graber—who has been speaking in a continuous monologue since I arrived, including during the writing of this—and get some sleep… In the meantime, enjoy a casual 200-kilo snatch by weightlifting’s cultural ambassador, Dmitry Klokov, thanks to All Things Gym:

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2 Responses to Arrival in Almaty… finally…

  1. Yi Shang says:

    Nice picture, I mean the Saturn one. A weightlifting fan at this time of the year can certainly relate to the passion of it if nothing else.
    waiting for your coverage of the sessions, and good luck with all the cab rides in Almaty.

  2. Pingback: Houston: The Kazakhstan of America and the 2015 World Championships | Decadence and Depravity: Tales of Weightlifting, Food, and Everything Else

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