My arrival in Paris was well-timed. After making my way through passport control and picking up my luggage I exited the gating area and nearly bumped into a guy holding a “Paris WWC 2011” sheet of paper. Fortunately I happened to be wearing a weightlifting-themed t-shirt, and when the little Frenchman saw it he quickly asked if I needed a ride to EuroDisney.
“Absolutely!” I said. “I’m glad to see you prepared for my arrival.”
Of course it wasn’t technically my arrival that had been planned for; the Frenchman had actually been waiting for three Croatian lifters, none of whom were anywhere to be found. But in the immortal words of Abe Simpson, “If a stranger offers you a ride, I’d say take it.” And so shortly after landing I found myself on an official World Weightlifting shuttle out of Charles de Gaulle airport and all the way to fabulous
I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of this place, but from what I’ve seen so far it’s a giant, sprawling faux-charm monstrosity that appears to have been shat out by an enraged Mickey Mouse at some point. The hotel that I’m in–The Newport–is made up of about 300 miles of hallways, and when I was trying to find the cafeteria earlier I spent a good twenty minutes walking around what felt like a goddamn hotel corn maze before I eventually found my way out.
But what the hotel complex lacks in terms of authentic luxury or character–or any sense of being in France, as opposed to Nowheresville, America–is almost made up for by the training hall. For any serious weightlifting enthusiast this is a very legitimate slice of heaven. Not only is it goddamn enormous, and not only is it stocked with top quality Eleiko bars, plates, platforms, and racks, but it’s also crawling with world class coaches and lifters. The entire vibe of the place is one of speed and strength, and you feel as though you can’t help but lift better and faster just by being in this place.
At least that’s what I had hoped. Unfortunately two hours in the car, a one-and-a-half hour flight, a five hour layover, and then another seven hour flight tend to do strange and terrible things to your legs. Or to my legs, at any rate. Needless to say, it took a few more warmups than usual to get my muscles to move in something resembling coordinated action. My only hope is that my frayed neuromuscular pathways stitch themselves when I finally get some sleep tonight.
I spent a little time watching some training–a big Asian guy throwing around 180ish and 210ish (possibly Korean), the Chinese women going through light squats and pulls with mechanical precision, a few Russian men illustrating to the world what perfect technique looks like from 50 kilos up to about 150. After watching some training and partaking in what I plan to be the first of many complimentary lunches I went over to the venue to watch the women’s 58 B session.
The venue itself is smaller than last year’s, but the seating arrangement–a true stadium-style setup–seems better suited for visibility. Last year the entire middle section of the audience was blocked by a TV crane and rig that looked like it came straight from the set of Ben Hur, but this year it doesn’t seem like that will be a problem. The space appears to be more dramatically lit than you would normally expect for a weightlifting competition, but at least your dramatic view is unobstructed.
Unfortunately I missed the A session of this class, as I spent nearly two hours this evening trying to get my credentials sorted out. I spent most of the day using a borrowed set without any hassle, but I knew that game could only last so long, especially if I wanted to keep getting free food. The issue was eventually resolved, and I now have some legitimate credentials, but the entire process involved a level of activity and concentration by the staff that is normally reserved for things like building atomic weaponry. Although apparently my experience was comparatively painless. I’ve heard several accounts now of what check-in was like at the start of these championships, when dozens of nations were trying to get their paperwork sorted out, and it sounds like Ellis Island circa 1907; total chaos, tons of foreigners unable to properly communicate with anyone, and waiting times that stretched into a geologic time scale
But all that is behind us. And now that I’ve managed to stay awake through my first day I can focus on finally getting some badly needed sleep, and maybe trying to apologize to those poor Croatian bastards for taking their shuttle.
Postscript: It is worth mentioning that one Mike Graber, 56-kilo national champion, will be arriving in
Paris EuroDisney shortly, and has promised to do everything possible to initiate some sort of preternatural courtship with Lidia Valentine. That’s the sort of gall that demands thorough documentation, and I plan to be present for every step of the way during this sordid affair. If nothing else, it could serve as valuable evidence for any potential court hearings that result…