Aaawww, Mama, Can This Really Be the End?
How can it be? How is it that another World Championships has come and gone, seemingly in the blink of an eye? Staying awake long enough for terminal psychosis to nearly set in certainly makes the time fly, apparently. It seems that just yesterday I was locked in my room, lamenting the thought of a Worlds without the great Lü Xiaojun, when I received a strange phone call from someone shouting at me in Mandarin…
As the competition drew to a close on Sunday I didn’t think anything would top the extraordinary, once-in-a-generation battle of the 105s. Then Russia’s Tatiana Kashirina put on a performance that included new world records in the snatch, the clean and jerk, and the total. She broke her own snatch record twice, first on her second attempt with 152, then on her third with a tremendous 155, which did not look like a limit lift by any means. In the clean and jerk she took 193 on her second attempt, retaking the record back from China’s Lulu Zhou (set at this year’s Asian Games).
Allow that to sink in for a moment: a 193-kilo clean and jerk.
Nothing else in the competition, I thought, would match that (or the 105s) for sheer awesomeness. And as the men’s superheavy session drew to a close—Lovchev bombing in the snatch, Salimi taking silver overall, and victory going to Russia’s Ruslan Albegov—it seemed this would be the case. For while the superheavy session featured some impressive lifting it lacked the over-the-top excitement of some of the other classes. This is not so much a knock on the category as it is a statement to how extraordinary these Championships were. In a number of respects this was a Worlds that more than made up for the lack of one Lü Xiaojun (but we still missed you).
So with the lifting finished I very nearly decided to skip the true end of the competition, the IWF closing banquet. I had seen enough! I thought. What more could there be? How could anything compare to Rostami’s near bomb out in the 85s, the three-way battle of the 105s, or the superhuman strength of Kashirina? Surely, there was nothing more for this year’s Worlds to offer?!
Ye gods how I was wrong!
It would take a lot to top—or at least match—the week’s competition. You’d probably need a real human circus, with things like giants, ancient warriors, dizzying displays of light and music, a mountain of food and liquor, and a pair of emcees with a tenuous grasp of the English language, all under the watchful eye of the Don himself, Dr Tamás Aján.
Check, check, check, check, and check.
The Sunday evening banquet—at Almaty’s Royal Tulip Hotel, an enormous physical ode to what can be done in this world with the right amount of oil money—was a scene beyond words. This was opulence and extravagance on a scale not seen since Margaret of York married Charles the Bold in 1468 (although the latter lacked the attendance of Ilya Ilyin). In a multi-hour spectacle, during which time the emcees occasionally referred to the event as the “Planet Weightlifting Championships” (Google Translate is still working some kinks out…), the guests were treated to: a play about Kazakh history, a shadow dancing show, a mini-concert by a famous pop star, a dance competition for an iPhone 6 (seriously), and an avalanche of horse meat.
It was very nearly too much to handle. After the 27 hours of travel it took me to return to my little corner of the world, I’m still reeling from the extravagance of it all—both the competition and the banquet. Indeed, I’m still reeling from the travel, which started out in line at the Almaty airport behind a man and his mother trying to check in with approximately 700 pounds of luggage stuffed into a suitcase the size of a Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Despite various posted signs indicating the weight limit, he seemed unclear on what the problem was. Further complicating things was the fact that his mother had seven carry-on items, including—for no clear reason—an empty shopping bag.
Ah, the joys of travel. But I digress. Most importantly, Did I cover the Worlds to the satisfaction of Lu Xiaojun?
Enough gibberish for now! Back to work, and the real world. There will be more on Almaty to come—Worlds or not, Kazakhstan is a place worth visiting—but for now I must figure out what to do with all the horse meat I smuggled back into the country…