Another year, another March weekend spent in fabulous Columbus, Ohio, for the Arnold Supermegafantastic Championships of All Time, where the tans are orange, the men and women are huge, and the only thing faker than the boobs are the overpriced supplements being hawked. It came, it went, and in the wake of its hazy, testosterone-fueled hangover those of us who were in attendance are all once again left wondering, “What the hell was that?”
It was the Arnold dammit! And like previous years it was a veritable human spectacle, filled with all manner of guts and glory. While driving back from the festivities, with Lu Xiaojun as my co-pilot, we chatted—in Mandarin, of course—about what we’d witnessed and how best to tell the story.
“Lu,” I said, trying not to hit my head on his 176 snatch. “There’s so much to tell! Do I talk about the excellent lifting, by people like Morghan King, Vanessa Quinonez, Lydia Valentin, James Tatum, Muhammad Begaliev (of 2013 Arnold fame), and Krzysztof Zwarycz?”
“No? Then what about the fantastic (if crowded) setup, with a raised platform under spotlights?”
“无!” he said, more firmly. Still the barbell never wavered…
“Do I talk about the crazy insanity of the warmup room on Friday, which was like being in the middle of a pool full of sharks during a feeding frenzy, or in the middle of a bunch of CrossFitters who’ve just discovered a sale at lululemon?”
“无!” he screamed again, punching me in the intercostals.
“Then what?” I said, getting frustrated, and wondering how he managed to punch me with a weight overhead.
“You have written about all that before, in 2011, 2012, and 2013. This year the real story is a love story. The story of Lydia Valentin, and your USAW Board Member—the small one who is constantly changing jackets.”
“Graber,” I said, nodding. “Dammit, Lu! You’re right.” And that was the story, a story that began way back in Paris in 2011, when Graber first
accosted encountered Lydia backstage at the Worlds.
“But Lu, I can’t tell a love story. I write about weightlifting!”
He gave me another jab in the intercostals, confounding me once again. “Then you must find someone else to tell the story! Now please, stop talking. I have real weight overhead, which is something you should try doing one day…”
And then it hit me: who else to tell the story of Graber and Lydia than the man who wrote the greatest love story of all time, the Bard himself?
Unfortunately that plan was hindered by the fact that hiring Shakespeare was way out of the Human Circus’s budget. Also he was dead. By about four hundred years.
But we do have monkeys on staff here, and it turns out that if you put enough of them to work you’ll eventually get Shakespeare. So with the help of several thousand of our monkey interns, all hammering away at our state-of-the-art Commodore 64s, we present, without further ado, PART I of the Greatest Love Story Never Told (Until Now), the story of:
(Mike) Grabero and Lydiet (Valentin)
Two lifters, diverse in nationality,
In fair Columbus, where we lay our scene,
From ancient crush break to near insanity,
When Mike Graber meets Lydia Valentine.
From forth the harried mind of this young man,
A meeting in Paris turns him lovesick;
Thanks to his misadventured ill-formed plan,
Four Spanish athletes cross the Atlantic.
The manic days of the human circus,
To which the Arnold Expo serves as host,
And the fulfillment of Graber’s purpose,
Is the rambling content of this post;
The which if you with patient eyes endure,
May then discern love’s malady and cure.
Scene I. Columbus. CrossFit Endeavor.
Enter DR WESTBROOK and DR BOFFA, of the house of THE TWO DOCTORS.
Dr Boffa, o’ my word, I’ll not answer another phone call from Graber.
No, for then he’ll call all day.
How often he calls thee?
Zounds! I knew not it was so bad.
Alas, draw thy Nike Romaleos.
Here comes four of the house of the Spanish,
Along with the legend himself: Mr Graber.
Enter LYDIA VALENTIN, ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ, ANDRES MATA, the SPANISH COACH, and MIKE GRABER.
Hello good Doctors.
Mr Graber. How fare thee with Lydia?
Enter various SEMINAR PARTICIPANTS.
Seminar Participant 1
’Tis Lydia! How I have longed to meet her.
Never before have I worn cologne to a lifting seminar.
I must say hello…
I will fight thee.
[Aside to DR BOFFA] Is he serious?
Aye. Be on your guard. He is fast and vicious, like a rabid wolverine.
[to SEMINAR PARTICIPANT 1] Draw, if you be a man!
They fight. SEMINAR PARTICIPANT 1 is slain.
Seminar Participant 2
Oh Lydia. Thine eyes, thine hair, thine pink accessories…
I will fight thee.
They fight. SEMINAR PARTICIPANT 2 is slain.
Part, you fool!
Put up your sword; you know not what you do, Mr Graber!
Ay me! Two participants are slain.
Art thou all here just to see Lydia?
Vigorous nodding from all the PARTICIPANTS.
Those that eye Lydia, please you, step aside;
I shall fight thee all! or be much denied.
Away, we shall begin the seminar…
The seminar begins. LYDIA instructs the athletes in the five phases of the snatch: 1) start position; 2) floor just above the knee; 3) just above knee to extension; 4) descent and re-support; 5) recovery. ANDRES MATA demonstrates the positions and technique. [NB: For the best recap of that I can do no better than point you to Ed Herger over at Advanced Sports Science.]
Seminar Participant 3
’Tis so diverse from what I’d been taught!
Lydia, what say you of the pull known as “Superman”?
Estúpido! Tira vertical!
Seminar Participant 3
Thou hast blown my mind…
The seminar continues. ANDRES MATA begins to sweat heavily.
Look how he sweats! Ere long he’ll be soaked through.
Graber, away, and fetch him a towel!
Towel I have not! But here’s another tack,
His face I will wipe, with the shirt off my back.
GRABER pulls his shirt off and wipes ANDRES MATA’S face, much to the latter’s confusion and horror. [I cannot make this stuff up.]
Thou art dry. Let the seminar continue!
[to be continued…]