Can it really be? Is it true that another World Championships have arrived? Ye gods where does the time go?!
I nearly missed the entire affair, were it not for a phone call early this morning. The caller was persistent, so I assumed it was none other than Mr Graber—who has been calling and texting me nonstop since his debacle at the Arnolds—but when I finally picked up I heard a voice shouting at me in Mandarin.
“I’m in bed, dammit! Who is this?”
It was none other than the man himself, Lü Xiaojun. Ever since it was announced that he would not be competing at this year’s Worlds we hadn’t spoken, and I had fallen into a deep depression. For weeks I had been locked in my room, watching footage from previous World Championships and drinking cheep Chinese beer while listening to Chinese Emo bands and writing horrible, angst-filled poems about weightlifting. And now he was calling me.
“Why aren’t you at the Worlds?!” he screamed.
“What’s the point!” I cried, gazing wistfully at a photo album filled with pictures of me and Lu in happier times: me consoling him after his second-place finish in 2010 in Antalya; the two of us wearing berets and feeding each other baguettes atop the Eiffel Tower in Paris after his 2011 victory; the pep talk I gave him just prior to his world record snatch performance in 2013.
“It’s the Worlds, dammit!”
“Is it, Lu? IS IT a World Championships without you?”
“Have you seen the start list? Daniel Godelli from Armenia is listed with a 372 total in the 77s! Bulgaria’s Ivan Markov and Iran’s Kianoush Rostami are entered with 390 and 391 in the 85s, and three other lifters—including my countryman Tian Tao—are listed with 380! And for god’s sake, have you forgotten about Ilya Illin?!”
“He posts selfies every day! How could I forget?”
“Nearly every class is filled with outstanding lifters. Already North Korea’s Yun Chol Om and Un Guk Kim have taken the 56 and 62 classes. Liao Hui snatched a world record in the 69s, and broke the total record! And Zulfiya Chinshanlo from Kazakhstan broke the clean and jerk record!”
An intercostal slapped me across the face.
“No buts! You need to get to Almaty and cover the story!”
“But Lu, I don’t even have a ticket! Or a pass!”
There was a brief silence before he spoke again. “Don’t you, though?”
I looked at the pile of Chinese Emo CDs and notebooks of bad poetry and there, sitting atop a Dashboard Confessional album, was a ticket to Kazakhstan, along with a set of credentials.
“Lu,” I said, “I don’t understand. How did you…”
“Silence! Do you not know there are things my intercostals can do that even you do not understand? Now go! I expect an update when you arrive.”
“Yes,” I said. “How can I ever repay you?”
“Finish the Grabero and Lydiet saga.”
And then he hung up, ending the call so abruptly that it knocked out three cell towers in my area.
That settled it.
I have a miraculous ticket, a mysterious pass, and the encouragement of the man who may be the greatest weightlifter alive today. I cannot let him down! When Lu Xiaojun tells you to go halfway around the world to watch weightlifting, you simply do not refuse.
Kazakhstan it is!