The 94s, and things you don’t want to hear from your taxi driver

Apart from a world record snatch attempt, and a close one at that, the 94s were somewhat dull compared to the excitement in many of the earlier (and later) classes. Although perhaps I’m biased, since at the international level this class lacks the appeal of the others, for me at least. It’s as though the competitors are heavy enough that I expect and am therefore not surprised by their big lifts, but not so heavy as to do lifts that seem to defy possibility. And apart from the Kazak kid, Vladimir Sedov, who looked completely off, there were few people I was really interested in seeing.

Vladimir Sedov, who made only his openers

Alexandr Ivanov showing classically beautiful Russian technique

And yet a look at the numbers shows it was, in fact, a damn fine competition. There was a very close record attempt snatch (189) by the Ukraine’s Artem Ivanov, and the top three finishers were separated by only 6 kilos: Russia’s Alexandr Ivanov with 403, the Ukraine’s Artem Ivanov with 402, and Romania’s Valeriu Calancea with 397.

Artem Ivanov; a very close world record attempt

Perhaps it’s the massive shadow cast by Szymon Kolecki’s world record clean and jerk (232) and total (412). Those are extraordinary numbers by any standards, and it didn’t look like anyone in this field would be breaking them anytime soon.

Or perhaps it was the taxi ride to the venue, which was so packed with white-knuckled terror that I had no real enthusiasm left for watching the 94s. My rental car was due back in the afternoon, and so we had to take a cab that day. In most western cities this isn’t a problem, but in Turkey it can feel like a matter of life and near-death.

Driving in Turkey is the automotive version of the running of the bulls; chaotic, dangerous, a frenzied jockeying for position and forward momentum. Lane markers–where they exist–are little more than suggestions, and two-lane roads routinely become three and four lane affairs. In the center of Antalya the concept of “lanes” disappears entirely more often than not, and the movement of cars resembles the opening moments of a road race. Except in this road race there are also people, buildings, parked cars, and trucks and buses to contend with. Anyone who thinks life by the Mediterranean is slower paced than elsewhere should experience a ride in a Turkish taxi to quickly dispel that myth.

It also helps to keep in mind that in many parts of Antalya, like most of the world that didn’t develop an infrastructure based almost entirely on a love affair with the automobile, these are narrow streets. For those of us more accustomed to driving on vast stretches of road with acres of space, even in offensively large land yachts, this can be disconcerting, and makes every high speed turn and bust of acceleration that much more harrowing.

i may have misjudged how close that sign was to my mirror...

Given this situation I can perhaps be forgiven if I was a little tense as our driver sped off from downtown Antalya toward the Expo Center. I was riding shotgun, and so unfortunately had a view of the whole ordeal, aided by the fact that the car was a goddamn Fiat Doblo or something similar, which has extraordinary visibility from inside the cabin, great for driving, less appreciated for spectating as your driver comes within molecules of hitting pedestrians, cars, buildings.

The driver, an amiable young Turk who grew up in Germany, noticed my white-knuckled grip on the door handle and laughed.

“No worry, my friend! I’m good driver!” Those words alone would have been little consolation given the high speed burst we were presently in the midst of, but they were made worse by what he said next, accompanied by a wide-eyed grin.

“I crazy driver! I do rally on weekends!”

Fantastic, I thought. Our driver is some lunatic with race car driver aspirations, who uses his day job to practice. I thought of my own practice in weightlifting, which was little consolation, given that practice where you hope to make the mistakes you want to avoid in competition.

I tried to relax and consider the fact that this guy, whose name was Morat, was a professional. And he said he drove a cab in Germany; they wouldn’t allow a complete madman driver there, would they?

“In Germany I drive on autobahn,” he said, still grinning. “I drive very fast. Cops point me; stop! My taxi license was take away three months!”

Excellent. But to his credit, he got us to the venue in one piece, in twelve minutes, less than half of what it took me. And he even came inside to watch some weightlifting, before having to leave and return to work, no doubt going to scare tourists shitless during more high speed practice for the rallies.

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