the arrival of Graber and the 69s

This is the sort of awful shit you wake up to in EuroDisney:

A seven-foot tall guy in a Goofy outfit. That and obscenely overpriced–and bad–coffee. I unfortunately missed out on the complimentary breakfast by sleeping until noon, which meant I had to buy coffee in the hotel. For three euro I got a cup of something that was almost entirely, but not quite, unlike coffee. It was warm and dark, but that’s about where the similarities ended. All for three fucking euro. This place is a racket if there ever was one.

Even before getting here I was wondering why the hell the IWF would agree to hold the World Championships in godawful EuroDisney, especially when you have Paris right around the corner. And from what I’ve heard, there are probably a lot of IWF personnel wondering exactly the same thing, since apparently EuroDisney was not part of the original bid. Paris, the actual city, was the bidder, but somehow EuroDisney–which is about as close to Paris in character as near-beer is to actual beer–was snuck in as the location along the way.

At least the lifting has been good. I spent much of the afternoon in the training hall, where I saw some very serious lifting being done. I originally went down to get some of my own lifting in, but when a guy like Lu Yong sets up shop directly in front of you it makes any sort of concentration very difficult.

this guy is about as Parisian as eurodisney

He and his teammate Lu Xioajun were both at work in the training hall, both doing clean and jerks and some squats. Xiojun worked up to a casual weight that I couldn’t see–these all-black Eleiko plates make counting by sight nearly impossible–while Yong made his way to about 190, also quite casually. Anything is possible on the day of the meet, but these two certainly look to be in good form.

Right around the end of my workout the legendary Mike Graber arrived. This is a good thing, since he’s been texting me with questions every hour for something like forty eight hours now, apparently unaware of international rates. I received a final barrage of texts just before he walked into the training hall, rolling a suitcase so large it suggests he might be thinking about moving to Paris permanently.

USAW legend mike graber


After dinner we headed over to the Venue for the 69 men’s A session. The place was absolutely packed, and we were lucky to find seats relatively close to the stage. (I’m sure that this tiny, 500-seat venue was another thing the Paris bid failed to mention.) Whenever Dabaya took the stage it became clear that many of those in attendance were here for him, as the crowd erupted into cheering.

Unfortunately Dabaya’s lifting wasn’t quite up to the level of the crowd’s cheering, and he made only one lift in each discipline: 138 and 175, the latter made with one second remaining on the clock. It’s a better performance that his bombout at least year’s Worlds, but a far cry from his peak a few years ago.

The session’s top lifters all did admirably well, although weights are notably down from current world records, perhaps indicating the seriousness of drug-testing these days. The top three finishers–China’s Tang Deshang, Russia’s Oleg Chen, and China’s Wu Chao–all performed well, although snatches were in the 150s instead of the 160s, and Deshang’s first-place clean and jerk of 186 was 11 kilos shy of the current world record.

[NB – training and lifting footage to come.]

But the real highlight of the day was watching Mike Graber initiate his courtship with Lidia Valentine. While watching the evening session, the women’s 69 C lifters, he and I noticed that Lidia was in the crowd.

“Lidia’s here,” he said. “I need to get her gift and put on my Spain jacket!”

And the next thing I knew he had taken my room key and was sprinting back to our hotel, which is at least a 10-minute walk away. He arrived back five minutes later–he must have ran the entire way–sporting his Spain jacket and carrying a gift-wrapped bottle of perfume.

When the session had finished Graber literally chased after Lidia, running into the warmup area behind the lifting stage to corner her. “This is my chance,” he said, and soon I was chasing after him, not wanting to miss the spectacular scene. Unfortunately Lidia speaks almost no English, and so I’m not sure she quite understood the severity of the attraction, although Graber certainly did his best to impress it upon her. But at least she took the gift gracefully and didn’t call for security, which Mike took as a good sign.

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