“Kwiat bez zapachu, jak człowiek bez duszy”
(Traditional Polish proverb; loose translation: “A flower without a smell is like a World Championships without a Klokov.”)
After a hellish drive through the nightmare of traffic that perpetually surrounds the city of Chicago, en route to O’Hare, the
one-man show massive entourage that is “The Human Circus” is on site at the 2013 World Weightlifting Championships in fabulous Wroclaw, Poland. Our correspondents—currently consisting of a hotel room full of monkeys hammering away at typewriters, kept sharp via rivers of caffeine and other stimulants—is ready to provide Total Coverage, at least until the realities of our day jobs force us to head home. But until then, onward!
True, this year’s Worlds will not feature the dashing figure of one Dmitry Klokov. Like anyone with a pulse, I was disappointed when I first saw the news on All Things Gym, although Russia’s Mens team isn’t lacking for extraordinary lifters: Oleg Chen, Apti Aukhadov, Artem Okulov, Aleksandr Ivanov, Ramazan Rasulov, David Bedzhanyan, Andrey Demanov, Ruslan Albegov, and Alexey Lovchev. Judging from these entrants, it appears that the Russians are not fucking around, as they say. Speaking of Russians, why don’t we watch a little training right now…
And that’s just the Russians; the startlist, which has been changing faster than governments in Italy, is impressive, especially for a post-Olympic year. Notable figures (among many) include Lulu Zhou, Tatiana Kashirina, Kim Un Guk, Liao Hui, Adrian Zielinski, Andrei Rybakou, Marcin Dolega, Andrei Aramnau, and the man whose intercostals have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in China, Lu Xiaojun.
I’ve only just begun to acquaint myself with the city of Wroclaw, but it took about five seconds for me to recognize it is an infinitely better place to find yourself than
EuroDisney (otherwise known as “The Pit of Despair”). The city center is quaint and attractive in a vaguely Northern European way, and is absolutely filled with cafes, bars, and restaurants.
The venue, too, seems a far better fit for the Worlds than whatever the hell they had in Paris, which had a seating capacity of about 35. In Wroclaw the lifting will take place at Centennial Hall, which looks like the sort of building that barks orders to smaller, less disciplined buildings in its immediate vicinity. Say what you will about the tenets of early twentieth-century German Imperialism, but at least those people knew how to make a building with presence.
Inside the venue preparations are underway: the stage is under construction, platforms are being assembled, and thousands of kilos of weights are pouring in, stacked and scattered about like poker chips. They’ve called in the Polish army (seriously) to help take care of the heavy lifting, as well as Robert Dolega, whom I nearly ran into in my excitement at seeing so much lifting equipment lying around.
All this in preparation for the best competition in the greatest sport known to man.* True, I may be biased—extraordinarily biased—but it’s hard not to credit Olympic Weightlifting as the purest and best expression of strength and power. Critically, the finishing point for both Olympic lifts is standing with the weight overhead, which is in contrast to the bench, deadlift, and squat of powerlifting. This is both the natural, full extension of the body—a demonstration that you can move the weight along your entire reach—as well as the universal pose of celebration. In this it may be unique among all sports, in that the form the body takes to successfully execute the discipline is nearly identical to the victory stance.
What better way to exhibit mastery over a weight than to hold it overhead? Ever since man emerged from the primordial ooze—or was created 6000 years ago by an anthropomorphic, vengeful Judeo-Christian God, if that’s your belief set—he has probably been lifting things overhead as a show of strength. Probably starting with Brontosaurus bones.
But enough babbling for now. For the
thousands millions of people following this year’s Worlds, it’s time to call out sick from work for the next ten days and get ready for the spectacle about to be put on display by the strongest and most explosive men and women on the planet. Athletes, delegates, and officials are pouring into the hotel right now, and preparations are underway for the opening ceremony this weekend. More importantly: Mike Graber arrives on Saturday (perhaps that explains the presence of the Polish army…).
Time for some more coffee, and then maybe a trip to the training hall…
* Yes, better than the Olympics, which long ago became little more than a multi-week advertising and marketing spectacle.