The ravages of sleep deprivation, which have driven me to the very edges of sanity, call for only a short update at the moment. I fear if I go to long my normally
brilliant intelligible mutterings will devolve into total gibberish, even more so than when I let the staff monkeys loose on their typewriters. My plan to catch up sleep last night was cut short at 7:30 in the morning, when I was woken up not by Mr Graber’s stream-of-consciousness talking but by a strange back-and-forth shaking of my bed. Were the superheavies battling it out over the last pink sausage in the breakfast buffet line downstairs? Had Rezazadeh fallen out of bed? Was it Graber…? (No, no—down that line of thought lies madness…)
But it was nothing other than a moderate earthquake, which is apparently not all that unusual for the area. These are the things you learn at 7:30 in the morning, when you’re terrifically jet lagged and typing things like “why is my room shaking?” and “five signs your Chinese weightlifter man crush has gone too far” into Google’s search engine.
So with sleep cut short, I wandered around this little corner of Almaty in yet another fugue state, although I did manage to struggle through a training session. And the training hall was where I spent most of my day, apart from a brief excursion to a nearby supermarket.
Where was I? The supermarket… No! Training! Yes, after watching USA’s own Colin Burns set a new American snatch record in the 94s (169 kilos), and then Jenny Arthur lift in the women’s 69 A session, I spent a fair portion of the afternoon watching the various happenings in the training hall.
There is much to love about the World Championships, in addition to the actual competition: getting to visit places that—while interesting—might not make top-ten travel lists (or places that any sane person would actively avoid, like
Hell EuroDisney); bumping into the sport’s various personalities at all times of day, and occasionally taking a picture with them, like this one that Graber took of me and Italy’s 48-kilo lifter Genny Pagliaro and her coach:
learning that places like “Mongolia” are real countries; watching Graber speak bad Spanish to any and all foreigners, regardless of their native language (tonight he spoke Spanish to a confused looking Apti Aukhadov); and of course, the chance to see weightlifters in their most native of environments, a training hall.
As much as I love a good competition—and tonight’s 94 session was a damn fine battle, particularly in the snatch portion—the more straightforward beauty of watching top-tier athletes train is hard to beat. You often see a little more of the various athletes’ and countries’ personalities come through: things like warmup length, progression through lifts, attentiveness of coaches, and so on, as well as more minor details, like who hoards the free water bottles (pretty much everyone) and who is comfortable changing out in the open (ditto).
You learn too that in some cultures washing one’s feet in a bathroom sink is a totally normal and acceptable thing to do—which is exactly what an athlete did earlier today while I was using the sink next to him. This was shortly after training, and he began his foot washing just as I started washing my face; my immediate thought was: how many sweaty feet have been in this sink today, where I’m now putting my face? But then I told myself to be more sensitive to such cultural differences; for all I know, the guy next to me is right now composing a blog post for his southeast Asian readers about the disturbing fact that I didn’t wash my feet in the sink…
And of course the training hall is also great for what it lacks, which is much of the awful political (and financial/commercial) muck that pervades this—and any—sport. Or at least it’s less overt. No doubt such factors are always at play, but in the training hall there’s one less layer of bullshit to sift through. Ultimately, it’s athletes and weights, both of them doing what they were ostensibly meant to do.
So as I drift off into what will (hopefully) be an earthquake-free seven or eight hours of sleep, I leave you in the grace and favor of some training hall wanderings (including a 230 jerk by Klokov and a 180[!] clean and jerk by Tatiana Kashirina)…