Thanks to Russia and its people…

As most people in the realms of Girevoy Sport know, myself and a select band of brothers and sisters of GSU (Girevoy Sport Union) were invited to Omsk in Russia, to learn, train and compete with our russian comrades.
What an unbelievable trip it was, truly astonishing. This blog is dedicated to the time we spent with our friends in Russia.

The less said about the actual travelling to Omsk the better. Being held up in Istanbul due to, as Anton described it ‘Strong Snow’ wasn’t the best preperation for the week ahead, but what a week.
Upon arriving in Omsk, I think the first thing that struck all of us was how cold it actually was. We arrived to temperatures of -20, with a windchill of even more. Nothing really prepares you for temperatures like that. It’s hard to describe the views we initially witnessed. These were extreme conditions I’ve never witnessed before, the amount of snow, the cold, it was incredible. Beautiful.
Once we arrived at the Siberian State University of Physical Education and Sport, we were quickly taken to our rooms, I was sharing with Mark Stroud – friend and coach of Brighton Girevoy Sport Club. Then onto dinner. Each day we selected from a vast array of food what we would like to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the following day. My initial thought was ‘I could get used to this’. Being waited on was something I’m not used to.
We were then taken on a tour of the University and its facilities. Although no doubt it’s not as grand and as well equipped as Universities back home, the equipment was beautifully simple. What we learnt straight away was that all the athletes and students at this University were taught by as a minimum by Masters of Sport. The amount of World/Olympic/Russian champions the University has produced is incredible and something, as you can imagine, they are extremley proud about. Everywhere we went not just on this day, but everyday, we were treated like royalty, each person we met seemed to want to talk to us, have there photo taken with us, show us their achievements. So, so welcoming! and this continued throughout our whole trip.
On the second day we went for a meeting with the Rector of the University, V.I Mikhalev. He came across as a very strong character with a great sense of humour, and possibly had the biggest hands I’ve ever shook, a crushing grip. This was the first day where I realized how in depth sport really can be. We were taken to meet Yulia Koryagina, who was a director and Head of the Laboratory of Exercise Physiology. Here, we participated in a few pre-competition tests to determine how rested we were, which after all the travelling and little sleep, the results weren’t great! After dinner, we were escorted by our translators for a tour of Omsk. During the tour we were informed that they had temperatures of +40 in the summer. It’s very hard to imagine this when the current tempertaure in -10/20, to go from being so cold to so hot, to everywhere covered in snow to scenes of green gardens and flowers lining the street. Really does emphasize the extreme nature of Siberia.
The third day was D-Day, this was competition day. Not only were GSU up against Anton Anasenko’s team from Omsk, he had also invited a team from Kazakhstan to compete. The competition was over 7 mins, with members from each team competing in Jerk, Long Cycle and Snatch. GSU were the only team who had athletes compete in all 3 events. The support we received was wonderful. You know what to expect at competitions at home, but we weren’t sure how we would be taken in Russia, but there was really no difference, our comrades were quick to congratulate us after each lift, shake our hands, have there pictures taken. It was a great competition, an unbelievable experience. To compete on the platforms against Masters of Sport, World Class Master of Sports, and Russian Champions was something to behold.
Two performances stood out for me…

  1. An athlete from Russia, Alexey Spiridonov, performed an amazing 205 reps with 24kg in 7 mins! Puts my 104 reps to shame. He was operating at about 30rpm, astonishing to witness.
  2. GSU’s very own Abi Johnston taking both Russian and Kazakhstan athletes to school on her sets. Winning the womens 16kg Jerk with 175 reps (the nearest to her managed 90 reps). Winning the womens 16kg Snatch with 191 reps (next nearest was 182 reps), and finishing 2nd on her Long Cycle sets with 113 reps. Abi actually performed the most reps on this event aswell but came away with silver due to co-effient.

The team of GSU did a brilliant job, we held our own and impressed many people. We finished 2nd in the team event behind Russia. Abi came away with 2 Gold Medals and a Silver, Mark Stapleton came away with a Bronze Medal in mens 24kg Jerk with 97 reps, and Will Dollar came away with a Bronze Medal in mens 24kg Long Cycle with 88 reps.

531057_10152608452795397_936877491_nThe next 3 days were mainly taken up by lectures and training. The lectures attended were…

  • The History of Girevoy Sport in Russia
  • Annual Cycle of Training a Sportsman in Girevoy Sport
  • Mediobiological Methodsof Increasing Athletic Performance
  • Psychological Preperation of Sportsman before Competition
  • Modern Methods in Girevoy Sport
  • Medicobiological Research and its role in Modern Sport

All the lectures were great, very informative and lots of information to take on board, with the last lecture probably being the most interesting and compelling.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was when we attended an Inter-University competition, where all the university teams within the Omsk Region took part. There was a great atmosphere, and as you expect some amazing athletes. What I found interesting was that here were athletes who were just beginning there GS journey, to witness russian athletes not putting up huge numbers made it hit home that we all have to start somewhere. Granted these were guys and girls in there early teens, but still it puts everything into perspective that they don’t just start lifting crazy numbers straight away. It takes alot of dedication, training and learning. Performance of the day for me went to Eduard Openlender, one of Antons athletes, who performed a quite incredible 265 reps on 24kg Snatch in 10 mins. After his set he walked off, shrugged his shoulders, like it was a stroll, and he wasn’t even sweating!!
The competition was finished with the most exciting spectacle within our sport;
The Team Relay in Jerk.
relay teamEach team had four athletes with each athlete performing as many reps as possible in 3 mins. This was incredible, it was so competitive, so thrilling to watch. The winning team managed a total of 258 reps in the 12 mins. If the relay event in Manchester is half as good as this it’s going to be awesome. A great way to finish of a competition.

What an amazing place, the culture, the people. The hospitality shown to use by everyone, from the girls serving us food everyday, the lads acting as our chaparones for the week, our lecturers and interpreters and of course Anton himself. It was incredible how welcoming everyone was, they went our of there way to look after us all. It felt like we were famous at times with the amount of people wanting to talk to us and have photos taken.
All week the training with Anton was great, he’s such a character and a wonderful coach. Very humourous and so laid back and relaxed. A bundle of energy with such a high passion for the sport. His knowledge and delivery of skills is second to none. Each day he spent time with each of us correcting our lifts, giving us advice and tips. He makes everything look so easy, so smooth and relaxed. Its no wonder his athletes are so skilled, how can you not learn off someone like this. The training was everything I hoped for and more. Loved it!
Being the first westerners to be invited to the University was a huge honour and one I’ll never forget. Memories I will keep my whole life.

A big thankyou to everyone who made the trip possible. To Anton Anasenko, Mark Stapleton, and everyone at the Siberian State University of Physical Education and Sport who I met and engaged with. To all the athletes and friends, old and new that I competed with and trained alongside.
Finally a big thankyou to Omsk and Russia. A wonderful country with beautiful and proud people. I’m really looking forward to hopefully one day coming back.

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