Recently, I competed at the US nationals (it was going great until I hyperextended my elbow on my 70kg snatch..d’oh I had it too…atleast, that made me forget about my sprained right wrist . At nationals, I had the great fortune of running into many weightlifting greats: Tommy Kono, Mark Cameron, Yurik Vardanian, Chinese junior world champions, Abadjiev -(only my husband Ivan got a chance to talk to Abadjiev). It is always a profound experience talking to someone in person before or after seeing them in pictures.
Going back to Bulgaria, what is most surprising about Bulgarian weightlifting is how the champions look in person. It is as though, while lifting –in pictures and video of these lifters– a different persona emerges.
This impression is, ofcourse, in the context of being s lifter form the US and being exposed to such misconceptions as, to paraphrase, “all great weightlifters have short arms and long torsos” , “get the surgery”, and “the solution to all problems is going-up a weight class”.
First off, there is variation in body type from word champion to world champion in Bulagaria. It seems that most lifters are more on the “leaner” side or atleast excess bodyfat deos not appeared to be valued. For example, Peschalov is several inches taller than Stefan Georgiev,
even though they lifted in the same category at some point in their career. Both look much different in person.
Peschalov is about 5′ 6″ lean and more lanky than stocky in appearance . He remarked that he is a weightliftier, not a body builder, and is not concerned with having huge muscles. Also of inerest, he has had significant injuries to his legs throughout his career. Despite these injuries, he opted not to have surgery, recovered through physical therapy, and still went on to win Olympic medals.
Similarly, beyond his portraits of victory in weightlifting magazines, Stefan Botev is also a fascinating character. Botev, in person, is well spoken, well dressed, about 5’9″, and good looking. Though he won his last Olympic medal for Australia, Botev conducts much business in Bulgaria. His shoes can be seen worn across the Balakans and other parts of Europe. He has a sucessful line of sports products and supplements as well. Aside from being a successful entreprenuer, Botev is active in the local parliment.
Though Botev no longer competes, stories of his lifting regularly surface in the training halls of Slavia. In Slavia, Botev clean and jerked 260kg at a light 110kg lifter. Shortly after hearing of Botev’s success, the president of the federation requested to see Botev perform the weight, at which point Botev injured his hamstring. Years later, while training at the OTC in Colorado Springs with team Australia for the 1996 Olympics, my brother witnessed Botev power clean 250kg.
No doubt it is only a dynamic and forward thinking person, such as Botev, that is able to in one fascet succeed at the highest levels of sport and, later, succeed in the promotion of sport while bringing such preciseness, quality, and range of products to his sport.
Perhaps, I’ll end this post and begin the next post where I began: Reflecting back on the recent US Nationals and myself qualifying for the Olympic Trials, I am reminded of the insights I gained on Bulgaria’s methodologies for selecting natonal teams. ….