Review of the Pan American Kettlebell Championships at the Arnold Expo 2014

We came, we saw, we conquered! Haha!

Seriously, we have wanted to go to the Arnold Expo for a couple years now, but we never had a really good excuse or reason to go other than to go meet all the fitness pros and celebrities and models, all the powerlifters and strongman competitors, and all elite trainers we look up to. This year was different, this year we had more than a good excuse to go, we had the best reason to go to the Arnold…we were competing! This year Lindsay and I got to go to one of the world’s biggest and most celebrated fitness expos and we got to get up on a platform in front of hundreds of people and lift our asses off! At the Arnold!

As always, we got to hang out with our extended kettlebell family and as we do at every competition we got to meet some lifters that we are friends with on social media but have never met in person and we got to make some new friends…including some international friends. So lets get started on the meet, the lifters, and the venue!

Of course the head of the American Kettlebell Alliance, Yuri, was there to welcome us with open arms, and get us weighed in. This was my first comp on 28’s so I didn’t care about making weight, but I was only two pounds off, I thought about running a few laps around the convention center to cut it and then said to hell with it. Lindsay as always was 12 pounds UNDER her weight class limit. As I was weighing in, Joe Daniels, owner of “Swing This Kettlebell” gym in Kentucky came in to get weighed. I have watched so many of Joe’s kettlebell and mobility videos on youtube but I have never met him in person so I was excited to finally shake his hand and talk with him. I was also happy because Joe told yuri he was stepping up fro the 24’s to the 28’s to give me some competition, and we always welcome some good head to head competition. Weigh ins were the night before and we had just driven six hours so we kept the conversations short and went to go eat.

The following morning we were up bright and early for lifters meeting. At the meeting we got to see our friends Judi and Valery from New York and we got to see our friend Mike Sherman. Mike walked in and told me the big secret, who the special guest lifter was, none other than the man who brought kettlebells to the US, Valarie Federenko! Unbelievable! Federenko was winning championships when he was 19 back in Russia and he was there to not only support the team from Kazakhstan, but also to compete. Now in case you don’t know why this is such a big deal, he has never competed in North America and nobody has witnessed him compete in almost 10 years, but we got to see him throw down snatches like a CHAMP! his technique is amazing but even more amazing is his speed and reps per minute and his iron will. Before the lifters meeting we also got to meet team USA member John Lesko; I actually saw John walking into the convention center, we were pulling into the garage and Lindsay said “look at the size of that guys calves!”, it was all of 40 degrees outside and this beast of a man was walking into the convention center, I realized who it was and told lindsay “that’s John Lesko, thank god he’s not in my weight class!” John is super nice and it was great to finally meet him.

On to the lifting! Lifting started off BIG. Svetlana Krycheck lifted all by herself as the first lifter, with no competitors, as she went for a new world record, she did long cycle on the 32kg. There is no long cycle record for women on the 32, she could have picked it up and pushed 5 reps each hand, waved and went home with a world record, but in classic Svetlana style she pounded out 85 reps on the big red! Her technique and her determination was amazing. After this we got to watch some of the team from Kazakhstan lift on the 32’s, again, amazing, their hip movement is like nothing we have ever seen and their speed is amazing.

It was finally time for me to warm up. This was our first meet using the Vulcan kettlebells. The handles are a different shape but once we started warming up we came to realize the wider opening sits really well on your wrist and arm and we warmed up to them quickly. I noticed while chalking my bells that I could not get a lot of chalk to stick, this made me nervous as I am a chalk monster due to the fact that I have really sweaty hands. What I found out through my warmup and through my set was that what little chalk you put on stays on and doesn’t come off, so in the end we were both happy with the Vulcan bells. Right before I went on, one of the international lifters, Sian from Ireland pounded out over 80 reps on the 24’s on long cycle! Incredible! I could not understand how anyone can move that fast but since this meet I have been consistently moving at 8rpm on 1:00 sets, so now all I need to do is cut my breaks on a 10 x 1:00 workout and stretch that pace to a full 10:00. Now it was time for my set! I got on the platform next to Joe Daniels and another lifter who was two weight classes below us but still lifting the 28’s. The bell rang, Alexander said go and we went! Joe came out the gate like a rocket! I thought “great, he’s crushing me!”, but oh well, again it was my first comp on 28’s and my PR in the gym was 27 at 7:00 so my as long as I hit my goal of 32 reps in 8:00 I would be happy. Joe dropped his bells at around 7:00 but had hit 45 reps, wow, I had to keep pushing. So I kept pushing, just one more minute and I would hit my time goal, I could not hear my judge and the digital rep counters were not working so I had no clue what rep I was on but I put them down at 8:00 and called it a day. Somehow I managed an extra rep the first minute and the last minute and ended up with 34 in 8:00. I was happy. Joe and I stayed to cheer on the guy who kicked both our asses even though he was much smaller than us. My reps gave me a 2nd place ribbon and I was happy with that. We left the platforms and went to sit and watch the real badasses on the 32’s. The next set of lifters was two guys from Kazakhstan, one my size and one half my size only weighing 140lbs, and John Lesko. Pushing the 32’s is just insane and these guys pushed some insane reps.

After this it was time for Lindsay to warm up and then lift. Lindsay’s best time in the gym was 36 reps at 8:00 so she was going to try and go for the full 10:00 and as long she made it then she would hit a time and rep PR. Of course she did amazing! She made the full 10:00 in her first comp on the 20kg and she made a rep PR with 54 reps! Because Lindsay is so small and her movements are so compact and fast everyone loves to watch her, she had half a dozen people cheering on her alone, all in amazement of the “tiny power” pushing the big weight! Lindsay’s reps got her a 1st place ribbon and a big ass trophy!

We went to lunh and came back just in time to see Federenko doing snatches. Then we got to cheer on all the jerk relay teams. Then it was time for awards and closing ceremonies and go home. Before leaving the competition are, Arnold himself walked in! He came in along with Randy Couture, Jason Statham and Chuck Zitto. We did not get to meet them but I got to stand next to them and all I am going to say is Chuck Zitto has enormous hands and Arnold looks pretty good for his age and is still pretty big and little Jason Stathom is…little. Haha! After seeing the big celebs we toured the expo hall and saw Rob and Dana Lynn Bailey and picked up some shirts fro the Flag Nor Fail booth. On the way out I got to meet strongman Kale Bech and then we were on our way home with two new ribbons to hang up in the gym.

All in all it was a great event and we are happy we went to compete at the Arnold! The only thing we are hoping they change for next year is the location of the platforms as we were in the middle of 12 martial arts rings and had hundred of martial artists competing, sparring and waving swords all around us and it was very difficult to concentrate on our lifting. So, another meet in the books, our first meet going up in weight and two more medals!

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