Tuesday, 4 December 2012

2012 National Competition report

As the chalk dust settles on our National Championship last Saturday I would like to express thanks to a large number of people. I will start with the competitors , without who there would have been no competition! You came from far and wide – Russia , Canada , the ACT , Queensland , Victoria , NSW and yours truly from Tasmania. Thus we are well on the way to offering a sought after Open Championship of Australia , and urge the other states to form clubs and organise teams to experience the buzz of a big contest.

Clearly in  a country as large as Australia it requires a dedicated athlete to travel 4-6 hours to an event where he/she gets to play for only 10 or 20 minutes . However I have always viewed competitions as an educational and social experience , as well as a chance to test training methods and exhibit one’s dedication to a chosen event. What happens before and after can be as memorable as what occurs on the platform and in the warmup up or spectating area. View a competition as a sort of working holiday for sportspeople – you get the idea?

Jad Marinovic opened her gym doors so we could host this party. In fact , at personal cost she closed her doors to regular clients for several days to enable this event to take place. She facilitated the simultaneous occurrence of a visit by IKSFA legends Sergey Rudnev (“Yoda” – 20 years experience teaching , experimenting and competing with kettlebells) and the man you would always want by your side in the trenches – the indomitable Sergey Rachinskiy. These men give tirelessly of their time, really for the love of what they do and the rich experience of travel - worth more than money!

Whilst some people were lucky enough to attend the Level 2 academic  certification , Jad also lent her gym so that one on one instruction could be provided for those with other commitments or circumstances. Her well organised Kettlebell Athletica facility, quite cosy with the excellent attendance , imparted an exciting ambience somewhat lost in larger venues. Like a band performing in a pub as opposed to an arena , we were immersed in some fantastic lifting . Audience participation always ensures athletes drip that extra sweat and tears (and palm tears with resulting stigmata).

                 Well organised facility, first time with electronic scoring and displays

IKSFA recently published their comprehensive rule and regulations for competitions . This compliments the ranking system adopted by our committee in late 2011. The rules are firm but fair , reflecting changes in the sport over recent years and enabling us to aspire to an overall higher standard of lifting .  For some years I have been aware of band of internet based couch lifters who love to criticise judging and athlete performance ; I will call them out as predominantly a bunch of average performers who have not volunteered to enjoy the often thankless , necessary but strangely rewarding task of judging, let alone competing. The GSAA is relatively new and everyone is gaining experience.

 The assistance from the Sergey’s was a golden opportunity to learn the nuances of the rules and gain feedback from our performance. One other point of relevance to this discussion – GSAA aims to strictly judge those attempting higher ranks that reflect a serious national team standard GS focus e.g. CMS and above. As the sport remains novel in our country , we are not about discouraging new performers by no counting every 2nd rep ; the general rule is the athletes are encouraged and if they show safe and good albeit not perfect technique their reps will count. One point ; if an athlete is able to make 27-30 reps per minute it is very difficult for a judge to assess fixation – even the world champions do not always stop the bell on a dime as it were! A judge wants to see lockout (e.g. knees straight , and not pressing in a lift entitled jerk) as well as safe control of the bell. Safe for the athlete in the short and long term as well as safe for adjacent competitors and the judges!

If you are working at above 25rpm , probably it is time to start competing with heavier bells. These will definitely stress the need for perfectly efficient technique.

In any case , it was great to see new competitors on the same platform as quite seasoned lifters . It took me back to my Latvian odyssey in 2008 , sharing the stage with Ukrainian legend Fedor Fuglev!  Incredibly humbling for me,  but at no stage did I feel intimidated or belittled by the other athletes -  nor the judges or audience. On the contrary , I vowed to train smarter and seek out the best advice. Not just one person’s advice , but a variety of expert people who understood how to tailor training to my physique and physiology, my opportunity to train and not the least accommodate my “old age” restrictions. It is an ongoing quest and life in general is something that often gets in our way as we try to achieve our own idea of perfection.

The majority of competitors seemed happy by their results. Some did much better than they expected ; they used the adrenaline of competition well!.  Others experienced the disappointments almost all gireviks have felt – losing the bells , tearing palms , not achieving the goals they had set etc. Not to worry , you came with the right attitude , competed with great spirit , courage and energy - and enabled us all to learn from each other. It is this collective energy of cooperation that will grow the Association and this sport in Australia. As you know , and something which heartens me greatly , Australians are great sportspeople who love  a good scrap. Even if it is with ourselves!  Individual sports are always tough because we fight our own egos simultaneously with the demons of the platform. And I am not talking about the judges , they are to be regarded like teachers , firm but fair and just doing their job under trying circumstances!

                      Intense concentration , with plenty of background noise!

We must not be complacent in our push to get our best athletes on the world stage as a team. But it is sobering to realise we remain a long way behind the eightball of the non-minnow nations. Rudnev told some of us that at one Russian competition he attended in 2001 , there were 220-odd athletes  lifting 32kg – and 44 men in his bw category alone! So those firing shots across the bows of the novice competitors and judges should consider their status in land of competition proven expertise. And we should work hard to establish proper weightlifting clubs with well equipped gyms.

                                                Legends at work...

I hope the foregoing paints a fair perspective of our kettlebell sport situation. Our 2012 competition was a fabulous learning opportunity and awesome social event. All who were involved , including coaches , athletes , judges , competition assistants and the behind the scenes committee volunteers can rightly feel proud of the mark they have made. In years to come you will remember your contribution . And rather than become a “the older I get , the better I was “ person , you should aspire to becoming a playground legend once again – just like our amicable , knowledgeable and fearsomely competent guests , the two Sergey’s from Russia.

Given our population , 32 athletes was a tremendous turnout – equivalent to several hundred in Russia or the USA. Athletes from 14 years to the 6th decade represented the future of the sport at junior , open and masters level. Given the sport’s exponential growth , next year we will have to carefully consider our venue and categories of competition. It is an exciting and challenging time for all involved.

Congratulations to CMS achievers ; David Tabain (32 kg biathlon , best 32kg lifter award), Edward Perrett (24kg biathlon , best 24kg lifter) , James Ross (24kg biathlon) and Asher George (24kg long cycle).  And  a special mention to Jad Marinovic , who as a nursing mother and competition host had not committed to competing until encouraged by her coach Rachinskiy – just 1.5 hours prior! She won the best female lifter award by a narrow margin from Gemma Deavin.  The overall standard of lifting was excellent . Final esults are posted here : https://sites.google.com/site/girevoysportaustralia/comp-results

                                      Edward Perrett , on his way to CMS

       Don Grant , Bendigo Team coach , masters athlete and new L2 IKSFA GS coach

On behalf of our Association and our sport , thank you to everyone that has helped us get to this point. The coaches who prepared teams are to be commended on their personal sacrifices to make this important facet of sport development and competition work. Stick with it and please phone or bring a friend next time!

Next up will be some interesting interviews...

Cheers , Paul Tucker
Pres , GSAA

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Representing here and abroad

Our athletes are now tapering for the National Competition at Jad Marinovic’s Kettlebell Athletica gym in Melbourne on December 1st. It is an appropriate time to pause and consider the journey they have made thusfar ; as I have mentioned before stepping up to the platform is one thing ; in reality this is just the icing on the cake of months of dedicated training.

We are not professional athletes.  It is often a struggle to maintain focus , schedule effective training sessions and manage various niggles which result from competitive preparation efforts. The slings and arrows of erratic job rostering , travel , personal and family illness , family commitments and the like are problems we all face – and indeed are our constant life companions. Whilst the bootcampers love to say “drink a cup of cement and harden up!” the whole process should be embraced but not unduly suffered.

Sport is after all a pursuit of health , albeit in a competitive guise. Participation in training and competing are what defines the educative process , and are as important as winning or setting records. For in our competitions there is no money . Just glory – and respective from peers. Privateer racing driver Alain de Cadenet made a career based on this philosophy and punched well beyond his weight against well prepared and highly financed teams.

Thus far , Australia has punched above its weight in international GS competitions. On a per capita basis and given our geographical remoteness we have achieved much in a relatively short time. Our international results are on record here (male only at this stage, female to follow very soon) . I would like to congratulate on behalf of all members this month’s efforts of David Tabain (32kg KB , 1st place with 81 jerks + 139 snatches) and his protégé Josh Dean  16kg KB , 1st place with 134 jerks and 196 snatches at the IKFF nationals in Detroit USA. These boys have made the sacrifices , put more than a fair bit of money and effort into reaching the venue and certainly brought home the bacon.

Time flies! Just over a year ago Edward Perrett and Roger Saheli were in Ventspils Latvia competing strongly in the IUKL competition . Both returned , further invigorated for the sport.

Collectively we can feel very proud of these GSAA journeymen. They certainly understand the bigger picture as far as establishing GS an as official sport in our country.  Hopefully you will all stick to the task and dare to dream as David and Josh have done. Whether you are glued to a desk all day , spend your week cajoling clients in a gym,  dig holes in the road for a crust or run around after small children – all roads lead to Rome. The common pathway is focus and dedication.

To those athletes who through unforeseen social circumstance or injury have driven off their road to the competition, know that what got you on that road in the first place will pull you out of the ditch! We look forward to your continuing contributions in 2013 and beyond.

To those who are about to compete , stay focussed and don’t be tempted to overtrain now. The work has been done and unlike exams , cramming will not achieve very much. My best advice is to take stock of all niggles , get some massage work and maximise mobility. Stay relaxed as possible , eat well and get plenty of sleep. Your rewards await! Medals for 1st , 2nd, 3rd place but most importantly , the reward of strutting your stuff in company of colleagues! 

Paul Tucker

Monday, 19 November 2012

General update

In 2012 GSAA has adopted a wait and see approach to the evolution of competitive lifting. In late 2011 the committee voted to adopt the new IKSFA ranking system . In the latter half of 2012,  the full rules and regulations of competitions conducted under this banner were released.

We believe these ranks and rules provide a robust framework for advancement of our sport in Australia. The adoption of multiple levels of achievement allow a novice to sample the sport whilst acquiring necessary skills to progress up the ladder. Some natural ability helps , but fundamentally the diligent hard working athlete can achieve great success. Not everyone can be , or indeed has the personal circumstances that allow performance at the elite (aka professional)  level. But as with other individual sports , it is now clear how we can assess our progress and compare our performances to our particular demographic.

Of course , as with other lifting sports and indeed sports such as competitive martial arts , there are different organisations with differing rules of engagement. Competition between organisations is healthy , and gives an athlete choice. Although one may hope for a common “political endpoint” , the reality is that organisations have to market and distinguish themselves .Thus various technical points may attract or detract athletes of different nature.

Since its inception , GSAA has aligned itself with the IUKL stance on promoting KB sport to the highest level. The ultimate prize is a spot at a future Olympics. Clearly at such an event , there will be one set of rules . Until then , we will be subject to ongoing changes in rules and ranks as the sport evolves around the world.

We should embrace these changes as being healthy for the sport. As noted there is plenty of choice for an athlete whether he or she wishes to compete regionally, nationally or internationally.

Growing the strongest Australian athletes should be one of several goals ; these high achievers inspire others across all ages to have a go and be their best. In many sports , egotistical behaviour can spoil the game for others. Kettlebell sport does have a habit of knocking egos flat. It is however important to water one’s own ego to a point of confidence in one’s own ability. And indeed be proud to demonstrate that to colleagues in the sport and the wider audience.

Kettlebell sport can intimidating , but if realistic time schedules and ranking schedules  are adopted it is a given that the sportsperson will acquire remarkable physical and mental qualities. And of course , there is the excitement that accompanies a relatively new activity and sport , and the feeling that one is playing a part in history.

To date we  have been buoyed with the level of support for our Association and its ideals of encouraging a challenging but healthly sustainable sport for anyone with a bit of drive. A steady as she goes approach ensures we can come to terms with the sport’s global evolution. Make no mistake , this sport is still very much in a building stage and the only way to ensure continued growth is to foster friendly participation according to , and striving towards high ideals.

Nobody is perfect , everyone is busy and the GSAA system remains volunteer driven and run. Even if and when significant sponsorship arrives , those with a administrative interest will have their work cut out. As will those strong people who choose to compete in this satisfying , frustrating yet ultimately hugely rewarding sport!

As always , best of luck with current and future plans!
Cheers , Paul Tucker

Monday, 21 May 2012

Rolling the snowball...

GSAA is in a consolidation and building phase. Together with other nations , our members are spreading information and enthusing athletes from all disciplines to become actively involved with this sport. There are dozens of well informed coaches in this country , armed with the latest training methods , and it is their responsibility to disseminate this information as well as fly the flag by participating in the competition arena. This can include locally and regionally in gym/club challenges and competitions - as well as larger, more formal competitions. In our planned national competition there is ample scope for contributions - e.g. team coaches and captains , judges , platform referees as well as active platform competition.

To develop and evolve it remains crucial to promote the sport at local level in the form of local clubs and teams.  This provides focus , knowledge and camaraderie as well as a friendly environment to encourage competition. Without competition,  standards remain shallow and potential never fully realised.

A collective approach with the broad goal of gaining official sports acceptance remains a critical thrust in the broad goals established by this Association. At this stage the sport is still regarded as "niche", however there is no doubt GS has tremendous potential for participants at all levels of strength and conditioning. We are a nation of fun runners and "have a go" triathletes - indeed no shortage of people prepared to get off their backsides and commit to regular progressive training - and there is absolutely no doubt kettlebell sport provides superior physical parameters without the impact and strain injuries that beset the above activities. And as we know , the kettlebell sport can be trained with minimal equipment and expense - with maximal time efficiency. Thus we have massive unrealised potential for participation . The larger the athlete base , the higher percentage of top level sportsmen and women will emerge - with the benefit of providing Australia with a truly competitive international team of the future.

We can make this happen . Given that kettlebell enthusiasts have already seen outside the square of traditional methods and activities, surely all that is missing is collective effort in promoting local and regional team building and competition? We know the standards (e.g. comprehensive ranking systems of IKFF/IKSFA and IUKL) and have the knowledge to take beginners to high levels of performance. Success depends upon marketing and given that many coaches/trainers have a direct financial stake in the kettlebell business it is obvious that promotion of kettlebell sport can act as a powerful performance marketing arm of this business.

Kettlebells are designed for power endurance ; the best KB results are shown by girevoy sport athletes. These "stars" by and large are busy with training committments, thus rely upon others to promote them and their sport.

In recent years we have received significant contributions including knowledge , facilities , equipment and time from several organisations and individuals. Our thanks go to the IUKL , IKSFA , IKFF , Kettlebell Athletica gym , Stockade gym , Punchfit gym , vice president Mick Valentine at Bondi Junction , Strength to Strength gym, Tough Love kettlebells and Australian Kettlebells. GSAA personnel and members are stoking the boilers of our mothership but we require ongoing and new support to succeed with our goals.

GSAA enthusiastically welcomes AKI (Australian Institute of Kettlebells) as a new sponsor for 2012-13 . Sydney based , AKI is ideally placed to consolidate and grow the KB sport business in the most populous state. They comprise a strong and cohesive team of highly qualified KB focussed individuals and we look forward to working with them to encourage new participants to our sport.

Stay tuned for details about the 2012 GSAA national competition.

Stay focussed and train smart.
As always , Fortitudine Vincimus!
Paul Tucker