Every second counts

Every Second Counts!

Copied title? Of course. A bit of a cliché? Maybe.


There aren’t a great many people who impress me. Apart from my parents and a few others I feel close to (close relatives, my girlfriend, and my dog Medo), I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people I truly respect and admire. Among the top three, Bruce Lee and Michael Jordan are the obvious examples (I think almost anyone who considers themselves a part of Tito’s youth generation is impressed by them). But the man I really admire is both an active athlete and a legend and a living proof that there is no illness severe enough that can prevent us from achieving extraordinary things – Lance Armstrong (I warmly recommend reading his autobiographical book Every Second Counts).


On June 7, my sister Tajda and I traveled to the north of Germany to compete at the World Championship in Hamburg. Tajda’s primary discipline is LongCycle, in which she has yet to be beaten (in amateur division), so, naturally, she was full of expectation. LongCycle is not really my cup of tea, so was feeling less ambitious, but I figured ten years of playing professional handball provided me with enough experience that can come in handy at competitions like this, so I was determined to do my best.


This was the first LongCycle competition Tajda and I participated in along with the best Kettlebell lifters in the world.


The day before the competition, we went to the hotel to settle all the formalities, including registration, licenses, personal documents, weighing, etc., and the moment we were getting out of the taxi, Tajda felt a strong stinging sensation in her left hand. A bee stung her right between her middle and ring finger. At first, it didn’t look all that bad and I tried to reassure her that everything was going to be all right. But it was far from all right. By that evening, Tajda’s left hand was twice the size of her right hand and looked and felt even worse in the morning. There was no use pretending; I knew she wouldn’t be able to compete with 16 kg for more than a minute, if she managed to lift the kettlebell at all.


By then, we had two hours to come up with a completely different strategy. Until then, our aim was 150 repetitions, 75 with the left and 75 with the right arm. This means 15 reps per minute, 5 minutes each arm. I am absolutely certain Tajda would have made World Champion had she been able to use both arms!


But the fact is, she couldn’t. Giving up is never an option and in any case, the dead are counted after the battle, right? We decided she would start with her right arm, slowing her pace to 13 reps per minute, even though we knew there was no chance that she would win. But as the saying goes, “A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush”; and with this tactics, at least she had a chance to win a medal.

My advice was to hang in there for 7 minutes and then decide whether she would change arms or continue. We both knew that trying anything with her left arm was pushing it, but we were trying to stay positive. I told her: “Every second counts. The longer you persist with your right arm, the less you will have to suffer with the left”.

I performed about an hour before Tajda and had my own challenges to overcome. In a group of eight lifters, I fell far behind the other competitors, at least that’s how it looked on paper (my personal record was 55 repetitions). So, competition was tough. But as if that weren’t enough, I had to compete with a neck pain, which was no easy feat. Still, I had no choice. I mean, how can I tell Tajda to hang in there and suffer if I can’t do it myself? But as I started to lift, I was feeling great. Applying a 100-percent foolproof tactics, I managed to beat two competitors in the last minute, set a personal record of 66 repetitions and win the third place! Anyone who knows anything about Kettlebell lifting will tell you this is something a “European” could never accomplish!


When Tajda went on to perform, I was sitting next to the judge using my cell phone as stopwatch (World Championship without a central stopwatch leaves something to be desired… but that’s another story). Tajda was performing on the second platform, with Olena Semenova to her right and the favorite, Anna Baranova, all the way at the back. Tajda will give her own account of her performance, I will only say that she did 128 reps with her right arm and was second all through to the last minute. In the last minute, the judge refused to count 3 repetitions because her pace was supposedly too fast, even though Olena’s was even faster! So, Olena won the second place in the last 10 seconds; her being an experienced competitor must have had something to do with it. Anna Baranova won the first place with 147 reps, Olena was second with 128 and Tajda third, also with 128. Another competitor did the same number of reps but was 5 kg heavier than Tajda. I am absolutely certain that had she been able to use both arms, she would have been breathing down Anna’s neck!

Tajda also ranked first among juniors, where she had no real competition, and became Junior World Champion. Later that day, she had one last challenge to face: Snatch among students. While the competition was not very strong, Tajda still couldn’t use her left arm and, having already performed in LongCycle, was feeling tired. Her arm was even more swollen but she decided to go for it. We didn’t expect her to win a medal, but those who know us weren’t surprised. Surrendering is not an option, that’s how we’re made!

She beat her first competitor at 50 reps, the winner with 197 reps was unbeatable, so the battle for the second place was between Tajda and the Norwegian, who lost her kettlebell at 70 reps. Tajda was still at 60 and it was clear that she didn’t have the strength to do another 10 with her right arm. With her last bit of energy left she made it to 67, held the kettlebell over her head for a few seconds, then decided to change arms and give it a shot with her left arm. She did another 33 repetitions (I have no idea where she got the strength to do it, but this only confirms it must be in our genes!) and when she got to 100, knowing she had won the second place, put down her kettlebell.


Yet another proof that every second counts!


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