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2020 California King Kong

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The 2020 King Kong in California was held at the same location that it was in 2019. The venue was Odd Haugen's (and Martins Licis) gym in Newbury Park, an upscale pleasant community roughly 45 miles Northwest of Downtown Los Angeles. For more details on the venue, read Part I of my 2019 Trip Report.


I drove the 275 miles that morning, went home that afternoon/evening. Left at 5:15 am, got home at 9:15 pm. I didn't want to stay in a hotel in Covid World. All the competitors and spectators did a good job of wearing masks.

There were 17 competitors total: 14 men and three women. Of those 17, I recognize seven as having competed in King Kong during the past three years, and the other 10 as having never been there. 

A few words about some of the competitors. Carl Myerscough returned in 2020, having competed in San Diego in 2018. Carl came in first for the venue, came in first in the World on the Crusher, and 3rd overall in the final World results.

John Machnik was back. His is a name that slips through the Gripboard chatter, but I have watched him slowly rise through the ranks since I met him at the San Jose Fit Expo in the Summer of 2012.  He had the chutzpah to compete in one of the first LA Fit Expo Grip competitions, when only nearly World Class gripsters were competing. I personally remember introducing him to Andrew Durniat, and Andrew warmly saying "Welcome" to him. John finished 2nd for the venue, and 16th in the World, two places behind Adam Glass. Having watched the very low-key and pleasant Machnik over the last eight years, I can tell you he will continue to improve. 

Odd Haugen. What more can I say about the 70 3/4 year-old Norwegian giant? In an unusual twist, he participated in all four events. I believe he made too high a jump from his first to his second Flask lift, causing a problem in his overall scoring from that blunder, finishing 52nd overall (his 101.5 points on the Flask guaranteed (for him) a pedestrian placing. 

Someone who I knew nothing about, until last Saturday, and didn't really notice him until after the first event, where he was always lifting a couple or three attempts after I was done. His name was Jacob Tolentino, who I believe works out at Haugen/Licis' gym. Because his physique is not rock solid, and because I was not wearing my eyeglasses, I didn't see the amount of muscle mass that he has. From Social Media, it appears that he pulls in the high 300s on the Axle, and over 650 lbs. regular deadlifting. It was his first grip contest, and he finished 3rd for the venue, 38th in the world. 

I will mention the highest ranking woman, Megan Benefield, who finished 1st locally, and 14th out of the 43 world wide women competitors. 


A few comments on some of the people there:

Carl Myerscough is a pro and a pleasure to watch. He very well knows what he can and cannot do, so he works the attempts very well. Despite knowing what he is doing, he does tend to "go for it". On the Flask he maxed out on his third attempt. On the Crusher, he set a World Record on his third attempt. He did leave something on the table on the Grab Ball, where he got his 4th attempt and settled for 3rd in the World. His 11th place in the World on the IronMind Little Big Horn came on his second attempt. I think he was a bit disappointed on his LBH, but 3rd in the World is not so bad. Carl is low key, and a bit on the quiet side. 

A prediction for Carl, and I am willing to wager on the prediction. He will be the next CoC #4 Certifier, and it will happen before King Kong 2021.

Jacob T. It's always fun to be surprised and marvel at someone you never heard of and watch their lifts in stunned respect, even if they are kicking your arse. 

As in the case last year, Odd's gym is Geezer-Friendly. There were four Over 50s, and of them, three of us were Over 60.

Riccardo Magni's lifts, for reasons I will not explain here, were all done with his Left (non-dominant) Hand. And he still managed to outlift me in all four events. He did an excellent job of running the show.

Not sure why, but Zeus did not show up until later. Yes, Martins Licis was working out at the gym, outside, doing Atlas Stones and other such things. But I am talking about Odd Haugen's sweet little fuzzball of a dog wandering around the gym, Zeus. Don't know the breed. 

My own performance? It was okay. I didn't lift ANYTHING over 100 pounds for a two month period of time (July-September). I strained/pulled a groin muscle falling in the early am on a walk on a tree-damaged City sidewalk in July. September 20 I cautiously began lifting on the Rolling Thunder and my ancient Little Big Horn (original version, less anvilly) So, all things considered, I was happy. Pulling 80.6 kgs. on the Crusher was a pleasant surprise, in that I have no lift or exercise that has fallen as deeply as my Rolling Thunder lifts. It's hard to believe that I pulled 222 lbs. in my garage 6 or 7 years ago, and failed at 161 just three weeks ago. So I was VERY happy with my position #65 on the Crusher. My goal next year on that is for my placing to begin with a "4". It was fun for the audience to respond to my method of an attempt at my max: I will try left, get an inch or so of air, switch to the right, get it "almost", and then stand there for at least 30 seconds, resting, hitting it again with confidence, and then BARELY  pulling it off. That was the way it went on the Flask,and the Crusher and ALMOST on the LBH. I say "almost", because my first two attempts were easy lifts on my very weak left hand, and for my third, I increased the weight from 67 to 72.75 kgs. Got half up on left, switched to Right, almost got it, and said "I'll get it on my 4th". Went through the same drill on attempt #4: Got air on the left, switched to the Right Hand, got plenty of air, waited out the Clock, and the last attempt...couple of millimeters away from touching the cross bar. A very loud sigh from the very nice bunch of strangers, I felt supported in my last hurrah for the day. As far as the Grab Ball goes, I underestimated how "seasoned" the device was. Got a left PR on the first attempt (about 105 pounds), and taking 8-12 pounds jumps on 2-3-4 with the Right Hand, it got easier every time! I had a 10 lbs. PR improvement on my right hand (60.1 kg/ 132 lbs) and probably left close to 10 pounds on the table. Oh well, live and learn. 

My favorite moment was at the end of the day, WSM Martins Licis was walking through the gym on his way home, and stopped, recognizing a Masked Hubgeezer. Martins and I certainly were not friends, but we were in 5 different Fit Expos grip contests between 2012 and 2016. Had not seen him since 2016 and his attaining fame. It went like this:

ML: Hey, (fist bumping), good to see you!

Hbgzr: You remember me?

ML: Sure! Still going at this, huh?

Hbzer: Yeah...I'm 66 Years Old!

ML: Holy Shit!!

I always liked Martins. Good Guy, Fun Guy, Regular Guy. As far as I am concerned, no Ego. I am very happy for him, and it is good to see Success has not spoiled him. 

In this Covid Mess, the whole day was a breath of fresh air. Hope to be participating again at the same place next year. 

Edited by Hubgeezer
Met John Machnik in 2012, not 2002
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