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2016 May - APL World Armlifting Championships - Eric Roussin

Eric Roussin

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This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Armlifting Professional League (APL) World Armlifting Championships in St. Petersburg, Russia. The event was held at Red Tower Crossfit. When I arrived at the venue on Friday at 4pm to weigh-in, I saw why it was called Red Tower Crossfit. The gym was on the top floor of a red cylindrical building with a domed roof (i.e. a red tower).

After making it up the 100 or so steps to the gym, I saw a bunch of people standing around checking out the equipment and waiting to get weighed in and registered. The first face I recognized was that of Randall Strossen, the owner of IronMind. I had met Randall on a couple of prior occasions at various fitness expos. He introduced me to several individuals, including Dmitriy Suhovarov, one of the event’s key promoters, the Finnish competitors who were in attendance, Arto Joronen and Jouni Mähönen, and Roman Penkovskiy, the winner of the Rolling Thunder World Championships held in Los Angeles in January. Roman (whose English is excellent) personally escorted me through the weigh-ins and registration process and was extremely helpful. Once registered, I didn’t stick around for very long: I had cut a few pounds to make weight and was eager to go eat, drink, and rest up for a long weekend of competition.

Saturday morning I arrived at the venue at 9am. By 10am, the competition start time, the room was filled with competitors and spectators. The day started out with some IronMind certification attempts. A few people tried to certify on the Captains of Crush #3 gripper, but I don’t think anyone was successful. Then, it was time for Crushed-to-Dust certification attempts. Approximately five people were successful.

The first discipline to be contested was the Silver Bullet. It was an open weight class event. In training I had been hitting decent numbers. I didn’t expect to win this event, but I knew I could do okay. I think I ended up placing 5th with a hold of 28 seconds. Far from my best, but not too bad. Dmitriy Suhovarov won the event with a hold of 58 seconds (I believe) and Jouni Mähönen placed second with a hold of 47 seconds.

Next up was the Rolling Thunder. This was one of two disciplines that I figured I had a good shot at winning. There were weight classes, and I competed in the 90kg class (198 lbs). The APL uses a 3-attempt format, rather than a 4-attempt format used in NAGS contests. This meant I had to be a bit more careful in my weight selections. Also, in the event of ties, the lowest weight competitor wins. When I weighed in at 89.2kg the day before, I figured I would be lighter than several competitors. It turns out I was only lighted than one competitor, and three weighed in at 89.1kg! Because I wanted to minimize the chance of losing in a tie, I was a bit more aggressive with my opening attempt than I normally would have been with a weight of 95kg (209 lbs). The next highest opening attempt was 88kg (194 lbs). In the end, it wouldn’t really matter, because after three attempts, no other competitor had matched my opening weight. I made two other successful attempts at 100 and 103kg (220 and 227 lbs). The winners of every class were given a 4th attempt to break or set a record. As the APL was only just starting to track weight class records, my lift of 103kg was the default record for the 90kg class. I could have gone for more, but I decided not to try. I felt close to my limit on my third attempt and I wanted to save my strength for the axle event on Day 2. I was ecstatic to have won my first world title!

The biggest attraction in the Rolling Thunder event was the presence of Kirill Sarychev, the current world record holder in the raw bench press. Last year he officially bench pressed 739 lbs, exceeding the previous record by 17 lbs! Despite not having trained with the Rolling Thunder, he still managed to outlift everyone else, with a successful attempt at 125kg (275 lbs). He then attempted a lift of 130kg (286 lbs), but this was too heavy.

Next up was the Hub event. I did not compete, as it is one of my weaker events, and it was an open weight class. The Finns, however, did very well. Jouni won the event, with a lift of 35kg (77 lbs), and Arto took fourth. He actually tied with two other competitors with a lift of 32.5kg (71.5 lbs), but finished out of the medals because he was the heaviest.

I did not stay to watch all of the Rolling Thunder weight classes, as I was invited to lunch by a news crew because they wanted to interview me about armlifting and armwrestling. I’ve never met people form the media who had such knowledge of both sports. It was very surprising. Very interesting questions, and I learned a lot about the reaction of Russian fans to the results of recent armwresting contests.

The final event of the day was the “Destruction of Objects”. This consisted of bending nails and horseshoes for time. Only two or three competitors took part, and unfortunately I’m unsure of the winner’s name.

By the time all of the awards were given out it was already close to 9pm. I headed to the hotel to eat, and try to rest up for another full day of competition.

The action on Sunday got started with the Double Overhand Apollon’s Axle Deadlift. Like the Rolling Thunder, this event was also divided by weight class. After my performance with the Rolling Thunder, I was quite confident that I would win this event as well. Prior to the competition, I figured a lift of 190kg (418 lbs) – 22 pounds more than double bodyweight – would be more than enough to ensure victory, based on past Armlifting results. I opened up with a lift of 175kg (385 lbs), and though I got it, it felt like I was about to lose grip with my left hand. This worried me a bit, so I only went up to 180kg (396 lbs) for my second attempt. That one went up well: I think I was just lacking a bit of concentration during my first lift. But I was surprised to see another competitor by the name of Evgeniy Kuka lift the same weight on his second attempt. And he was lighter than me, at 87kg! If I wanted the gold, I couldn’t tie him, so I went for 190kg (418 lbs – a 22-lb jump) on my third attempt. He attempted the same weight, knowing that he would win if we were both successful. I successfully completed my lift, as did he. But then it was announced that we were both allowed a 4th attempt for record-setting purposes, and should I lift more than him, I would get the gold (I didn’t quite understand why it worked this way). I went for 192kg (422 lbs), because I knew I was close to my limit. I got I up, locked it out, received the down signal… and then the bar slipped out of my hands. Evgeni then attempted the same weight. He got the bar almost all the way up, but failed to lock out before dropping it. So the result stood: Kuka Gold, Roussin Silver. Though of course I would have preferred to win, I didn’t mind so much because I lifted the weight I planned to lift. I didn’t lose because of a mistake: I was just defeated by a formidable opponent.

Kirill was in the house again, and everyone wanted to see if he could break the Axle world record of 237.5kg (523.5 lbs). He successfully completed his three official attempts, with his third being 225kg (495 lbs). He then went for 140kg (528 lbs) on his fourth attempt. All eyes were on Kirill, but the weight proved to be too much, and the bar was only lifted a few inches. But it’s clear that another axle monster has been discovered, and should he decide to train to beat the record, he may very well beat it one day.

Following the Axle, it was time for the Excalibur. The Excalibur closely resembles the FBBC Jug, but has a rim at the bottom. It’s intended to represent the handle of King Arthur’s legendary sword. I had not trained for this lift, but I had been training with the Little Big Horn, which I figured was somewhat similar. I decided to jump into the event, along with about 25 mostly larger competitors. I successfully hit my first two attempts at 95 and 105kg (209 and 231 lbs). Following everyone’s two attempts, there was a mad scramble at the screen displaying the results, as had been happening all weekend. By the third round, everyone is trying to calculate which weight to attempt to maximize their chance of placing top three. Given the bodyweight tie-break, and possibility of failed attempts, there were many things to consider. I calculated that if I lifted 120kg (264 lbs) on my third lift, and at least one of the competitors who attempted more weight failed, I’d secure a third place finish on tie-break rules. But a 15kg jump proved to be too much. I budged the weight, but didn’t get anywhere close to lock-out. I knew this was a strong possibility, but I was trying to get hardware, and I didn’t care where I would fall in the standings if I failed. The funny thing was, so many people were too aggressive in their 3rd attempts weight selection and failed, that in the end I would have finished in third place with a successful lift of 115kg (253 lbs). I don’t know if I would have been successful, but it left me with a “what if?” feeling. But I’m sure that about 10 competitors were going through the same regrets.

The final event on Day 2 was the Saxon Bar Two-Hand Pinch Deadlift. This event I had been training, but I figured my chances of placing top three were slim given the open weight class and the strong field. I opened with 75kg (165 lbs), which I considered to be pretty safe, but like on my first axle lift I felt my grip was close to failing (I was successful, however). I only went to 80kg (176 lbs) on my second attempt, which felt much better. Then it was time for all of the calculations. After my experience in the Excalibur event, I vowed to be more conservative. I figured I’d have a decent chance of finishing in third with a lift of 95kg (209 lbs), but the probability of failure was considerable. I decided to go for 90kg (198 lbs). If successful, I would need about five people to fail on their third attempt in order to finish in third place. And, one by one, they all failed. Winning this way is not the way I’d prefer to win, but I have to admit that I was pretty excited about winning a third medal at the World Championships! At the end of the long weekend, I got to go home with three medals: one of each colour.

Though Sunday was a long day – approximately 12 hours including the award ceremony – there were plenty of things to keep everyone entertained during breaks. Many of these were mini-contests between a few people. One saw three men face-off in a squat competition. Each had a light woman on his shoulders. The winner would be the one who could complete the most consecutive squats. One of the women looked worried throughout the affair. I would have been as well. But in the end, no one was dropped, and the guy who won managed to do close to 100 squats! In another contest, a group of guys, myself included, got roped into a “best abs” contest. Another time it was a speed eating contest (that’s the contest in which I should have been involved).

The fun continued into the evening. Many people had heard I was an armwrestler, and in this type of setting it was just a matter of time before I started to be challenged. A couple of large wooden boxes were stacked to create a makeshift table and before long it seems everyone wanted to grip up with me.

There was a friendly atmosphere throughout the weekend. I felt very welcomed by everyone. Though there was a language barrier, there were enough people who could speak English that it was easy to be understood through translation. Be it posing for a picture, to wish someone good luck, to congratulate someone, or just to armwrestle, I had some level of interaction with almost everyone in attendance.

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get everyone’s name, but here are a few people I’d like to recognize:

Dmitriy Suhovarov for being very responsive to my enquiries in the months leading up to the event, ensuring that I understood everything that was involved. And to him and the entire APL team for organizing such a professional event!

Roman Penkovskiy for welcoming me immediately, walking me through the registration process and for always being willing to act as a translator. Roman won the overall Rolling Thunder title at last year’s World Armlifting Championships, and though he didn’t retain this title this weekend (he couldn’t match Kirill’s lift of 125kg (275 lbs), he is now more motivated than ever and he has vowed to return to reclaim the title next year. I believe him.

Alezander Filimonov for also serving as a translator on many occasions. Alezander is only 19 years old, and he’s great at thick bar lifts. He easily won the Rolling Thunder event in the junior class with a lift of 90 kg (198 lbs) at a bodyweight of 83kg (183 lbs). I see many more world titles in his future!

I look forward to attending more APL events in the future. I also encourage other grip sport athletes to do the same. It was an amazing experience.

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@Eric Roussin Great writeup! Congratulations on your excellent performance.

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Very informative and interesting write-up Eric, congratulations on your world-class performance!

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A bit of awesomeness right there Eric.  Thanks for all that great detail and thought processes in there.  I felt like your invisible shadow. :)

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