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2021 Michigan Steel Bending and Breaking Championships - Carl Donati


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All-around, another great competition by Don and truly an overall test of all things bending!  In the months leading up to the event, I was back-and-forth as to if I was going to compete.  With all of the health issues I've been through (most notably here, neck-issues), I decided if I was at least 75%, I would compete.  Leading-up to competition week, not really sure where I was at, but I was feeling pretty decent.

I got into Birmingham after an uneventful five-hour commute Friday night.  Was able to hang-out with Don a little after arrival and got to meet Gary and his father.  After a visit to a local Kroger, hoping to snag some supermarket sushi, I was disappointed to be unable to find any.  No worries, as there was a great-smelling hamburger place right across the street.  I went-in, and was told that there was almost an hour wait, for a hamburger.  So, walking the short distance back to the hotel, I ended up having a pre-comp meal of a big bag of Sunchips.  The one negative of the hotel, which was on the main thoroughfare through town, was that up until about midnight, all you could hear were cars and motorcycles revving and shifting very loudly nonstop.  I think one of the louder cars drove back-and-forth at least 10 times.  This was pretty obnoxious and even made trying to watch the basketball game difficult.

Comp day ... It was great seeing a lot of guys from the comp two years ago and fun hanging out, talking bending for about an hour prior to the competition.  


Double Overhand

I decided over a month ago that I was going to use single wraps (BBW) instead of doubles in the DO and DU events.  With DO, doubles just seem to aggravate my shoulders, and not really ever having used them much longer than a week-or-two, they just don't feel "right."  Going-in to this event, I had no real expectations.  Since wrapping-up the 10 year Red Nail streak last fall, I've bent DO sporadically and have had pain in the shoulder/neck and elbow each time I have, and not doing anything harder than a 1/4 x 7" Grade 8.  

1/4 x 7" Square (140 kg) - bent to 2 1/8"  - felt really good and melted pretty quick ... just got a little overexcited in calling the bend, before it was to 2" hoping to get a better time

5/16 x 7" CRS (145 kg) - good bend - not easy, but got it down to crush-zone in about 40 seconds and then fumbled with the rubber bands and wraps, trying to crush it down for the next 25 seconds.  


GBI 7mm x 7" (120 kg) - 23 degrees - Initially, I was planning to attempt the 1/4 x 6" Grade 5 bolt.  Feeling pretty decent after the DO attempts, I figured I could at least get the 120 GBI bar a few degrees.  I hit it first on my weak side and got some movement, then switched sides and got it to almost 25 degrees.  It was tough and holding the hits weren't getting it to move much more, like the Grade 5s usually do.

Double Underhand

DHWOG 8mm x 6" (225 kg) - 13 degrees - Again, I made this attempt in single Benders Battlefield wraps.  It was very hard stock and throughout the initial hit and subsequent attempts, it didn't feel like I was getting much movement.  I should've spent more time with thicker wraps in training, as I don't think doubles would have bothered any of the issues/pain.  I've bent a few Reds DU over the past year with singles, but this bar at 6" was a lot harder and the angles were a little different.  Not using doubles here is a regret when looking back at it now.  

Braced Long Bar

3/4 x 40" HRS - good bend - There were four of us that attempted this bar (Don, Mike, Tom and I).  I made the mistake of "losing" my braced kink towel.  I brought an extra towel to use if I decided to try the chest crush, but could not find my seasoned, much-smaller towel.  As such, using the thicker towel was pretty awkward on the kink and kept slipping.  (I ended up finding it under one of my bags, behind a chair.  Just lazy in looking for it and really no excuse.)  As I was wasting time trying to get a solid kink, I look over and Don is already leg-crushing his bar to finish.  Crazy, crazy strong!  As it came down to it, Tom and I were neck-and-neck again on this event, as we were two years ago.  He ended up finishing it in 2:43 and I got 2:53.  Tom has turned into a fantastic braced bender.

Braced Mid Bar

5/8 x 25" HRS - bent to 80 degrees - Not too much to say here.  The same four guys in this flight.  Don, Mike and Tom bent there bars pretty quick and I was going through the sweep when they finished.  Seeing that no one else was attempting this bar, I just stopped because the 3/4 x 40" bar beat me up pretty good and I couldn't get any more points by finishing the bend.

Braced Short Bar

3/8 x 9" HRS - bent to 2 1/16" - Prior to this event, Don had said that the 3/8" stock he had gotten was mutant.  Because of this, he changed the rules from single wraps to doubles.  And partial bends score.  I had not bent a 3/8 x 9" bar in training (or ever), so was a little concerned when I heard the difficulty of the stock.  Really didn't want to be embarrassed by it.  As it turned out, this was the easiest bend for me and bent fast.  So fast, that I stopped 1/16" short of 2".  Not really sure why it was so easy in-comparison to everyone else.  Maybe my bar was a little easier stock?  Sometimes the same bar from the same batch can vary a little.  I was pretty happy with this attempt though.


Going in to the medley, Tom and I were tied for 2nd place.  I thought I had a pretty decent chance at 2nd.  Catching Don was laughable, as his performance was out-of-this-world.  (This is a whole other story, as his bends were really at a different level overall.)  Below is the order I did everything (from memory):

Short Braced - Gold Nail - Bent it to about 25 degrees, then it completely locked-up and was just causing more bruising to my legs.  After about 2 minutes of this, I took a mulligan and switched a Red Nail for a very, very easy bend.  

Braced Snap - 1/4 x 6" Grade 5 - It took a long time to get this.  Felt like over 5 minutes, but I was hitting it without rest at a decent tempo, but it took a long time to finally get the snap.  I should've spent more time in preparation for the snapping.

Scroll - 1/2 x 48" HRS - Far from easy, but I was really happy how my scroll came out.  Double fish and the circles were tight.  I had only made 2 attempts at a scroll prior to this, but it was fun and a great full-body workout.  If steel prices go down, I am going to be doing more of these in the future.

Horseshoe - SCF Lite Rim 2 - A pretty fast, easy bend.  Aside from my hands being destroyed and not really being able to hold the wraps like I normally would, this bend went down pretty quickly.

One IMP unbraced - I downsized to a Blue Nail prior to the medley.  Had it wrapped-up and after the horseshoe, made an attempt at it reverse.  Just did not feel good and I put it down, hoping to pick up some points with the oval nail snaps.

Oval Nail Snaps - 1 total - After getting the first snap (which was after the braced G5 snap), I went back for the second attempt at the end.  Ended up getting a "near-S" in it, as I was fumbling around too much.  Wrapped another up with 2 minutes 30 seconds left and was getting decent movement with it, but just ran out of time.


Overall: 3rd place (tie)


After tabulating the points (for a long time - now we know why), Don began announcing the places.  When he got to 3rd place, he announced that Tom and I had tied.  And that things were very close with Tom, Mike and I.  As it turned-out in the final standings, Mike got 2nd place with 35 points and Tom and I tied for 3rd with 36 points.  Mike really killed it in the medley with the Red Nail snap, which was fantastic after a full day of all-around bending.  Going head-to-head with Tom was great and exhausting.  Two years ago, Tom had some really good bends in the competition and was very close on getting some others.  Since then, he has really stepped his game up and it showed today.  

After the results were announced, Don indicated that he only had one 3rd place trophy and it was being discussed what we should do about it.  At this point, I had already taken all of my stuff out to the truck and when it was decided and agreed-upon that we would do a lying Blue Nail snap, with the winner of this event getting to take the trophy, I was a little hesitant as I hadn't done a lying snap since David Horne's competition well over a year ago.  Once we got started though, I was getting pretty decent movement with it for what ended up feeling like 30 minutes.  When Tom got the snap, I was physically and mentally exhausted, but happy for him.  Unfortunately, I ended up aggravating my neck again on the lying snap, which was frustrating, as I was feeling pretty decent (no injuries) after the competition.  Typing this now, it's getting a little better, but yesterday was almost continuous headaches from the neck pain.  

I ended up leaving right away, as it was almost 6:00 and I was looking at getting back after midnight.  The ride back wasn't much fun as I just wanted to lay down and rest.  But I was happy to get back OK and begin the recovery.  

Final Thoughts

Overall, a great competition!  Don keeps getting stronger and stronger, and it appears that age has had no effect on him yet.  Unbelievable bends and speed on a lot of them.  Tom's effort and progress was inspiring.  If he keeps improving, he's going to be hard to beat in a lot of events in the future (harder than he is now, which is tough).  Amir's intensity was great to see and his improvement all-around is fantastic.  His medley performance was excellent.  John and Hannah were fun to talk to and they brought their pet opossum!  He was super-cool and the first time I got to see one up close.  Now my kids want one after seeing the picture.  Chris' braced bending really stood out and he's shown a ton of improvement from the past few years.  Everyone else had really great showings, and all-around, this competition was competitive from top to bottom.  Hopefully, I am able to keep pushing the bending into Years 14 and 15 and do another competition maybe next year.  


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Nice write up Carl. Another terrific performance by you. I did not know you tried to go to Hunter House for a hamburger. That place is a classic around here. Rest and heal up my friend. It is always a pleasure seeing you. 

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13 hours ago, Donc101 said:

Nice write up Carl. Another terrific performance by you. I did not know you tried to go to Hunter House for a hamburger. That place is a classic around here. Rest and heal up my friend. It is always a pleasure seeing you. 

Thanks Don.  I came out of Kroger’s and the smell of the hamburgers made me cross the highway.  Super disappointed it was such a long wait as everyone eating there looked pretty happy.  Lol

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44 minutes ago, Tom Flesher said:

Excellent write up! Great work all day. 

Thanks Tom!  Hopefully we can do it again next year.  Forgot to ask you about your shirt ... one of the coolest I've seen in awhile.  Tell Anton I want one too.

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