Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Favorite Strongman: #5 - Zydrunas Savickas

#5 on the list is none other than Big Z himself, Zydrunas Savickas. In the day and age where it seems strongmen must be tattooed from head to toe, have a Mohawk, or some other ridiculous hairstyle, or customized facial hair, or Heaven forbid - nipple rings - It is the clean cut All-Lithuanian powerhouse that is the strongest man since the Biblical Samson.

(Author's Note: There should be a rule for strongman contestants that in order to wear nipple rings you have to beat Travis Ortmeyer's time in a five stone run, Travis is the only person allowed to wear nipple rings, more than one person wearing them is too many for strongman.)

Zydrunas Savickas' record speaks for itself, six Arnold titles, two time (and counting) World Strongest Man winner, Two IFSA championships, and more 1st place finishes in minor competition than you can shake a stick at. Believe it or not he managed to do all this without or looking like he'd spent 100 hours in the chair at LA Ink. Hats off to him.

Why I like him:

  • Can Log press more than most powerlifters can bench press
  • Soft spoken and seems to do most of his talking on the platform
  • Has a huge gut, gives me hope
  • He is not "ripped", "cut", or any of those other ridiculous words used to describe people who are lean with a little muscle
  • did I mention the power belly?
  • Hands down the strongest man of the modern era (if you disagree I would love to hear your futile arguments)
He holds more world records than any strongman, and is a human highlight reel, but I've elected to leave you with a training video of him casually deadlifting 902lbs for a double and 946lbs. for a single. Shame on every emaciated, frail weakling in that gym for not stopping and staring at the greatest strength specimen on the planet lift this monstrous weight. They should count themselves privileged to share the same gym as him. This is art.

(photos 2 and 3 credit to Randall J. Strossen of Ironmind.com)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Favorite Strongman: #6 - Svend Karlsen

The viking from Norway, Svend Karlsen, worked his way up the podium over the course of three years to finally take first place in World's Strongest Man 2001. He held off a very motivated Magnus Samuelsson for the win.

Svend has competed as a bodybuilder, powerlifter, and strongman and achieved great success in all three.

Why I like him:
  • He is versatile and mastered a number of disciplines across a wide range of strength sports
  • He has "Viking" tattooed on the right forearm and "Power" across the left so that when he brings his fists together it says his catch phrase "Viking Power"
  • He is facebook friends with me, most of what he says is in Norwegian, but still, it's cool.
  • He rocked some awesome purple tights during the WSM'01 competition
  • From Ironmind :"It was only about a week after 9/11, but Jim Davis wasn't going to let a few terrorists stop something as big as his United in Strength strongman contest, and one of the guys who hopped on a plane to compete was Svend Karlsen, who won the contest and then grabbed the mike and declared "It is important that the whole world stand together and show that terrorism has no right!" Svend Karlsen went on to win the 2001 World's Strongest Man contest . ---militant Muslims beware, Svend gonna find you.
  • Overcome much adversity including kidney disease, dialysis and finally a kidney transplant in April of 2009.

I mentioned that Svend has overcome much adversity, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention Svend's late wife, Lene Alexandra Karlsen.

On April 5, 2009 after having suffered with bipolar disorder for years, Lene took her own life after enduring a particularly severe episode of depression. It was a devastating blow to the strongman community and of course to Svend. I, frankly, cannot imagine the grief and devastation of losing the wife of your youth.

Lene was a constant presence in the international strongman scene while Svend was competing and serving as a host for various contests. Randall Strossen of Ironmind wrote a short piece in memory of Lene Karlsen that you can read here.

And if you know someone who needs help, play the strongman, and intervene before it's too late.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Old Glory

I wrote this post after Rebekah's 1st 4th of July a year ago. I hesitated to post it at that time because I felt that we had become self-indulgent regarding our adoption and experiences while in Russia. Now that some time has passed I thought people wishing to properly celebrate their country's independence might enjoy it or find it inspiring. Happy 4th of July.

Vitali, our driver, parked the car on a busy eight lane street in Moscow, we grabbed our backpacks, and he pointed us to our destination. "It is that building there, I wait here for you." he said. When I pictured what the United States embassy would look like, it was hard for me not to imagine something similar to the Emerald City in the wizard of Oz where everyday is the fourth of July and every night the sky was lit up with fireworks and a message of freedom. But, instead, we walked up to an rather unassuming, government building surrounded by an iron gate. Allison and I had to divulge the entire contents of our bags at the entrance and get a metal detector waived over us... They even waived it over Rebekah. We gathered our things and went inside. We were there for one purpose only, to get Rebekah a Visa to enter the United States of America.

As we walked inside, there it hung, Old Glory. The stars and stripes so bright they hurt my eyes.

I hadn't seen a single American flag in nearly a month. And after a steady diet of unintelligible, propagandized Russian media, frankly, it was breathtaking. I resisted the urge to stop and stare and we wound our way down crowded hallways and up some stairs until finally we reached the place we would receive our immigration papers and Visa for Rebekah to come home. We waited there with several other American adoptive families, we met a nice couple from Charlotte who was adopting a little boy that wasn't nearly as cute as my daughter, a single lady from New York who was traveling with her mom, and several other adoptive families working to get their children home. We were a humble platoon, battle weary and worn, all of us ready to cross the finish line into the greatest country in the world. It was nice to stand on American soil four thousand miles from home, if only for two hours. After receiving the papers that would gain our daughter entry to the U.S., we stepped outside to the city street and back into the country that we grown to both love and hate...

A few days later, on the long journey home, we landed in Miami. We walked for what seemed like forever, on our way through the international terminal and eventually into a little customs office full of people red and yellow, black and white... and us. A customs agent reviewed Rebekah's documents and then stamped her passport, and when ink met paper, it was official. Not only was she our daughter, but she inherited the rights, liberties, and privileges of a United States citizen.

God Bless America. The country that swung wide its doors to welcome my immigrant daughter. Let freedom ring.