"What is the most important step a man can take?"
The United States population is over 325 million. That's higher than Canada, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Poland, and Czech Republic combined. When you compete internationally that is what you represent. During warm ups an older woman came up to me and gave me a small set of flowers (I am holding in the picture if you look closely). Through a translator I was told during World War II her and her family were saved by American Soldiers from Nazis and she wanted to wish the American team good luck. That is the history you represent when you compete internationally. Please be respectful of the host country, the athletes, and the spectators. It was one of the most moving moments of my life....
Sentiments aside, I will discuss the trip and contest from my end. My first flight from Chicago to New York was repeatedly delayed, leaving six hours later than intended. I missed the connecting flight to Ukraine and was told there is no other flight. I explained I don't need the exact route, that there are two airports in Ukraine I can arrive at and how I connect is irrelevant. I was told I must find my own way there is nothing they can do and they are taking my bags off the plane. My wife was accompanying me on the trip, I called our travel agency and she found another rep to help us. Travel agent said another connecting flight is available for $900 per ticket more but we have no flight home. (You must cancel your entire trip and we put your tickets back home on our website and you cannot have them, you must start from scratch and only the flight there is available). Made no sense to me and needless to say we weren't going with it. Eventually the other rep said she found a different route but we have to board the plane immediately, we have to get our bags at the claim and re check them, and I'm sorry we broke one of your bags. They gave us two smaller ones to cram everything into, but my chalk, some food, and a decent amount of my exercise bands and warmup equipment were gone. Barely making the flight to New York we got our bags, again one was broken. Flights, delays, connections, and bus rides it took 43 hours from leaving my house to arrive at the hotel in Ukraine, all while cutting weight. I cannot recommend anyone use Jet Blue airline ever. I felt like Steve Martin from planes trains and automobiles ready to drop 50 F bombs on the agent. Had my wife not been there I likely would not have made the connecting flight, and wound up on the news for some type of "airport incident". So on my behalf and team USA thank you for getting me there!
Fast forwarding, Ukrainian food has a lot of bread and dairy and they tend to serve juice with every meal. A store is nearby with frozen vegetables, sausage, snacks, and fruits. I had trouble getting my weight back to normal until after the trip and it was definitely a learning experience for the future with meal prep and weight cutting.
First day we had three events after a three hour bus ride to the site. We competed outside and had an announcer, several hundred fans whom we took pictures with after the contest for about an hour, a film crew, and six countries filled with the strongest 105kg men in the world.
First event was a medley; yoke walk, frame carry, truck pull with harness, arm over arm truck pull. The weight of the truck was half the initially intended weight. Joe had a steady yoke walk with no drops, I did a decent pace for the frame but dropped it once, matt had a solid truck pull, and dan smoked the arm over arm. I felt our team would've done better had it been heavier as most teams used shorter guys in arm over arm and small quick pulls. We had a solid showing but it seemed most teams were a second or so quicker in the first three of the medley.
Second event was db press, 200 lbs max reps three athletes in 3 minutes. Joe got 8 reps and matt got two. Our team again had a solid showing, I wound up zeroing my 4 attempts unfortunately. I'd hit the weight before but the db is my worst pressing event, I wasn't fully recovered from the travel and cut, and the db used was less comfortable for me than the one we had at nationals. I am not making an excuse, these are three areas I need to and WILL work on to see that it does not happen again. To become a great athlete you must identify a problem area, why it is a problem area, and what will fix it.
Next event was combined 3 athletes, one each on axle deadlift 600lbs slightly elevated (dan got 11) 352 lb atlas stone (I believe to 52" Joe got 9) and a 551 lb axle for squat to two platforms I got 7, for a total of 27 behind Ukraine and Poland in both squat and total. Dan had highest and joe I believe tied for top numbers with Poland or beat them by 1 and beat Ukraine, who utilized a very strong but short squatter. The platforms were set to the same height for everyone. Taller athletes were below parallel and the shortest athlete was a few inches above gaining a large advantage. This was one of our best events and got us big points, we finished the day tied for third with U.K. And Canada.
The next day we were allowed to recover, went out for breakfast, toured the city a bit and found a place for souvenirs. The city of Melitopol had a grand opening of their stadium and all countries were to be a part of the ceremony. Each country was announced and the team walked out, behind an assigned escort and team captain who carries their nation's flag. There were a few thousand spectators and United States probably received the second largest ovation behind only host Ukraine!