"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!
The final day was during the 234th birthday ceremony of the host city Melitopol. Thousands of people were walking around the celebration and stopped to see the event. We started with a pressing team event Joe on a 286 log clean and press each rep, matt on axle 286 clean and press, dan on keg 220 clean and press. It was difficult to sit this one out because I felt log and axle I am particularly good at, definitely better than dumb bell but when we all initially spoke I felt it would be in the team's best interest that I sat this out and focused on the three grip carry events. It was a good decision as we totaled 18 reps and took the sole lead for third. All three athletes did very well in their lift, dan with 9, joe with 6, matt with 3.
Next was 308 farmer tanks per hand 20m two athletes, tire flip either 800 or 900 lbs 5 flips each I cannot recall the weight. We had a few drops in the farmers, tire went well but again it seemed the moving events we were a little slower than other countries on, we wound up taking last in the event.
We went to the final event tied with U.K., Canada and Czech 1 point behind us, Poland and Ukraine tied for first out of reach. Canada and Czech went first both putting up good times but Czech got a 5 second penalty for dragging the frame. My strategy was I knew I'd be good in the final event, and to do the best I can to save my teammates grip as much as possible through out the competition. We had four frames and two farmers for six grip events (three of which I did). Tires, axle deadlifting and pressing, atlas stones, and the giant db would also be taxing. We decided amongst ourselves which other two felt the best for frame and prepared.
A quote has always stuck in my mind that really came to fruition at this moment: "what is the most important step a man can take? It is not the first one. It is the next one. Always the next one." In life we do not pick a destination, only a path. The strength of those we love accompany us on this path even when they cannot, guiding this next step. This frame carry would be a metaphor for life, my life and everyone's life who cares to hear my story. I had dropped it once the first time I did it, but it is the next step that is the most important.
I started us off and had a fast carry no drops. I hopped out and Joe hopped in taking it back, our transition was Billy Dee Williams smooth) there was a drop and U.K. Pulled ahead. The next switch Matt got and took an extra second to get a strong grip, start stable and smooth, then accelerate as he continued to assure no drops. U.K. Was a couple meters from the finish line and well ahead of us when they dropped, matt closed the distance U.K. had a second drop and at that point Matt passed them and U.K. tagged another athlete. We crossed first and took the event over U.K. We looked at the time which was identical to Canada, (whom we were a point ahead) and held onto third place! It was the craziest and closest finish I've ever been a part of in any sport!!
I look back on how things could've gone different, had I gotten two reps on the db, been fresher for the squat, not dropped the farmers and things my teammates had said they could have done better. All the what ifs would not have been enough to change the outcome. The four of us had never used the exact implements at the event or even competed internationally. (All other countries competed the previous year and had athletes familiar with the competition equipment. 3 of us were alternates myself included. All things considered we were happy with our results and look to come back stronger and better next year.
Matt you put up a consistent, good, reliable performance and are such a well rounded athlete you could've stepped into any of the events if need be. It was a huge boon for our team to bank on that type of consistency and seemed to help keep us level even when we had poor events. Dan our captain crushed the arm over arm, deadlift, and keg press and was a consummate leader and right choice as captain. Joe I'd have to give the MVP to, log stone and db you had such a big performance, you wound up doing all six events, and kept the intensity for us. Personally I am glad you all trusted my strategy, was pleased to do a lot of the dirty work in the events everyone was less fond of and was happy to have my best events when the pressure was highest with the squat and final frame carry. It's truly an honor to compete for a world championship with you guys and coming home with a bronze medal (shipping pending) is a great finish to the story.
Please look me up on Instagram at gentlemansleague_president
I have good mobility tips, and will be posting pics and videos of the contest as well as some strongman coaching in the coming days.