In years to come, those of us who were lucky enough to attend the inaugural Nordic Cup in Copenhagen will certainly have fond memories. Whether the event will get bigger or not remains to be seen, but judging by the enthusiasm of the participants, it will remain an event where like-minded kettlebell lovers will convene to share great friendships.
Kettlebell or Girevoy Sport (GS) is in its infancy in Europe, although the popularity of group training with kettlebells for fitness is certainly on the rise. Most participants in Copenhagen were involved in different training facilities, where kettlebells were frequently used, but getting newcomers to train for the competition lifts is not easy.
Sharing this frustration with others, I found people were unsure of what this type of training would “do” to the body!. I get the feeling some women compare it with bodybuilding, and guys with strongman lifting. You´d expect we would look like a freak show gathered to eat and lift stones, but in fact we all looked very nice and healthy!. And everyone typified the humbleness and open nature that characterizes the kettlebell scene. There seems to be a vibe that welcomes anyone interested in learning, but non-judgemental to other sports or other people´s goals.
For me this openness is a great attraction of kettlebell sport. As it is technically extremely sport specific (with similar biomechanics to olympic weightlifting) and almost as anonymous, GS doesn´t have traditional burdens of expectation attached to it, and this is even more pronounced in Europe. Small events like the Nordic Cup reflect ways to nurture a passion for few who are as keen on spreading the word to the wider public, as they are sharing friendships with like-minded followers.
With the use of local connections and popular media forms, over 20 competitors descended upon Urban Fitness in Copenhagen to compete in four distinct disciplines; Snatch, Long Cycle, Triathlon Sprint and an outdoors Strongman. Whilst not strictly adhering to competition GS rules and regulations, the aim was to attract as many newcomers as possible, and for this purpose, the organizers are to be commended. It meant some could perform in 5 minute sets with less than a years training.
Despite having my 6am flight cancelled, and missing the opening session, I used all necessary measures to turn up at lunch time and start snatching immediately. Not the ideal preparation, but then again, this was a fun event to test out lifting in front of more than the just mirror and odd looks from gym goers at home. I´d been working on the snatch over the summer after training with Steve Cotter, Ivan Denisov and Valery Ferorenko and felt it had progressed quite well, but never felt comfortable at more than 20rmp, so had predicted 100 reps, plus a couple of ugly finishers in last 20 seconds!. Well, I was about right, finishing with 106 (21, 20, 21, 22, 22). My triathlon set can be viewed here. Managed 70 reps and enjoyed the event a lot, but must admit I don´t feel too comfortable breaking out of strict lockouts to get the numbers up!.
I like the aesthetics of the snatch. It is a huge challenge, with so many elements at play, but is so satisfying when a set is strung together with fluidity. I guess it is for the “special interest” crowd. Maybe like my friend who tells me how it is to surf in barrels. He just knows, but I´ll take his word for it. When I saw Denisov in Rome snatch the 32kg for 103 reps with one hand, I wondered for a moment how it would feel to be transplanted into that role, and feel such synergy. I missed out on seeing the others snatch, as I was so late arriving, but was glad to see so many different styles of lifting, all with good intentions, and lots of training no doubt.
It was especially nice was to meet Thierry Sanchez, a guy with immense passion and knowledge about GS, world champion, and driving force behind the sport in Denmark. Like many others, I´ve read much of the advice Thierry has given on training methods and watched his videos, knowing that so much thought and preparation lies behind his progress. Many I spoke to over the course of the weekend acknowledged the inspirational role he has provided in their own personal development and that of the community in Denmark. I appreciated chatting to a very clued up and interesting guy, with a similar passion for GS and n=1 experimentation for performance and longevity!.
The long cycle and triathlon sprint events made way for the strongman event outside. By this time there were some tired bodies, but most were used to short intense metcon-style workouts and strength was certainly shown by all who took part!. Lasse took line honors almost cracking the 5 minute barrier!. After the prize giving ceremony (full results can be viewed here) and thorough cleanup leaving no evidence whatsoever of that weird bunch swinging those bells about (move those machines back in place!) we enjoyed some recuperation before convening in town for some catchup and (some would say) weekend highlights. Lars was the MC, leading the crew well through dinner to the Francis Pony, before things became blurred……and some of these things were attempted to varying success….
Lars Nielsen was another instrumental figure in the organizational side of the weekend, including housing myself and the Swedish contingent with such style and providing many laughs. Sif, Lene, Ole and others involved in making the weekend such a great experience are great ambassadors for the sport and community in Danmark, and all round nice people!. A big High5 to all the cool people I met, shared stories with and laughed with, and also to all those girls on bikes…
So the good people of Denmark have succeeded not only in the logistics of organizing a great event, with equal measure of challenge and fun, but also in showing their convivial and warm welcome to us newcomers and visitors. I like the fact that I have a new place to plan my weekend training getaways (as long as I make my flight). Plus, there is always the girl in the cafe by the Tivoli who insisted that I should try one of the special Danish pastries together with my 4th sunday coffee. I happily took the gluten hit, and would´ve found an excuse to head back and take another, except I saw a girl riding barefoot a fixed gear bike, and having it´s origin explained, I was sure I´d need to come back to enjoy meeting Copenhagen´s finest soon!.