What can I say, I am a Florida girl at heart. DISNEY WORLD is the best! But seriously, it is better, although Orlando, Florida is not as interesting a city as Paris is (Disneyland Paris is in the suburbs and requires a 30-40 minute train ride to get into the heart of the city).
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First, I will share some press links I know of from before the WWC and during:
Press before WWC
- Crossfit Games had a story about Amna Al Haddad from the United Arab Emirates. She is going to compete in the CF Games and is into weightlifting. http://games.crossfit.com/features/inspiring-generation
- Moniza Khokhar interviewed me for Elan Magazine http://elanthemag.com/kulsoom-abdullah-lifting-her-way-into-the-olympics/
- Fatima from Friniggi, has a Muslim Women sportswear company and recorded a Skype interview with me which is on Youtube. They made the warmup suit that I and Travis wore at WWC. http://youtu.be/rqP-fLSR7LM
Press coverage of the WWC
Mohammad Reza Akhoundi and wife Sara Alambeigi (he took some pictures which he gave me, you will see in the album. She interviewed me. She and he also helped translate my english into farsi, and the questions I received from other reporters from farsi into english.
Here are links of coverage by the Iranian news that I know of:
Pakistan news coverage that I know of:
Now for my story. If you want to skim, I have bolded heading titles for your convenience.
Some of the reasons my blog posts are long is because I want others to know about my experience. It also helps me to archive & document this unexpected journey I have been on. Another reason is it takes me a long time to get a post up (due to the learning curves and the fact I do everything myself on my website as well as many other tasks), and then I have a lot of updates to share by the time I get to it.
Worlds was tough, but I am not complaining. It was a great opportunity. I just want people to understand why I am limited as to what I can do and why I ask for help. I do almost everything myself. I have no guide or clear direction of how to proceed and I can’t plan the unexpected, but I do the best I can. Most of the time, If you want things done, you have to do them yourself, but I remain hopeful of other people’s help and support that I have received, for example as the Toronto, Canada did for my Worlds trip. Competition and training has a financial and time cost. I have no corporate or government sponsorship, it has all been grass roots to this point – people have contributed on their own.
Help can be given in other ways, not just financial. Thanks to those who have sent emails of support. I am sorry I don’t always have time to reply but I do read and appreciate them. Anyone out there who could help me with PR/marketing tasks, website guru?
I spent time on clothing preparations for WWC. Fatima made the warm up suit, she mailed that to me along with hijabs and a trial singlet before I left for France. I really appreciated this, because I did not know for sure if Mr Hafiz from the Pakistan Weightlifting Federation was going to be able to make the trip (due to Visa delays) and if I would even be able to get clothing and the warm up suit kit from him in time (we did not, as you will read later in this post). My friend Alan Yeong, who is a member of my gym, Crossfit Atlanta, is a professor at West Georgia and specializes in costume design. He referred me to Stephanie Aylworth for making a singlet in Pakistan colors. After speaking with her, she offered to do it in the short time I had left. She did a great job.
Sarah Watson helped design a T-shirt print based on a vector image I had of the Pakistan map, flag and Urdu script. I do not have pictures of the shirt but here are pictures of images on the T-shirt:
If there is interest, I can order bulk to sell for fundraising efforts, of which the profits would go to my competition expenses.
Since there was not much time, embroidery or fabric paint of the Pakistan moon & crescent (flag symbols) on the singlet was risky, so Stephanie suggested a flag patch. With the help of an adhesive called Badge Madge and rush ordering, I was able to get a Pakistan patch in time and Sarah helped me with applying the patch and reinforcing the borders with stitching.
Here is the full album: http://www.liftingcovered.com/2011-wwc-singlet-construction-pictures/
As the days got closer to the WWC, I was lowering the intensity of my training. For example, I would Snatch and Clean and Jerk up to or a little over to what my opening lifts would be, that is, the first attempted lift of three I would plan to make at the actual competition. We figured 40kg and 53kg were good assumptions, and we would see how it went the actual day as I was warming up whether to start out with something higher. Then, I would end the session with some front squat singles.
The day and time I would be lifting was 1030AM Saturday, which is 530AM EST. To get used to that, I started lifting 9 and 8am a few days before we left.
Usually for international competitions or traveling to places with a significantly different time zone, athletes leave a week before competition day or about 24 hours before. In my case, I was planning to arrive the day before. The biggest reason for this decision was cost. The competition rate for a hotel room for one night at Disneyland Paris was 140 Euros which is about $190 USD. Also, the plane ticket to France cost $1000 each, so that was also limiting. Leaving a few days before is not ideal as far as adjusting to time zone and competing. As you will read in my story, crazy things happened to me, which in retrospect, I am not sure if it would have been better to get there 2-3 days earlier, or not.
Airport connection and flight:
We flew Thursday November 3rd, a United/Continental Airlines flight from Atlanta, GA to Dulles (IAD) near DC, then connecting on a flight from IAD to Paris, France (CDG). The flight from ATL was on time BUT since the flight was full, all carry on bags would not fit. As one man was trying to fit a bag in the overhead compartment, an airline employee grabbed his bag to put in the plane luggage compartment. As he ran, so did the passenger, exclaiming “That bag has my heart medication!” Well, the man had disappeared, and then it required a team to go down and find this man’s bag since it was already thrown inside the bottom of the plane. This incident delayed our flight for about an hour.
When we got to the IAD airport, we had little time to catch the connection. I and Travis are not runners (at least I know I am not), and we had to run half a mile to get to the next gate. This on top of the fact I had a purse and a carry on, brought tears to my eyes and my leg muscles felt like molasses.
We got to the gate and found that our flight was actually delayed for 4 HOURS!! The positive of this is that we did not miss the connection. It was 10pm, and I made use of my pillow. We were able to get some food before everything shut down, and being resourceful, I had packed a lot of tuna and salmon cans (more on these cans later in my story) plus mustard and TEXAS PETE HOT SAUCE.
We finally flew out around 230am EST. We made it to Paris around 4pm, so there was a small chance we could still make the opening ceremony.
At the WWC
When we got to the hotel, it was chaotic. It took me time to figure out where to even go and who to talk to. To get a your hotel room and a badge, it required paying the accreditation and hotel in full BUT the problem was they were very slow. Sadly, I would say they would have had a team with more experience, at least in handling events of this scale. Apparently one country had to wait 3 days, and people from Finland were sitting for 5 HOURS waiting. They told me to go eat dinner, I told them I can’t, I do not even know what I weigh, and I have to compete tomorrow morning. I kept telling people this, but it fell on deaf ears. The secret room that was guarded where these passes and badges were being made was restricted. After about 6 hours, through our efforts of trying to explain our situation, that everyone from Pakistan was not here yet (Mr Hafiz had arrived much later that night) that I really needed to at least get to my room, this plea had been translated several times from English to French to the organizing staff. Finally one man exclaimed “Oh why did you not tell me your competition is tomorrow?” Duh, that is what we had been saying all along! Then they finally gave us a badge but said we would not get the hotel we had requested, they gave us a room in one that was farther away. We told them that my competition was in the morning before the Disney buses started running, I had to go from that hotel, to the main hotel for a weigh in, then the competition venue. If you are going to compete, especially if you need to cut water weight, you do not want to walk or lose energy. They said, don’t worry, a shuttle will take you.
When we got to hotel (called, the Sante Fe, which had a huge billboard of a picture from the Disney film “Cars” and you could take pictures with Mickey and the gang)
Finally getting to my room, I had to cut weight, and again use a tub of hot water and salt as I did at USA Sr. Nationals. Thankfully, I had packed three containers of Kroger brand salt and my own scale to weigh myself. I did have a brief scare when I thought the batteries were dead, but after switching them around, my scale was on again. When we had asked the organizing people where the sauna was, they gave us no answer and looked at us blankly. I watched episodes of Modern Family and The Office during the osmosis process. By the time I was done, I only had 3 hours to sleep. (I dream of being able to get 7-8 hours of sleep the night before a competition, so far this has not occurred, ONE DAY!). Travis came over to help me with my bag which contained my competition clothing, lifting shoes, and my good old tuna, salmon, Larabars, dried fruit, dates, and I had even packed gatorade and juice (because experience taught me to always be prepared) to consume after the weigh in.
Journey to the weigh in and competition hall:
When we got to the front desk, they told us a taxi would take too long, and that the walk is “so short.” We tried to explain that it was not ideal for me to walk. At a loss, and because the busses were not running, we walked. Unfortunately, we got lost, and after 20 minutes of walking, we found another hotel on the path. Travis went to ask for directions, as I sat down, I almost passed out. I was thankful that at least the weather was cool and not hot. We had ended up going the complete wrong way but ended up taking a very long route that was kind of close to the main hotel for weigh in. As we got there, we were directed to the bottom floor, where the training hall was. At the same time, we ran into Irfan. He is a 77kg junior lifter from Pakistan, son of the Pakistan Weightlifting chair, Hafiz Imran Butt, who acted as IWF Technical Official during the entire World Championships. He had no idea which hotel we were at, but anticipated we would show up at the main hotel, Newport Bay. When I got to the training hall, I saw a sign that said SAUNA. It would have been nice to know it was there earlier. oh well. We waited for my turn for weigh in. There was some initial confusion, because I have a family/clan name, Kakakhel, that is known in Pakistan, but it is not my legal name on documents. I was registered with Kakakhel added to the end of my full name so it took some time as they looked at my passport. In the room, there was a panel of people at a table, but the scale was behind a curtain with 2 ladies. They called Travis in to confirm my passport. The thing with the Pakistan passport, is it also gives your fathers name, so they asked who that was. From behind the curtain, I decided to take action and shout the answers to their questions. I exclaimed that it was my fathers name, and that Kakakhel was a family/clan name, not my documents. Then it was clear to everyone. Oh and last but not least I made weight 😛
I was now officially registered, here is a link to the pdf file of the STARTING LIST. There was not much time to get to the competition venue. Thankfully, people in the organizing committee was going to have the shuttle take us directly to the competition hall. Back to my food rations, there was no time to go to the hotel to get breakfast, and Travis had also not eaten any dinner the night before or gotten much sleep. I had enough for me to eat and drink and could also give him food and juice. When the shuttle was ready, I stopped stuffing my face, chugging gatorade and got in. During the shuttle ride, I gave Irfan my camera and gave the fastest instruction I could give on how to take high burst pictures for sports purposes so he could take pictures of me.
When we got to the competitors entrance, we were directed to a back place that was curtained off. We had to wait because a men’s session was still finishing up before our 48kg C session.
Irfan went to ask where I could change into competition clothing. HA! There was no place. There was a smaller curtained off place, so I went inside, and out of paranoia, I changed in a way that if someone came in, I would not scream a blood curling scream. Thank GOD I was able to complete just needing to tie my shoe laces, when someone did open the curtain. The guy freaked out and did not know english, because he told another guy to “talk” to me. That guy came and tried to lecture me in a loud angry voice, that it was not a spot to change (there was an emergency stretcher covered in cloth there that I did not know about). I was like DUDE, people told me I could go in here, you don’t have to get mad. What a JERK! Anyhow, he left.
I broke my spectacular spectacles somehow. At least I did not break my cell phone like I did at USA nationals. I got these glasses on the Internet, so it was not a financial loss.
There was a nice coffee machine, various options (espresso, regular, au lait etc), and with a press of a button, you got the one exact cup amount. There I met Dr Irani (IWF doctor) and Kyle Pierce. Dr Irani and I discussed, English (British), American English, Pakistani English and Bombay English (long story).
When the men’s session was over, we got to go to the warm up area. Everything was new, the platforms, barbells, and weight plates, all by Eleiko. The chalk was a little bit different than what I have used before.
We decided to go with a lower starting weight attempt, not necessarily because of my lack of sleep (I seemed to be doing OK, the dried fruit, dates, plus coffee was helping), but because Irfan had mentioned it was better to have more successful attempts, rather than trying to go heavier and miss the lift. In my case, my ranking would not have been different even if I did PR or beat what I have lifted in training. Of course I still wanted to do my best but I had to keep this in mind.
As you can see in the results: http://www.iwf.net/results/results_results.php?placecod=190
The gap between myself and Vivian Lee, is abut 20kg for the Snatch and 30kg for the Clean and Jerk. If I had matched my PRs, our gap would have been 14kg and 19kg, respectively, hence my ranking still the same.
So for my first Snatch attempt, we decided 37kg instead of 40kg. When I got out there, I was surprised to see metal plates, which caught me off guard. This meant the barbell was at a lower position than I am used to.
I got confused, and thought I had to pick it up, and start at the knees. That was incorrect, so that first lift was missed. My second attempt, I stayed at 37kg, and though awkward, just got it overhead in one movement. The third attempt, I went with 40kg. I got it, and it was the best lift, mostly because it was at the regular position. I definitely could have gotten a higher lift, and should have started at 40kg had I known they were going to be metal plates. I had to follow myself, that is, no one else was making attempt in the 37-40kg range, so I had a 2 minute rest in between attempts only.
For the clean and jerk, I also had to follow myself. Instead of starting with 52-53kg, I started with 48kg, again to be “safe.” I got this one, and my second attempt at 52kg. For the third attempt, I went with 55kg. I got the clean but got called for a press out on the jerk. I always wish I could have done better, but considering this was my first international competition, and the struggle I had gone through, it was not bad and I got a total.
Pedro Sanchez, the IWF Technical official you will see in the background of my picture, mentioned only a small separation was needed between the sock and knee pad, otherwise there was no issue with how I was dressed. He said he was in the meeting that decided on the new IWF ruling, and said at the end of the day, one can still determine lockout. He said he hopes this will help to encourage other women to participate in weightlifting. I said I hope so too, at least I know of one who wants to, Amna S. Al Haddad from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
SADLY :(, I have no video of my lifts.. I am hoping to find someone who does. If I do I will post them.
The COMPLETE Album of that day is HERE:
or over at Picasa/Google+:
For the whole trip, I have a LOT of pictures (about 12 gigabyte worth). One reason I have so many is that I took fast shutter shots of the lifters performing a lift, so I had many shots to show each part of the movement. For the albums I put online, I only show the highlights.
Go to King of Weightlifting, they will put up more pictures and videos of all that I have taken.
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/King-Of-Weightlifting/148280485263208
DAY 2 Sunday Nov 6th, 2011
I spent a little time in the training hall watching some of the lifters, then we took the RER A train to Paris. The metro is pretty good. It would not have taken us that long to get there, but we kept getting misguided as to which hotel bus to take and where the train exactly was.
We spent a little less than a half day, but we got to see the Notre Dame, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower. Before heading back to Disneyland (competition venue), I did get a Nutella crepe with sliced bananas. If I get a chance, I would like to visit the Paris city area again.
The COMPLETE Album of day 2 is HERE:
or over at Picasa/Google+:
Day 3 Monday Nov 7th, 2011
Travis left that morning, I was staying one extra day. I went to finally pay for the hotel, since I did not have time the day before, and the first day I got there was chaotic as explained above. After the wait, I was told they only took cash, no credit card (I wish I knew before I left for the trip). Also, they keep your passport, which I can understand, they would not want you to leave without paying.
While waiting, I met Sarah Robles, USA, and her coach. We chatted a bit. They said they were looking forward to the IWF ruling allowing more women to compete, and happy I was able to compete, understanding the struggles it took to get to this point. We also talked about Ibtihaj Muhammad (a Team USA Fencer who wears hijab). I took a picture with her, but I don’t have it on my memory card.. here is at least one I have with her and her coach.
The day after a lot of walking in Paris, plus jet lag, I still did some training, then competition watching (58kg B & A group women). In the competition hall, I met Iranian coach Khansalar & met two lifters. Later I met Hossein Rezazadeh (Iranian Olympian)! That was awesome, I got to see him a few more times before I left.
The COMPLETE Album of day 3 is HERE:
or over at Picasa/Google+:
Day 4 Tuesday Nov 8th, 2011
I was able to extend my stay there and got to workout/train with the Iranian coaches. The other coach I met was Kourosh Bagheri. I am very appreciative of their help and encouragement.
I also watched the 69kg A Men’s group competition (Sajad BEHROUZI competed for Iran)
See http://kingofweightlifting.com/ for the entire set, they have posted the 69A kg men’s currently.
That evening, I met Jim Schmitz from the USA. He is the one who took video at USA nationals (which I have posted on my website). I am looking forward to seeing him and the others at the American Open coming up.
The COMPLETE Album of day 4 is HERE:
or over at Picasa/Google+:
Day 5 Wednesday Nov 9th, 2011
I spent a little time checking out the booths that were set up in the Competition Venue. They have some good programs set up, like Handi Sports which supports those who have a handicap to participate in sports.
I realized I did not have any pictures of the Disney Village, so I took some of that before I saw the 69kg A class women competition.
Afterwards, I got to get more training with the Iranian team. The coaches were helpful, I received good feedback and I appreciated thier time, because they were also training the others on their team who still had their competitions coming up.
That day, there was a lot of press covering their training, especially that of Behdad SALIMIKORDASIABI & Sajjad ANOUSHIRVANIHAMLABAD, the two super heavy weights (who ended up with gold and silver, respectively). Big MUBARAK and Congratulations to them (breaking World records) and to the whole team.
I took mostly pictures of the training, but here are 2 video clips I took of them in training (back squat)
ANOUSHIRVANIHAMLABAD Sajjad – Back Squat 320kg
SALIMIKORDASIABI Behdad – Back Squat 320kg
After their training, I also got interviewed by the Iranian TV (INN network) and press. They wanted me to speak about my experience there, how it was for me, and basically weightlifting and competing with having my arms, legs and head covered. I would love to visit and train with them, and I hope one day there can be an Iranian women’s weightlifting team.
The COMPLETE Album of day 5 is HERE:
or over at Picasa/Google+:
Day 6 Thursday Nov 10th, 2011
This was my last day. The shuttle to the airport left from another hotel called the Newport Bay, so I got to carry around my luggage across from the hotel to Newport. Good thing the lunch and dinner was buffet, because with all the walking, exercise, and carrying stuff around, I really made use of those buffets.
I got to meet Mun Yura, from Korea who lifts in the 69kg Women’s A class.
I also saw some of the 77kg group B men competition, where Chad Vaughan competed.
After saying my goodbyes and waiting for the airport shuttle (which almost left me and someone else…), the man sitting next to me said he was going to meet someone flying in from Athens, Greece. A light bulb went off in my head, and I thought this might be someone I know of who is famous. I tried looking at his badge, and he looked at me looking at it (LOL), I said I am trying to see what your name is. He showed me the badge and it said Pyrros Dimas!! I exclaimed that my coaches always watch your competition videos and of course I asked if I could take a picture when we got to the airport. He asked if I trained in the USA, I said yes, I do, I was born and live there, but I have dual citizenship.
He was really nice, and said that he was taking a picture with the best lifter from Pakistan.
The COMPLETE Album of day 6 is HERE:
or over at Picasa/Google+:
The flight from CDG was on time and ok, but when I got to IAD (for the connecting flight to Atlanta), guess WHAT, another mechnical failture, so an airplane had to get flown in, causing a 5 hour delay. Twice in a week I would not have expected, so again, I tried to get something to eat before everything closed and made use of my pillow. I got home about 4am EST.
Overall, this was a good experience, I am honored and happy to have had this opportunity, representing Pakistan and competing with other incredible athletes from around the world. Thank you for reading my story about my experience there. I really want to share this, and hope it will help get something started as far as women participation in sports.
2011 American OPEN December 02, 2011 to December 04, 2011 – Mobile, Alabama, United States
I was not sure I would go, as I am qualified for the 48kg not 53kg weight class. My weight is still in between 49-50kg, so I will. This is a USA national competition, the one I did not compete at last year December 2010.
2012 Asian Weightlifting Championships (during the Asian Games in Pyeongtaek, South Korea) April 23–30, 2012
This is not confirmed. I would be representing Pakistan.