The experiences and stories from the day before I competed and the day I competed will be shared in this post (the entire trip is split into multiple posts). I will insert some pictures from my album and a video compilation of my competition and lifting in this post. I met so many people and there are so many stories, but my blog posts are already so long I can only share a fraction.
Here is a link to the full album day 4 (on my website, but also includes the link to the album on my Picasa page):
For easier reading, I will include index titles and sections, and you can click these anchors to go to the specific place in the post.
Day 4 – Tuesday – April 24, 2012 – my competition day
This was the day before I competed and when Travis was flying into Seoul. The battery level on his phone was low, so at the airport using WiFi, he was only able to tell me that he got there and he thought he found the shuttle bus that takes the athletes from the airport to Pyeongtaek. The drive takes about 1 – 2 hours but 4 hours had passed and I had not heard from him. I called the lobby and asked if anyone knew if Travis got on the bus and what his status was. They did not. As this was happening, I had received an email from the PWF that I was registered for the 53kg weight class. I was not sure if that was true or if it was a mistype. Two volunteers came to my door (I did not want to leave in case Travis tried to contact me via email or Gtalk) and said they were going to find out what happened, and to not worry, they would call the police if it was necessary.
I tried to sleep or keep myself occupied for the remaining hours, and then the hotel volunteer called me and said they found out Travis did get on the bus, and then he had arrived in the lobby.
Even though it was really busy since the largest bulk of athletes had been arriving, the process of paying and registering only took about 20 minutes, compared to the 6 hour wait we had in France for Worlds.
Travis had food poisoning when he was in Atlanta, and still did when he got on the plane for Korea. He threw up on the plane and it was a rocky journey for him after that. He needed to get settled and lay down and we discussed what to do. I needed to have one last training session in the hall before tomorrow and because of the email I had recieved, I had to figure out for certain which weight class I was registered for.
48 or 53 kg?
I tried to call Mr Hafiz but he was not in the room (I expected as officials have a busy schedule), and there was no voice mail option. All of the technical officials were staying at another hotel, Hotel Shine, which is about a 40 minutes drive and where all the AWF/IWF meetings were taking place. Because of the logistics involved in getting to that hotel and the time we had left, I could not go there.
When I and Travis went to the training hall, the Competition program booklets were there, and it was printed that I was in the 48kg weight class. I asked the volunteers and organizers what weight class I was in, and explained the email I had recieved, they told me I was in the 48kg weight class, so I assumed that is what it was. I weighed 49kg and needed to cut down to 48kg by losing water (which I had already planned). If I was registered as a 53kg, it is not something you can change, and therefore, losing water was not something I had to do.
This was my fourth time going through the weight cutting process, so I was definitely prepared and had all the items I needed, salt containers, bath pillow and downloaded TV shows. I ended up losing a lot of water in a shorter amount of sessions, that I ended up being less than 48 kg. One of the shows I watched was Anthony Bordain No Reservation, the episode where he goes to Korea. It was probably not the best show to watch while cutting weight but it gave me ideas of some foods I wanted to try during my visit.
Day 4 – Tuesday – April 24, 2012 – Game Time
We wanted to get to the competition venue by 8am or before, as that is when the weigh in started, and competition time for the 48kg B class was 10am. The shuttle was generally efficient, but being a busy day, it was not able to leave on time. We could not get a taxi immediately but then sat on the shuttle since it was supposed to leave soon. I was kind of out of mind, sort of nervous but not really. I was looking forward to drinking Gatorade that I had purchased at the 7-11 the night before for after weigh in. I did what I usually do, take pictures. Check out these pictures of the bus, it reminded me of Pakistan, where they also have the Daewoo buses.
We got there about 8:15am, which was not bad. I was number 8 or 9 in the list, so we sat there till my name was called for the weigh in. When the last name was called, & mine was not, an official checked the list and my name was not there. Someone else came outside and told me that I was registered for the 53kg weight class. Long story short, Mr Hafiz had attended the meeting where entries are verified. He was not sure that I was lifting as a 48kg, so changed my registration to 53kg. I did not attend the meeting because I was not sure I needed to as 48kg was my original registration, and Travis had arrived after the meeting was already over (that was also when I had read the email I mentioned). It was a shock since I had been preparing this whole time and training as a 48, but in retrospect, I realize with the confusion, not being able to communicate with each other, the distances of the hotels, that was the best decision he could make, that is to be on the safe side and list me as a 53kg.
53kg not 48kg
Fortunately I only had to wait 2 hours for the 53kg B session, as opposed to a much longer wait or even worse, another day. I weighed 47.7, and I was told I needed to eat and drink enough to be at least 48.1kg so that I could lift in the 53kg session. I started to feel drained, as the day before my throat felt a little scratchy, then cutting weight, then waiting for 2 hours. Though I was not feeling my best, I have trained in various conditions, so this was not that bad but not ideal.
While we waited, Alix Floyd found us. She lives in Seoul but is from the USA. She took the train to see me compete, support me and had volunteered to use my camera and camcorder to get my lifts on tape. She weightlifts at Crossfit SAP.
We tested out the camera and I gave my camcorder and tripod to her. During this time, I saw someone enter the hall, whom I will refer to as Special Friend #1 AKA SP#1 (luckily I got to meet another friend, who is #2. I discuss general issues on dealing with psychoish men and not to let that deter you from attending competitions and living life in another post, section titled: More on dealing with weirdos, possible psychos and why that should not be a deterrent for women going to competitions
I won’t reveal identities but read the other post section to know why I decided to mention these 2 men (I originally was not going to tell those stories).
I met SP #1 at Worlds last year and had said I would email the media content I had of him (which was not much). That was the extent of the conversation. I emailed him the content, and then he started emailing me, asking how my competitions were going and such. English is his third language, I think. So I would say yes its Ok, how are you? Then he started saying he wanted to meet me and that he was married and had children. Of course this is a dealbreaker in my book for various reasons (a term coined by Tina Fey). I thought maybe he did not type what he meant correctly. Normally, I would stop responding to emails, but since there was a chance I was going to see him at this competition in Korea, I wanted to at least clarify things with him. I had a friend translate an email in his main language, clearly stating I was not interested in having any communication or relationship with him as a married man, and is that what he is saying? He never answered the question and his other emails were creepy. I ignored them all as I had done my part and all that I wanted to in communicating with him.
Back to the training hall. I did not look at him, and I told Alix and Travis not to turn around, I did not want to acknowledge his presence. But he did see me, and decided to walk over (I know because I used my peripheral vision and I had on my glasses (aka spectacular spectacles) ). He stood for a long time quietly, then he finally spoke. ARGH!!!! He asked how I was, and I said OK and turned back to Alix and Travis. We sat quietly and then he left.
Weigh-in for the 53kg went fine, I was 48.3kg after drinking and eating enough for sustenance but at the same time did not want to fill my stomach right before competition. I got to talk with the technical official from Korea, he was really nice, he had some children in the USA, and I remember one he mentioned studied at a university in Virginia. Like at worlds, my name for some reason was spelled incorrectly, i.e. it was not spelled as it is on my passport or ID’s, so there was a little confusion but I clarified it. On the scoreboard you will see my first name is misspelled but my last name is correct (Kalsoom is incorrect, it is legally Kulsoom). After registering, we went to the competition warm up area. Snatch warmups were OK, it was hard to determine at the beginning since there were no large 5KG weight plates, and I had to hold the bar below the knee, not being able to do the lift from the floor. so the transition going from 30kg to 35kg is funky, since 35kg is the weight I could finally lift from the floor (the 10kg weight plate is the lightest available and the women’s bar is 15kg).
The line up – Introduction of the Athletes
In the warmup are, we were lined up according to our total, I was last. As we walked out, I saw my name on the board, where my weight says 48.3kg, everyone else is 52.X kg point something. Yes, hello everyone, I am competing in the 53kg class, you either think I did not make weight for 48 kg, or I just really wanted to compete with a higher weight class than myself. But it is all good. I remind myself its not about the weight I am lifting, that I am getting the chance to participate.
I looked around in the audience for Alix, and the trooper she is, got the best spot for getting video and pictures without obstructions. Another guy was almost going to take her spot, but she did not let that happen. As I scanned the audience, which, for a women’s B session was not too bad, (there were actually people there) I spotted my special friend #1. I almost laughed on stage and thought how sometimes my life is like a sitcom comedy and that “this sh* cray!” In an odd way, all of this humor and randomness takes away from my nervousness, so that is a positive. “This sh* cray” comes from a song called “N****s in Poorest” by Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos DEF) and there were times where some of the lyrics got into my head, that was good for me, it was motivational. Here is a video to the song with lyrics.
Competition and Results
I missed one attempt in the warm up area, after transitioning to full sized plates, but I still felt OK, because I 40kg is easy (I reminded myself mentally). Before competing, you get a large sticker that has your number (mine was #9). I forgot to ask which side to pin it on so I did on the same side I had it on at Worlds. When I walked out, I was told I had it on the wrong side and then I realized, its supposed to be on the side the tables are facing. The technical official said I can switch it later since I did not have much time. After the 1st attempt, she helped me get it off, moved to the other side and pinned.
40kg was OK, not 100% back (it was a little forward) but I made it. 42kg was my next attempt, it went forward and I missed it. I was so mad at myself, that I pumped myself up more for 42kg, determined to bring that bar back. I made 42kg on the third attempt.
Then the weight for all the other lifters to take their turns, then a short break for the Clean and Jerk session. In between I sipped water and ate some high carb snacks slowly. I warmed up to 50kg, then went out for my first attempt at 52kg. In the warm up area, my split jerk was OK. My cleans are my strongest lift, but I had been spending a lot of time on fixing the split jerk, being more consistent.
In between my attempts, a man appeared with a cell phone camera taking my picture. I was in the sitting area between the platform and the warm up area. Fortunately, I am used to getting my picture taken at random moments, so I was able to not focus on him but rather on my lifts. Everyone must have really liked my new singlet, sewn again by Stephanie Russell Aylworth. We had more time for this competition, I got a slightly thicker green fabric, she did more double stitching and also used artistic design on the sides and sleeves, so I was ROCKING IT!
For my second attempt at 55kg, I was called for a pressout. I did drive forward and probably the bar going back made my arms move. For my third attempt at 55kg, I did not get it. oh well. I was disappointed, because this was not my best, but I am glad I made a decent total.
I am in the photo album!
Here is a video screenshot image I put together of the 42kg attempt:
After my last lift, I was approached for drug testing. It is voluntary, but if you want your scores to count and actually be able to compete, you have to do it if you are randomly chosen (and its a good idea that you pass the test). You have one hour to go do it, so we decided to go ahead and go immediately. It is almost what you would imagine, a separate room, with a lot of water bottles for you to drink. For something that is dreaded, I think they did the best to make you as comfortable as possible. There was a man and woman, doctors from Hungary. That was the first time I had ever heard Hungarian spoken, it was pretty cool. The lady was nice (I forgot her name 🙁 ). We asked about the process for choosing the athletes. About 3 or more are picked from each session, and each country has to have at least one athlete get tested, and in some cases if someone breaks a record or something, they would all get chosen. In case you were wondering, I did not break a record, but I was the only lifter representing Pakistan.
Training plans for the future
Cutting weight had not affected me for USA National competitions as it has for international ones. Essentially my ranking will not make much of a difference whether I lift as a 53kg or 48kg. The hardships of international travel, plus possible unexpected events to occur can aggravate the weight cutting process. Also, I did not feel lethargic at Worlds, but I did for this competition. I am not sure if it was because of having to wait 2 extra hours, the food stomach issue when I arrived or that I was on the verge of a cough and sore throat. Also, I was traveling from the USA, which is a 13 hour time difference.
I am going to consider carefully what I should do going forward, and in my training. In my case, my strength or powerlifting is still not holding me back, it is my technique and being consistent. My technique for snatch has become much more consistent and improved over this year. Though I got only as high as 42 kg this competition, that was a solid attempt as far as bar path and speed, better than previous attempts at the same weight. Another consideration is that 10kg is the smallest full size plate at competitions. I hope that my PR for the snatch increases and/or I can make warm up jumps to 35kg in larger increments so I do not have to worry about holding the bar to below my knees and the transition from doing that to starting from the floor.
I work out 6 days a week, 2 days are twice a day, 6 of the sessions at least being a few hours. I set aside a lot of time for the split jerk (which is my weakness since I initially had a bad movement pattern that I am trying to overcome). I am doing the best I can, spending a lot of time, maintaining an optimal diet and with recovery from training sessions. I want to do the best I can possibly do. I hope to continue the intense training, spending more time on weaknesses. Weightlifting is a tough and challenging sport, it is not always predictable. I will try to do my best to reduce circumstances that can occur at competitions, but one can’t always control what will happen at a competition, so you have to try your best, and be prepared for any sort of challenges.
I don’t intend to sound defensive. This blog is my way to share my story, explain what I tried, my hardest honest efforts to do the best I can, and I hope people might learn from my experiences and mistakes.
Exploring Pyeongtaek, South Korea
After I was finished, Travis went back to the hotel to crash (he barely was able to eat and could only drink water and sports drinks). Alix and I walked from the competition venue, explored Pyeongtaek and finally got back to the hotel. I verified with the hotel front desk that special friend #1 was not staying in the same hotel (Thank GOD he was at another one), so then Alix left.
Here are a few pictures from walking around, the rest are in the full album for Day 4.