Wednesday, 20 August 2008

European Grip Championships 2008

Report by Steve Gardener
This years promoter was once again Hermann Korte of Choice of Champions gym in Haltern am See, Germany. Let me start by saying what a gym! You can feel the Westside Barbell inspiration here even though it's bigger, cleaner and tidier. Two proper power racks, assorted bars inc at least 2 super squat bars and 2 Texas power bars, a box squat set up, a massive duty bench press bench with lifting chains ready to go, what looked like 20+ kettle bells and a great deal more. With everyone in position at the appointed starting time of 1pm we were able to get under way.

Photo right: Johan is closely watched by Burkhard during his gripper attempts

Using calibrated grippers and a parallel set as judged by our referee the standard this year was high. Sam Solomi won this event with a very 'handy' (ahem) two hand tally of 7.08 made up of a combined 3.54 with each hand. New man on the block (in his very first competition of ANY kind) Gabriel Sum took second with 6.9 (3.25 and 3.65) and THREE athletes tied with 6.68 (all 3 getting 3.54 and 3.14) for 3rd (Martin Ressel, Johan Albrektsson and Florian Kellersmann).

Sam later commented to me that the standard across the board was, in his opinion, the highest in any gripper event. I tallied the scores and all ten competing athletes averaged 6.56 or 3.28 per hand. I'm not sure if Sam is correct but that's one hell of an average.
2 hand pinch
Using the now more or less standard Euro set numbers here seemed down across the board. It seemed, from talking briefly to the lads, that most use a wide set compared to yours truly and this was true of the referee, Burkhard Macht, whose equipment we were using. Thus the little chalk it held to grip onto was within 2-inches or so of the rim and so my bigger hands were touching bare steel much of the time. Gabriel Sum has a youtube video of him pulling 110-kilos on a wooden block set up and I've pulled close to 106-kilos on our well used and chalk encrusted kit at the Whey Gym here in Gloucester and did 97-kilos for 12 x 1 before leaving.

Image left: Sam pulling a big weight on the 2 hand pinch

However, this also meant all of the athletes were in the same boat. With my top weight on the day just about making it at 95-kilos, Gabriel's was 90.2 placing him in 4th! In between was a good performance by Matti Heiskanen with 92.5 and Sam in 3rd with 91.7-kilos.
Ironminds Apollon's Axle - double over hand deadlift
I've said in my log how awful my performance had been on this some three months ago. Like Matti and Johan I have partially prolapsed discs in my back. Indeed Matti was the worse, injury wise, of all three of us old war horses. On this and other events he was very slow to lock out and it was as far from show boating as can be. Genuinely in pain he wins my 'man of the match' award here.

Picture from Choice of Champions site shows Steve Gardener with the top weight (I like it because my forearm looks massive!).

I'm also sure I saw some lifters take more in warm ups then less for their openers but was hard at it trying to pull ahead at this point so didn't make any notes. With the lowest lifter getting a respectable 145-kilos and the top three seperated by a mere 10-kilos (160, 165 and 170) it was much closer than it felt at the time. Both during this and one or two other events a combination of missed lifts and some misunderstanding on the risiing bar principle (Hermann dealing with Spanish, Finnish, Swedish, German AND English speaking athletes) meant some retook weights on events as well as others coming in with lower weights. However, unlike the complete re-setting required with the pinch the loaders did a fine and timely job of keeping things moving.

I took first with 170-kilos having no discomfort once on the platform and in the zone feeling I could have hit a little more (just today managing a ragged 180-kilos). My hands felt good for more and the sumo style and practise allowed me to do what was required. Jose Jara was close behind with 165-kilos and Martin with 160-kilos.

One hand deadlift
Using one of the excellent (balance, spin and knurl all top notch) Texas Power Bars I've no idea how good or bad the others did compared to personal bests but both in recent training I'd been all over the place and had, back in early 2007, done much more (right handed 160 for 3 x 1 in the gym and 150-kilos against Theo on the platform). Winning with 135-kilos right and 115-kilos left was therefore fortunate. That almost all lost at least one attempt due to the tight but proper reffing by Burkhard (usually one end not quite making knee height) combined perhaps with the quality of the bar may have helped keep the numbers down. My choice of best form etc on this event was Stefan Folke. On all his succesful attempts I was able to watch I saw a great set up and approach and the bar balanced throughout. If it was too hevay it did not move at all, but if he could do it it was done extremely well. A fine example.

Ironminds Rolling Thunder - Thumbless
Using an 'illegal' (not allowed under current IM rules) thumbless grip this was the final event of the day. With the time approaching a little after 7pm or so as we started I am sure there was more than one tired athlete sitting around the gym hoping it would be over soon. Nevertheless it was time for a few more big efforts to see if you might change your score and move up from the medals and into cup territory. I, for one, did not slack up at all with Hermann commenting on his site that I 'never lost focus'.

I was also very fortunate that I was able to sit out much of the event. By the time I stepped onto the platform most had used up at least three attempts. Indeed second placed Stefan ended up with 85 R and 82.5 L for his 4th attempts and I OPENED with 80-kilos for both hands. I then did 85, 90 and 95 (plus the set up) with my left and 90, 100 and missed at 110-kilos with my right. That, again, my form had started to drop shortly before the event from over training and that I was right about where I had been prior to the British championships shows that the 4 days rest leading up to Saturday 16th had done it's trick.

It also meant I had done enough throughout the 7+ hours we lifted to get ahead and stay there. Tired faces all around while Hermann tallied and checked the results had some shine put back in them when Hermann produced a fine bottle of German beer for all of us to quench our thirsts with.

1. Steve Gardener 492,4%
2. Gabriel Sum 470,5%
3. Martin Ressel 461,0%
4. Sam Solomi 448,9%
5. Florian Kellersmann 438,6%
6. Johan Albrektsson 432,0%
7. Matti Heiskanen 431,0%
8. Stefan Falke 419,4%
9. Jose Jara 419,2%
10. Jorge González 410,7%

For a bargain 5 Euro entry fee all places from 4th downwards recieved a medal and the top three a trophy. That and an ice cold beer... can't complain.

Photo Left: Steve with his 1st place trophy

NB: Results subject to confirmation and update as there may be errors in the tallying up.