Weightlifter Sets World Record: ‘This Shows That Russia Is the Strongest Nation’

Aleksey Lovchev

Aleksey Lovchev set a clean-and-jerk world record over the weekend.

The 309-pound Russian lifted 264 kilograms from the floor to above his head in Houston, Texas, at the International Weightlifting Federation’s World Weightlifting Championships. That’s 582 pounds for backward Americans shunning the genius that is the metric system. Alas, event organizers refused to go full French Revolution, recording the milestone as occurring on November 28 and not 9 Frimaire.

Aside from the bow to French scientific superiority, the record, at least according to the record holder, indicates Russian athletic supremacy. “This shows that Russia is the strongest nation,” Lovchev contended.

The boast comes not without a buttress. Russian men finished first overall and the women placed second to the Chinese. The United States, by way of comparison, finished 28th (men) and 14th (women). Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said last month, “Americans have demonstrated their weakness.” Surely Lovchev’s performance does nothing to dissuade Medvedev from such sentiments. In judo black belt/hockey hat-tricker/slalom skier Vladimir Putin’s Russia, what’s the difference between dominance in weightlifting and world affairs, anyhow?

Lovchev (shown in the picture attempting a girly-man lift of a mere 467 pounds) broke the official world record of Iranian Hossein Rezazadeh. But he fell short by two kilograms of eclipsing the strangely unofficial high mark of fellow countryman Leonid Taranenko, who cleaned-and-jerked 586 pounds 27 years ago. But the International Weightlifting Federation arbitrarily decreed that the former Soviet strongman’s feat never really happened when it restructured weight classes and—in a move reminiscent of the redacted textbooks, St. Petersburg becoming Leningrad, and commissars vanishing from photographs in Taranenko’s homeland—opted to erase previous records. Or maybe it more closely evoked that time that Planet Fitness suddenly disappeared the squat racks and flat benches from their premises as though some of the most popular equipment items did not belong in a gym. Whatever the proper precedent, the 26-year-old Russian’s achievement comes not without controversy.

Lovchev deadlifted the weight with ease, completed the clean with more difficulty, and paused for five seconds before attempting the jerk. As he dipped down to begin the process of military pressing the weight, the barbell bowed significantly from the four 55-pound plates and one 34-pound plate on each end, providing a reverse visual manifestation of the meatheadism, “If the bar ain’t bending, you’re just pretending.” Lovchev shifted his right leg forward and left leg back—amazingly lifting both feet off the ground for a split second—before pushing the poundage upward, where it stayed on display for several seconds before the conquering Lovchev dropped the defeated barbell.

“I was thinking, ‘This is impossible,’ as I had never tried that weight before,” explained Lovchev, boasting a personal best of 567 pounds in the gym before lifting 15 pounds more on the grand stage. “I’m overwhelmed.”

So was gravity.


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