Last night, I caught up with the big guy just as he’d returned from a 3 hour walk. I teased him about this, as it wasn’t in his programme for recovery. But no, it wasn’t like that, he said, this was just a spontaneous walk while talking on the phone to Ivan (Denisov), and they had found plenty to talk about, what with the training camp in Slovenia fast approaching. It was improvisation, Fedorenko told me, and sometimes you can even break a world record by improvising.
“Mainly when an athlete achieves a PB or a record jerk, it’s something he has focused on totally, committed everything to that goal. But sometimes these things just happen. At the end of November 1993 I was coming back from the world championship, and I had achieved first place with 75kg 127 reps in Jerk, and Snatch 100 reps first hand, 98 reps 2nd hand.”
(“There’s a good point to be made here about the importance of the lowest hand score. My score was 225 total reps, one hand 127 and the other 98. My competitor achieved 221 jerks and it had already looked like he would beat me in Jerk, but then in Snatch he totalled 91 with the first hand, and I did 100 with the first hand 100. With the 2nd hand the other guy did 82 reps, and I did 98 reps. So, a sudden drop in figures between one hand and the other could be enough to lose that coveted first place.”)
“Anyway, I was coming back home, and looking forward to getting a break after the competition, but my coach didn’t have it in mind to let me get that break. The competition was across the weekend, then we would travel all day Monday, just getting home in time to sleep, and I’d be expected to be in the gym on Tuesday morning. That was how my professional training went: training 12 times a week 9am-12noon and then again 5pm-9pm, so 7 hours a day, 42 hours a week. That was my schedule.”
“I had it in mind to go home. My family lived some 400 km away, so I could only visit them 2-3 times a year. When the competition was over, I decided I wanted to visit, to feel like a hero. I wanted a rest, and felt that I deserved something. I just wanted a break of 2-3 days, and get back to training on Thursday or so. I told my coach that I wanted to visit my family in Kyrgyzstan. He decided to set me a test: 2×32 kg in both Snatch and Jerk, a 10 min set, and then I could go home. So, he was looking for a top performance just 3 days after the competition.”
“Every coach has to find a way to motivate his students. My coach would always bet, and I would win money on this, not much, but a few Russian roubles each time, enough to challenge me. Sometimes he would set me the challenge to do 100 reps, which provided good motivation for me. And this time he did the same. To get my trip home I had to complete just two sets: 10 min of Jerk and Snatch, and THEN I could have a week’s vacation. With that prospect ahead, I broke the world record, just 4 days after winning the world championship – that was motivation! So I scored 235 reps, 10 points above world record.”
“There are various reasons why that might happen. Conditions at a competition are very different from your training environment: a lot of factors come into play, which might cause your numbers to come down, the effects of travel, fatigue, sleep pattern affected by hotel beds, you might be prone to nerves, your body has to deal with different food from your usual nutrition. For me, the competition was over, and I got back to the gym and managed 132 jerks, so keen was I to see my family. In a competition, you have to go through warming up routines, the weigh in, and size up your competitors, all these extra tensions before you can start your set. In my own gym, the coach set a test, with no warning: Jerks 10 minutes, then 30 minutes rest, then 10 minutes’ Snatch.”
“This approach wouldn’t work for every student, if they are sensitive they might not respond to teasing and challenges after such a gruelling weekend of competition. It could break them emotionally. For most athletes, directly after a competition is a time for getting through the travel arrangements, taking a shower, eating , and then taking a break for a couple of days. All I’m really saying is motivation is not one single formula, but that spontaneity can sometimes produce surprising results.”