All Things Gym



Angel Genchev Salto Mortale Documentary *Translation 75% Done*

Here is a  documentary that could use a translation / summary.

It’s about Angel Genchev, who clean and jerked 202.5kg at 67.5kg bodyweight at the 1988 Olympics.

It seems  to be of  the “where are they now” kind.

Maybe there are some Bulgarian speakers who can give this a listen.

Update 14.01.2017: Translation at 75%!


Trailer with English subtitles.

Full Video:


Thanks to reader Vlad for providing this!

FIRST HALF – PART 1 (00:00 – 21:00).

Bulgarian TV presenter is excited: “Very strong Angel Genchev! 197.5 like a toy in his hands, 357.5 – new world record! The new challenge is 202.5 for a total of 362.5, it would be 7.5 kilos more than the current world record. Btw. Angel has been recognized as a very strong-minded person by his teammates, he never breaks his word, while being raw and tough sometimes… One beautiful salto, 202.5 c&j, 362.5 total, 67.5 weight class goes to another dimension…”

(at Angel’s home, small village near town Targovishte, in North-Eastern Bulgaria. He drives to a small weightlifting gym in Targovishte.)

Angel meets coach Petar Yordanov.
“How you doing…” (small talk … the gym is empty because it’s Sunday, Angel checks some old photos, and says – “Not much left in me even for watching, since I stopped training”)


Angel does some exercises and jokes that these are moves for old guys, and young guys are not ready for them yet…

Angel says he wants to get back to weightlifting just to prove to himself that there is no age limit for this sport. “The age limit is in the head only, people self-program their own mind’s software that they are old – and so they get old.”

Sofia. Angel visits the dormitory building of the sports boarding school he grew up – “Olympic prospects” (elite sports school in socialist Bulgaria). Angel describes the daily schedule: every morning get up at 5:30am, 6:15am at latest you should get out of the room because your day is busy to the minute – 5-7 hours training, in addition to normal school hours. Full rest on Sunday afternoon only. The only entertainment is to eat chocolate sometimes and to get a taxi for a ride – just sit at the backseat and relax… He says he had run the stairs thousands of times – from 1st to 14th floor at least 5 times a day – the rookies were not allowed to use the elevator during first years in school… “You still feel like sleeping early in the morning but you have to run the stairs”

He shows the steel grid door; the dormitory was like a military camp – the door got locked at 9pm sharp – with a big lock like a prison door… “If you were outside after 9pm for some reason – you’re screwed, especially during winter, you didn’t have anywhere to go and practically had to sleep on the street like a dog. This door was in my hightmares many times”. Students were fighting almost every night. The supervisor tried to prevent heavy incidents, there were real chances for fatalities if a fight got too harsh. Angel says: “It was terrifying at times. Many prospects attended the school but many just could not stand it and either dropped out, left or just run away. I tried to run away several times and went to city railway station but never got on the train because I knew if I did it, I would never go back”

Interview with Plamen Asparukhov, teammate (now weightlifting coach) – “When Angel came to national team, he tried to play like a leader… First of all we beat the shit out of him… But he did not surrender, we kept beating him – he kept fighting back. We soon understood that we were of the same breed and we have been best friends ever since.”

Angel goes to the weightlifting hall where the national team trained. He says: “Here is the place where Bulgarian national team prepared for the top championships – Worlds, Olympics, Europeans, etc… Hundreds of thousands tons of iron. Honestly I can hardly imagine that it was possible. This was my favorite place. Next to me on the left was Mikhail Petrov, RIP. On the right – Nurair (Nurikyan). I spent one-third of my life in this room.”


Angel comments that someone arranged the pictures very carefully, according to prizes and generations. He says: “But my picture is missing… Mine and Grablev’s. I don’t know if my feelings are hurt that our pictures are missing. It’s a bit sad. I see that Ivan Abadzhiev’s picture is also missing behind this desk. He is the creator of this hall and Bulgarian weightlifting … That’s strange. But unfortunately – it’s a fact [that Abadzhiev’s picture is missing]”

Congratulations to Abadzhiev by the team (for his birthday)
It’s a perfume, they joke that it’s like Alain Delon’s, and some lady may finaly like Abadzhiev.
The voice of Angel in the background comments that he supports Abadzhiev’s theory that in order to become absolutely the best in specific movements, you should focus only on these movements.

The voice of Abadzhiev: “We were in a permanent competition period.” He shares some bits of his theory that in the wild nature a planned periodization as typical in sports does not exist. He gives examples with rabbit and wolf, how instead of running with maximal effort, the rabbit says to the wolf – please wait, I’m in a transition period and can’t push to run the fastest right now. He says he planned the training curve as he believed he followed the wild nature way. Including Angel Genchev’s training. Abadzhiev says that the national team was consisting of about 20 weightlifters, and only 10 would go to an event, so internal competitions were a fierce fight. The winners would attend the event and get the glory and benefits, while the others would stay at home and lose practically everything.


Angel meets Norair Nurikyan. They talk, Angel says he has been back to the gym for 3-4 months and he plans to get back at a weightlifting competition at 47-48 years old to test himself… Norair encourages him. Angel says Norair had been his personal trainer since the start to the end of his career in national team.

Retro-footage. Before important competitions Ivan Abadzhiev always brought the team to peak Okolchitsa (a historical place where national hero Hristo Botev was killed fighting for national liberation) in order to motivate them. Angel did not consider that very seriously and he often had quarrels with Abadzhiev. He and Abadzhiev share memories – Genchev says that Abadzhiev kicked him out of the national team 11 times. Abadzhiev says that Genchev was disrespectful and rude. But he knew that when he kicked him out of the team, Angel would always fight to get back. Abadzhiev continues that he was extremely demanding and he was never happy with performance of his athletes, but Angel was even more extreme, he pushed even harder and sometimes tried impossible weights just to prove [that he had not reached the limit].

Abadzhiev describes “the arts and culture program” of the weightlifters. He brought them to classical concerts and other performances. Angel and Abadzhiev tell the story how Abadzhiev tested their knowledge of art, history etc – he questioned them over some facts from history or encyclopedia and they got additional food coupons for correct answers. He wanted to improve their education. Angel jokes, but admits that it was good for them.

Angel trains under the supervision of Nurikyan. They make some fun – Angel says that he forgot the movements; he initially takes the women’s bar. Nurikyan comments that with the bar only is good, but he is not sure how it would be with some disks on. Then in the background Nurikyan seriously notes that Angel had all three parts – strenght, perfect technique and a very strong mind.

FIRST HALF – PART 2 (20:20 – 42:00)

20:20 Retro-footage
Nurikyan comments that Angel was a great athlete and he always had 99% chance to lift the weight on the platform, so confident. Angel says that champions are born … and you have to overcome yourself.
Nurikyan continues that he also supervised Suleymanogly and he honestly can’t tell which mind – Naim’s or Angel’s – was stronger. He says that Angel never feared any competitor – his only opponent was the bar. Angel confirms, that he don’t consider athletes as competitors, and his concept is that he has to win over himself only.

Angel talks about the preparation for ’88 Olympics. They were training at a closed facility (training camp) without any access to external world – no smoking, no drinking, 6 months unreal loads. He says that bodies started to break down. At times they woke up at 8am and could not get up out of bed until 9am because of pains, they were so beaten up from training. Mikhail Petrov in 67.5 got a shoulder injury 2 months before the Olympics. Abadzhiev said it would be a huge disapointment to leave “the most Bulgarian weight class” empty and asked Angel to get down to the lower weight class.

Angel remembers that he was so ripped that he thought it’s absurd to lose so much weight … He says he ate so little for 22 days that he could barely sleep – he was so hungry that when he closed his eyes, he imagined food and water only. He did not even drink water for the last 3 days. He says it was like a terrible torture. Finally he was able to go down to necessary weight.

Angel comments that ’88 Seoul Olympics were more than just a competition – they were a clash of the two ideologies – “capitalist” and “socialist” systems. For 12 years after Montreal ’76 the direct competition between two systems was not happening (because of boycott first to Moscow’80 by western world and reciprocally ’84 Los Angeles by socialist countries.) and then was the time for the first direct clash. Soviet Union were heavily counting on weightlifting [for medals].

Comment by Abadzhiev: “I told the guys – let’s give the Russians a good beating… and it will trigger chaos in their weightlifting headquarters”


Angel continues: “To beat such superpower, with such strong weightlifters… Abadzhiev would f*ck them from front, from behind, from every side… He would make them porn stars [the Russians]”

Hristo Meranzov (Bulgarian official, then Vice-president of IWF): “In a private conversation between me, the president of IWF Gottfried Schödl and Ivan Abadzhiev, Schödl pointed out that if this trend [of Bulgarian domination] continues, it would not be quite good for the development of the weightlifting in the world”

Ivan Abadzhiev continues: “I had the same conversation with Tamás Aján, then General Secretary of IWF. He told me – Ivan, you have to admit that if you win all medals, it will not be beneficial to world weightlifting at all”

Nikola Mollov, then chairman of Bulgarian Weightlifting federation “I attended at a meeting in Moscow. Colleagues [from USSR] commented – “So, you are ultimately the best in the world, huh? Don’t worry, we will see, your time will also come…” And I shared that with him [with Abadzhiev]”

Abadzhiev: “Nikola Mollov told me – “You have never listened to me but now you must listen задължително – we will be allowed to win no more than 2 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals. If you even touch more, your head will roll”. I knew my athletes would never comply with such orders. All of them being absolutely well-prepared, most with large advance ahead of competitors, if they did not get what belonged to them after all this hard work and sweat… and to just surrender and leave the Olympic title to someone else…”

Bulgarian national anthem plays

TV Presenter: “Bravo, Angel, and thank you so much for all you did. We wish you even more success to continue on the legacy of your predecessors – magnificent athletes coached by Ivan Abadzhiev”

Angel Genchev: “After the awards ceremony our celebration was quite modest. We had some treats but after Grablev’s positive test our happyness was not complete… You just can’t celebrate when your teammate is suffering. I called my father, my mother, to ask them if they liked my performance, the salto on the platform..”

Angel’s mother shares her memories – they watched the event, they celebrated, their phone rang all the night, all their neighbors congratulated them. On the next morning Angel’s father found a very big spider in his shoe, and he was superstitious and says that was not a good sign.

Angel and friends make repairs on the boat he uses for fishing.


He says that team managers knew about his positive test on the next day, 9:30am but nobody told him until 4pm. He did not watch actively TV but he noticed that his salto was aired on the sports channel many times, he saw some text running through the picture on TV but nobody paid attention “Like obituary” -he later thought. He walked around in the olympic village, he brought some shopping bags to his room. Angel says: “… then Sasho [my note – I could not figure out who Sasho was – it’s a Bulgarian abbreviation of Alexander] met me and said that he had something to tell me. He said I had to return the medal back. I thought he was kidding, I told him to get out of the room or I will throw a punch at him. But I started to understand what he was trying to tell me and I just blanked out…

Angel (crying): “This humiliation locked my soul in a cage”. Nurair remembers that Angel cried a lot at that time. And he did not want to give back the medal. Nurair tried to calm him down: “That’s the worst moment in the life of an athlete… To know that you have done it, with all your hard work and to know that it was taken from you in a unjust way”

Abadzhiev comments: “Nobody is such an idiot to get a banned substance just before the competition, to be caught for sure. In his case they found a very large amount of Furanthril, which is absolutely impossible.” Nurair explains: “This is a diuretic substance. In this situation your legs get extremely weak immediately. He was so fresh [on the platform] that’s it was not possible [to get furanthril]”

Hristo Meranzov (then Vice-president of IWF):”This substance is a diuretic. But it was banned also because it was being used to cover traces of anabolic substances which were banned” The other coach comments: “I don’t have any doubt in him. Why would he need that?…”

Abadzhiev: “”His urine sample was replaced, that’s for sure. We had sufficient evidence. [to prove] We sent a letter to Samaranch (then President of IOC) and he replied in a letter that he submitted the case to medical committee of IOC for further investigation. And we are still waiting for an answer by this committee…”(He smiles).

Meranzov: “I don’t believe in external manipulation. My theory is that it was a personal act by Angel, something that he probably did also at other competitions without being caught”

Angel: “I personally, and also considering my extensive experience, don’t know of any [professional] athlete, including chess players, who have not used [any kind] of doping. So – yes, I had used too. And of course it is provided to you, it is co-ordinated with the national team [management] and coaches. Sure, it increases strength. It can give you 10-15 kilos more, or at max 20 kilos more – that’s it, the limit. When you stop using it, and you have to stop using it early enough before a competition in order to be clean at it, your PRs decrease respectively. Results decrease quickly, for 20 days… Unless the world federation is protecting you and you are not getting tested, or allows someone else to piss for your sample. However such lice like us (note: he uses a Bulgarian idiom, synonym to poor people) don’t have a strong back to protect us, so it does not make any sense to use this steroid advantage. We don’t have anyone to protect us. We are not a country so powerful as Russia, or USA, or even Canada, or we don’t have anyone to pay for sample [manipulation]. Because doping officials are, no offence, but it’s all business, pharmaceutical companies included. So this practice [for steroid use close and before competition] had been stopped long before the Olympics, maybe 2-3 years earlier. At the Olympics we were “clean like tears”.

Nurikyan adds: “This was the only way to stop us at the Olympics. No other way; otherwise we were about to win 6 ot 7 gold medals. And you know that after Angel we withdrew and returned back to Bulgaria”

Meranzov: “This is Grablev’s and Genchev’s fault. Because of their act their colleagues and friends did not have the chance to compete for gold medalses”

Angel: “This is just idiotic shit. My sample was manipulated, mine and Grablev’s, all political reasons. Same with Ben Johnson. I have never used furanthril in my life, ever.


Meranzov: “There is no other person in the world to go through such tragedy, and his first thought to be that it’s someone else who tricked him. It’s always someone else’s fault – either the coach, or roommate, or the manager, or even “the world capitalism” – but not themselves.

Abadzhiev: “I had thoughts to jump from the roof… But I was sure it was not my fault. It was not a mistake, it was an intentional, planned activity – from a very high level. This is the situation.

Nurikyan: “It was not fair but it seems there is no justice in big politics…”

“The day I understood that my sample was positive and my Olympic title was taken away from me was the worst day in my life. Weightlifting was everything for me at that time. I wanted to kill myself thinking that I would never compete in weightlifting.

On the next day after a totally sleepless night, while I was walking without any purpose, an unknown man approached me and surprisingly started talking in Bulgarian. He said he was a Bulgarian, his name was Vladimir Kostov an he was the radio host for radio “Free Europe” and he explained that he knew the real situation and that the Russians terribly punished us and that he came with an offer from the American embassy.

Our flight back was 2 days later so I told him I was ready to go to the embassy and we took a taxi and went there. We met the consul and he said that America needed people like me and could offer me a political asylum. I had a newborn child and I asked how and when I could see my kid and wife. He answered that it would take 3 to 4 months to arrange their transfer to America, using International Red Cross channels. I left with a hope but quite concerned because we had State Security and Intelligence agents in delegation staff that profiled us who was likely to defect [note: especially after Naim Sulemanogly’s defected to Turkey in Melbourne at World Cup’86].

On the next way we went to the embassy again. They asked me if I had an official marriage certificate. I said that actually I did not have one, because we were training at a closed camp for 6 months, and Abadzhiev was not allowing days off and out of the camp so I practically did not have the time to go and make the formal marriage. The embassy official explained that in this case without the official papers for marriage and child documents I might not have the chance to reunion with my family. (he cries) The International Red Cross could not help without documents. The whole world fell on me at that moment. I did not hesitate even for a second. I was perfectly clear with myself that I could not be ar the thought of leaving without seeing my child.” (he cries)


1988 Arrival of Olympic team in Sofia.



Archive interview with Angel.
“I don’t think anyone will listen to us. For me specifically, I should be crazy or a complete idiot, after the case with Grablev, also to take such substance and to screw up myself and the team. I was very well prepared. My results were far far ahead of competitors’ and I would win anyway. Why would I take it? I will be very much ashamed when I get out and have to walk with my head down. Everyone was happy with our success but now after this provocation they all forgot success and glory and hate Abadzhiev and everyone…”

Abadzhiev: “It was horrible. At arrival, … like a criminal”

“This is a terrible thing. Bulgarians can sometimes tear you to pieces”

Voice in the background, from a 1988 recording, while Angel and helper s move his boat :
“The principles of fair play and Olympic movement were abused. Whose fault was this? It is a time to name the guilty and to impersonate the responsible and not to wait that to fade away and be forgotten. We lost a lot of our achievements gained with so much work and did not win what we could and what the other team members deserved. Sure champion Asen Zlatev, sure medalists Ivan Chakarov, Rumen Teodosiev, Stefan Botev, Antonio Krastev. The Olympic tournament lost its shine without the Bulgarians in its second half…”

Angel’s mother:
“After all that was written, Angel got completely nervous and irritable. He started drinking. He was desperate, he had a small child and had to do something for a living. But he was banned and he did not have any income. His youth, his life were lost, his family started breaking apart”

Plamen Asparukhov, teammate:
“After the Olympics, we met a lot of times with Angel, and I thought he needed someone, like a personal trainer, or Ivan Abadzhiev, a strong man to get him under his wing. He was a short-tempered person, and he needed someone to guide him and eventually to save him for the big weightlifting. Unfortunately, he did not have such strong person behind him to help him stay out of troubles. These were strange years, there was lawlessness in Bulgaria, the easy money was on the street. It was hard to save him at this time, he was rejected from everywhere, nobody cared about him and he had to find his place.”

Hristo Meranzov:
“He had to be saved somehow. But at the end, as the popular Bulgarian proverb says, “God gives, but won’t drive sheep into the sheepfold”. You can’t wait everything to be provided to you. There are things that you have to do by yourself only.”

Angel and the family:
“My father, RIP, always said – “you have to follow rules, they are defined by wise people”. I said – “I don’t have to comply, I did not accept such rules.”

Angel’s mother:
“I have been told different things by people, that he have done bad thing, that he is a mobster. People hated him, even now some people hate him.”

“I’ve done stupid things. I’ve beaten up people. At times I used to force people to repay their debts in mob’s years. But I don’t think this was banditism, it wasn’t even a sin. It think it was normal. The state created the mobsters [note by translator: to give some context, after the fall of communist rule in the early 90s, a lot of pro athletes, especially from sports like wrestling, boxing, rowing, etc, were left without state sponsorship and formed the core of the new mob]. So what; we have not killed people. At l east I did not kill anyone. It was a job – someone had to repay money, if there was a chance to collect half of his debt, why not. I have never beaten up somebody without warning him first and trying to give him another chance. I’m not a terrorist, to blow things up without warning. Whatever I’ve done, I always gave a last chance. I was never given another chance at anything.”


Angel trains.

Nurikyan jokes: “It’s OK for 50-year old. What about a salto?”
Angel replies: “This backward salto turned my life backwards. So you want me to do a forward one to fix it again in the right direction”
Angel shares memories from underground:
“Once I threw a former chief of Criminal Police in the car trunk. I went to a dance club, and he was in the trunk outside. Ex-Colonel from Police Department of town of Targovishte. After that local cops watched for me to make a wrong move for 3 years. And finally they got me – I was charged for extortion for 300 leva [now EUR 150]. From a friend of ours, my wife’s cousin, I asked for my 300 lv back. I did not even get the money, and for this I was charged and sentenced for extortion, under article for up to 15 years in prison and up to 300 000 leva penalty. Can you imagine that? I did not take the money, but because I threatened him that if I didn’t get it by the nex t day, I would break his legs. I said to them that I also told him I would fuck him, then why didn’t they charge me for rape? Idiotic shit, anyway. And that was it. After the system gets you sideways and you become recidivist…”

Angel repairs the boat and talks to helpers.

Angel’s voice:
“I was in prison for over 10 years, maybe 11. First 6 – on light regime. Next 5 – hard regime, nasty, no leaves, no visits, cell with no windows, 2 by 3 meters, 3 inmates, piss and shit in a bucket and sleep on the floor. No bed, no sheets. In the wint er – outside minus 20 degrees (C), inside minus 20. In the summer – outside plus 40 degrees (C), inside feels like plus 60 (C) – last floor, no air, no water”

“By irony of fate, because nothing is coincidental, a Russian – Sergey Lazarev, brought me back to life. His books introduced me to esoteric literature. I read such things for the first time. I re-read his first book “Diagnostics of Karma” many times. I have had many many many hard moments in my life since then, but the “Diagnostics…” helped me to understand why it was happening and how to survive. Without this book I would be dead in prison, or being shot while trying to escape, or become insane hundreds of times”

Weightlifting gym at Sports club “Slavia”
Voice of Zdravko Stoichkov, teammate: “Welcome…”
Angel: “At home again”

Angel smiles: “See what a nice boy I was. I’ll steal this photo”
Zdravko Stoichkov “No way, I will never allow that, absurd. These pictures will stay here forever, you know.”
Angel checks a calendar with naked girls.
Zdravko jokes: “There is a place for gays in some other gyms, but not in our gym”… “Stop looking at this calendar, I will give it to you after the workout, now prepare for training”
Angel makes fun: “I don’t want to train, for the last 3 days I’ve been exhausted, I had not trained like that for World championships”

Angel trains.
Zdravko “Perfect”
Angel “It’s happening today”

Angel checks the calendar and jokes: “I will file a request to my wife. To sign an approval”.

Angel Genchev Salto Mortale Documentary *Translation 75% Done* is a post by Gregor Winter from All Things Gym.