All Things Gym



Dmitry Klokov Interviews Ilya Ilyin

Next in his “On Par” interview series Dmitry Klokov sits down with Ilya Ilyin.

Check out Dmitry’s other “On Par” interviews here.

Big thanks to Vadim, who has been working all day to translate this for us!

Update: Both parts are translated now. I also made them available for your ereader.

Download: .mobi (for kindle) .epub


Preface from the Translator (Vadim Pakhutkin):

I’m a Kazakhstan citizen myself, so when Ilya’s talking about Kazakhstan, I just use the “we” pronoun for brevity’s sake. Also be free to ask Kazakhstan-specific questions if you have any.
Proper way of denoting the Kazakhstan citizenship/nationality is “Kazakhstani”. “Kazakh” is a more specific term indicating Kazakh ethnic background (the titular Kazakh ethnicity – Ilya, on the other hand, is of Russian ethnicity, for example). Kazakhstan is a multiethnic country, and Russians and other Slavic ethnicities (Ukrainians etc.) constitute almost 30% of the entire population; ethnic Kazakhs are an Asian people, and among lifters the most prominent ethnic Kazakh is Almas Uteshev. Our total population is almost 18 million, which is very little compared to our huge territory (all Western European countries combined could be fit into it).

Reminder about the Soviet-style athletic ranking system:

The system is identical in all post-Soviet countries, but qualifying criteria are different. Here are the ranks, starting from the lowest:

There is too much chatting in this interview, so I decided to go for the recap format, with an occasional direct quote. My own comments or clarifications are in square brackets; everything else is based on what Ilya or Klokov said. It’s also not entirely chronologically sorted, as I prefer to group things by topic.

The interview took place while they were in California together (read the seminar reviews here).

Childhood and Getting into Weightlifting

Born and raised in the south west of Kazakhstan, in the city of Kyzylorda, near Baikonur. Both his parents were also born in Kazakhstan. His mother is a hairdresser, and his father used to be a builder, but now retired and owns a farm. His hometown, Kyzylorda, is an industrial city, living off of natural resources (the entire nation is very rich in natural resources). Ilya has two elder brothers, one of which also used to compete in Olympic weightlifting – he was a Junior nationals champion twice, but quit his career before becoming a senior. The same brother brought Ilya to the sport when Ilya was only 6.


There he was noticed by his soon-to-be first coach, VILORIY PAK. Even though Ilya now has his own team, he still never forgets about his first coach [Viloriy Pak is the head coach of the Kazakhstan men’s senior team]. Later in his career, his another mentor was ENVER TURKELERI – current assistant coach of the Kazakhstan National Team.

Ilya’s first desire to train came when he was 8. As a child he first competed at 32 kg when he was 9 – he snatched 30 and jerked 42 kg. In 1999, at the age of 11 he already competed with seniors – as a 52 kg – at the National qualifications for the Olympic team – back when Anatoly Khrapaty was still an active athlete.

His first international meet was Asian Games in Bali, Indonesia. He competed in the U16 division, and he was 13 at the time. He made 6/6, 117/165.5, which was an Asian record. At his second Asian Games he lifted 147/187, and won every title available at that competition.

Over his entire career he only suffered defeats in Kazakhstan. His first big defeat was at Kazakhstan Nationals, where he lost to Stanislav Lin – Ilya placed 2nd. He does not remember how old he was (maybe around 11), and Ilya was already aiming for the Master of Sports rank at such early age. Second defeat was his first place after Sergei Istomin, but Ilya doesn’t consider it a failure due to the fact that prior to the competition he had only trained for 3 weeks, while Istomin was already in good shape. And there were a couple more times where he was placed 4th (he didn’t go into detail on these).

He never failed at international competitions. [after hearing that, Klokov shook his hand]

He lists our (Kazakhstani) great athletes that came before him: two Olympic champions, Mazin and Khrapaty, Athens silver medalist Filimonov, and several medalists at international meets (Samoilov, Okhrimenko, Lomakin, Oleg Emm). Also Oleg Shin, Junior Worlds Champion, who competed against Naim Suleymanogulu. Ilya proudly says that Shin taught him snatch technique — Ilya would watch Shin snatch world record weights at the gym.

Ilya is planning to host a competition in the honor of Sergei Filimonov.

On Weightlifting Development in Kazakhstan

Sports are developed and funded nationally within the scope of the national strategy set forth by the Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev. Over the last several years, athletic management structures have been established. There’s the National Welfare Fund, and under its umbrella the Confederation of Combat and Strength Sports was founded. The Confederation united under its wing combat and strength sports federations, overseeing their funding and operations. The Confederation deals with both the issues of sport popularization, as well as high professional sport. For the elite teams and athletes, the super team Astana [Astana is the capital of Kazakhstan] was created, bearing the official name Astana Presidential Sports Club. The superteam currently consists of the following star members:


Separately from the Confederation, funding is provided also by the Agency for Tourism and Sport. Ilya says that finally, order is starting to be brought to the sport. There is now a reporting system to ensure that funds are not misused, and athletic performance is evaluated. He says that only through such state-led efforts the London gold medals were made possible. He even recounts the Minister of Sports himself asking Ilya about his weight on a regular basis [and for those who don’t know, President Nazarbayev himself took the situation under his direct control when Ilya was having problems after Beijing].

Here’s the official website of the weightlifting federation.

[Also as a reminder, the next year’s Olympic weightlifting World Championship will be held in Almaty, Kazakhstan — the southern major city, ex-capital]

On the Upcoming Winter Olympics

Ilya says that since we are a Central Asian state, we would be happy with just a single medal – although Kazakhstan did host Asian Winter Games. Still, both summer and winter sports are rather early in development, so immediate great results are not expected.

After the London Olympics, Ilya was awarded one of the highest decorations (medals), “Otan”.

On Self-Education

In his free time, Ilya likes to study philosophy and psychology, world politics, management, finance. He actually was an intern at a large fast food and beverage company, and he studied production management there.

He went to London as a student to improve his English language proficiency.

Even when he came to the US for seminars, he brought some books, and also his notebook which he uses all the time, to write down whatever he deems interesting or useful. Klokov was amazed to see him use a fountain pen instead of a ballpoint one. He likes reading Robert Kiyosaki. He occasionally attempts at writing a diary. A year prior to his London gold, he wrote in his diary “One year till London, and I’m going to be the champion”. He said it was quite special to read this entry after the fact – “maybe this even helped me psychologically”.


On Languages

Although Ilya is ethnically Russian, and is not very fluent in Kazakh language (everyday/casual proficiency), he “feels like a Kazakh”. Klokov was surprised that in Kazakhstani schools, both Russian and Kazakh languages are taught (along with English as the foreign language). Ilya tries to keep his language skills on the down-low until he has a solid command of a language (be it Kazakh or English).

In the end of 2010 it somehow dawned on him that he must aspire to be proficient in 7 languages, among which is Russian (his native), English, German, Kazakh, Spanish. His first priority is English, of course.

On His Wife and Daughter

Ilya’s wife, Natalya, is a professional handball player who competes for a French professional team in Nice. She is from the northern Kazakhstan town of Pavlodar [yay, that’s where I live]. Ilya met her at a training camp dormitory, on his first year in the national team as a 16 year old lifter. Their daughter (Milana, now 4 years old) was born before they got married. Natalya actually dreams about making it to Rio too, as part of the handball national team. She was on the team when they placed 4th at Asian Games – the same Games that Ilya had won. She didn’t make it to Beijing because the national team superiors decided that her presence might not be good for Ilya’s performance (!). Ilya later argued with them about it, and is sure that there wouldn’t have been any problems whatsoever if they were together on the Olympics. Handball national team didn’t qualify for London, and now they’re hoping for Rio. Handball is poorly developed in Kazakhstan, and Ilya’s wife is considered the best player.

Ilya lives in an apartment, not a house, mainly because a house would require maintenance, and since both Ilya and his wife are professional athletes, they can’t stay for too long. Their daughter Milana stays either with her grandmother in Pavlodar, or with the mother in France. Milana goes to kindergarten in Pavlodar.

He says that thanks to his daughter, he even discovered creativity in himself, doing things like painting or clay molding. [the rather bizarre image Klokov shows to the camera is his (Klokov’s) daughter’s drawing of a snowman]

On Women’s Weightlifting

He likes womens weightlifting, sees nothing wrong with it. He mentioned Lydia Valentin and Carolina Valencia as athletes who combine beauty and athletic performance. He likes the Russian practice of having male and female lifters training separately; in Kazakhstan they train together. Systemic approaches to female and male training are very different, he says. They laughed a lot with Klokov about Ilya’s daughter’s prospects in weightlifting – Ilya says “she has good legs, and got speed”. However, he’s not thinking about any such possibilities yet.

On Singing


KLOKOV: “I know you like singing… I was bummed that we couldn’t find a karaoke place here in the States. Ilya likes to sing, Vasily Polovnikov sings very well and likes it, and I… well, just wanted to listen. Okay, I also like singing, and I really want to become part of the celebrity singing TV show that Ilya was in, “Two Stars” [there seems to be no footage of the 4 episodes he was in – he didn’t qualify to go for more episodes]

On this TV show Ilya learned how to sing, and he’s very happy about it. He really enjoys singing. He sang songs of Grigory Leps (a very popular Russian singer), as well as Russian rock bands Aria and Kipelov. He thinks he’s mainly C minor. He used the solfeggio (solfège) method to learn pitch and sight reading.


Ilya’s favorite movie genres: comedy, fantasy, fairy tales. Klokov likes heist movies (like Ocean’s 11). They also discussed a Russian comedy movie they saw (Svadba / Wedding).

Klokov then asked about his hobbies. Ilya doesn’t collect anything [“apart from gold” –Klokov]

Klokov laughed about the fact that they still haven’t bought anything in America, and that their American friends basically said that “there’s no need to – just use eBay, it’s the same goods anyway, and cheaper”.

They also talked about his social network presence. Here are the links:

The next part will focus more on training and popularization of weightlifting.

Part 2


(Translation is in the works)

[In this part I will be combining both recap and direct dialog translation formats]

On Starting His Own Team


KLOKOV: So I heard that you created your own weightlifting team. This sounds very cool indeed…

ILYIN: [laughs]

KLOKOV: What does it mean? Owning your own gym I can imagine, but owning a team?

ILYIN: Well, at one point, thanks to the President [of Kazakhstan], authorities and the people of Kazakhstan, I managed to get separation from the national team, because I felt some sort of a discord brewing there. As an athlete, I was misunderstood by the national team.

KLOKOV: So you didn’t agree with what they did?


ILYIN: Yeah at some point I began disagreeing, and they never wanted to meet me half-way.

KLOKOV: Who was not agreeing with you?

ILYIN: Well, I’m not going to name names. It just so happened that I had to leave the national team. I started training on my own, and I thank people who trusted in me, and my team – Erzhas Boltayev, Toishan Bektimirov, Aigul Kalenova (she’s one of my managers) – we started working on our own. Also I thank Murat Abenov – who was a parliament delegate at the time – for explaining our situation to people.

KLOKOV: So what, you just decided not to attend national team training camps?

ILYIN: I turned to the Minister [of Sports], showed him all my training plans – we documented every bit of planning from that day all the way to London – and asked him if we could have separate funding, separately from the national team, that’s all I needed. And this is such a common practice around the world…

KLOKOV: And they agreed to it?

ILYIN: Yes, they did, but of course it wasn’t easy…

KLOKOV: It set a precedent, didn’t it?

ILYIN: Indeed, it was something special…

KLOKOV: How did they react?


ILYIN: Negatively.

KLOKOV: The federation was negative about it?


KLOKOV: But don’t you think that in other federations such cases could also occur? So you created a precedent for them, right? If you could do it, others could, too.

ILYIN: So as I continued working on my own, with my own squad, Paris [World Championship] happened, and I won. At that point, many national team members already started thinking about joining my team. And I’m like, “Hey, no problem, as long as you sort it out with the national team, you’re welcome to join me”. We’re open, we’re solidary. Our gym has order to it, tidiness, energy, power.

KLOKOV: Speaking of energy, in the video from today’s practice [at the crossfit gym in America], someone commented that the energy in the gym could be felt on the other side of the computer screen.

my own team is stronger than the national team right nowILYIN: Yes, that makes me very happy. Back to our topic: the guys from the national team didn’t manage to join me before London 2012, but Almas Uteshev, 2.5 months prior to London, still told me that he wished to train with me. Him and I, we grew up together, he’s my good friend and brother, and currently he’s under my supervision, so to speak – but I don’t really want to put it this way – still though, he used my training plans, and in Poland he got the silver medal. So I tested the system on myself, and then gave it to my athletes – Vladimir Sedov, Almas Uteshev, Iskander Mominbekov (he finished 8th in Poland). So basically, my own team is stronger than the national team right now. In Poland, all male lifters were from my team, except for two lightweights. So our team is honored to have accomplished such a great mission for our country. 2-3 places – that’s a big thing. I mean, before this it was just me. There are problematic situations, but why dwell on them? Better create good situations.
As for Sedov… They counted me out after Beijing…

KLOKOV: They counted YOU out???

ILYIN: Yeah. That’s what that old scandal was about. They said I was a fluke, remember? How they marketed Sedov as “the next Ilyin”… It all started when I decided to be critical of their decision making, saying that I don’t like certain things, and that’s what provoked them to undermine me. And then Sedov came around – he did great, he won the World Championship, but let’s slow down, okay? Let’s not get too loud about it, let’s not blow it out of proportion and throw words like “the next Ilyin”. It was foolish of them.

KLOKOV: This played both in your favor and against you?


ILYIN: In my favor, definitely—

KLOKOV: It might have hurt you financially, but you became stronger and more mature.

ILYIN: Well I don’t really want to delve into it again, thank god everything turned out well…

KLOKOV: Thanks to the President?

ILYIN: Yeah, to the President, and the people. And of course, my team, that was with me.

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On Coming to America

Ilyin proceeds to explain how he got involved in the American seminars. Vasily Polovnikov contacted him earlier this year, but at the time Ilyin couldn’t attend due to the fact that he was in London, attending elementary and lower intermediate English courses. After London Ilya was to coach his guys at Worlds, then go to France to visit his wife, and then host Kazakhstan Nationals, but after that he was free and that’s when Vasya contacted him again and Ilya decided to come.



ILYIN: And when I was flying to America my Facebook died, and I lost all means of communication… Barely found my Gmail…

KLOKOV: Yeah, we weren’t even sure you’d arrive, we just came to the airport and waited blindly. Worse yet, you had your hair in bangs [shows with a gesture], and not spiked up [shows again], so we didn’t recognize you. Good thing you had a Kazakhstani sports bag. [both laugh]

On Crossfit

Ilyin had no idea about crossfit up until recently. There is now a crossfit gym in Kazakhstan, in Almaty [the gym is called Reactor Crossfit], where Ilyin held a seminar. Over the course of the past months he has learned about crossfit, and came to appreciate it quite a lot – even considered to incorporate it in his WL training.

Ilyin was so unaware of crossfit that when he walked into the Kazakhstani crossfit gym, he said “What the hell is that?”. But then after visiting the United States, he realized that the Kazakhstani crossfitters “are doing it right”.

Klokov again stressed that crossfit is helping Olympic weightlifting to gain popularity.

Klokov drew attention to Ilya’s torn calluses, and Ilya explained that he had been trying the butterfly pullups – he likes this exercise very much. He considers it very effective for general training within the scope of weightlifting training. He said it can replace abdominals exercises and certain other isolated exercises. In short, “general physical preparation with crossfit elements”.

He also stressed importance of endurance training in his WL training. He introduced running this year – for the first time in his career. And swimming 2 kilometers – that’s been his regular exercise for years. He also plans to include rowing in his routine. Then Klokov remembered a WOD consisting of rows, deadlifts and step-ups [jumps?], 3 circuits – Klokov said that after doing these 3 rounds he had to catch his breath and recover for an hour.

Now Ilyin is pondering on how to combine all these various assistance exercises. Running, swimming, rowing, pullups, and some bodybuilding elements – he wants to introduce kettlebells for forearm strengthening.
by the end of next year I gotta snatch that 200 kg
All in all, this year for Ilyin was all about self-development coupled with preparation of a new training system for Rio.

ILYIN: So now I have this truckload of exercises, and how am I supposed to string them together? Now I’m going to riddle this to my coaches, they’re very smart and we’ll definitely come up with a solution.
And hey, by the end of next year I gotta snatch that 200 kg.


On Beijing

KLOKOV: So, you’re a 2-times Olympic champion… if I’m not mistaken? [both laugh]

ILYIN: Really?

KLOKOV: That’s what it says! Vasya wrote this. [pointing at his notebook] That’s what Vasya had been writing all those days. Anyways, you won two times in -94. Yet, if you compare two competitions – Beijing and London – your results are vastly different, even though the weight class is the same. I’ve just been wondering, how could this be? Usually such great progress is achieved after switching to a larger weight class – just like you’re now planning to go up to -105. Tell your secret to those guys who got stuck in -94! [laughs]

ILYIN: Well, first of all, in Beijing I could not go 100% because of my arm injury that I suffered during my second snatch attempt. So the deal is, if not for the injury, I would have definitely snatched 183 or 184 and clean-and-jerked 230 right there in Beijing – hell, I managed 226 with an injured arm. And I wanted to go 233. My juvenile approach prevented me from beating the world record… Remember Santo-Domingo? My first C&J attempt was 217 – I made it, and then went straight for 233 – couldn’t clean both.

KLOKOV: Typical young Ilyin, eh?

ILYIN: Yeah I attempted it even back then, and I was already jerking that in practice. As for Beijing… thank god it was so lucky for me! “Schimko” [Kolecki], my brother, and Khadzhimurat let me pass them to grab the gold. I’m not saying it was a total fluke, but due to the injury I definitely couldn’t go 100%.

KLOKOV: But in the end you effectively dragged everyone up with you. Andrei Demanov finished 4th in London by lifting the same total as you did in Beijing.
I used to drink quite a bit and smoke before Beijing

ILYIN: And of course other bad habits… I used to drink quite a bit and smoke before Beijing—

KLOKOV: [looking bewildered] For real?


ILYIN: …but then quit. What matters is diet, training regimen, calmness in the gym – all this is critical. Besides, I was 20. What’s 20 years old, really? I think that only in 24 we begin to act as really mature men. So basically, I just made sure I partied my fair share, and then I became able to completely change my thought process. I think many people know Carlos Castaneda—

KLOKOV: *Of course* we all know Carlos Castaneda! [laughs]

ILYIN: You think and act one way, and then you suddenly change so radically, as if you went insane, completely changing your life direction. If I hadn’t done this, I wouldn’t have gotten gold in London, there wouldn’t have been today’s “me”. So now, no distractions, 100% motivation, 100% performance. Now I’m tapping into this power source to switch to -105. I need to work tad more to make this transition a done deal.

On Vegetarianism

KLOKOV: The more I hear about your plans to switch to -105, and the more I hear about your vegetarianism, the more mine and everyone’s brain explodes, just like your hair. How are these things compatible? And I’m sure the most popular question is… where do you get your protein? Because you did eat a lot of meat, right?

ILYIN: Yeah, meat was the main part of my diet – horse meat and “white” meat, chicken. But last February I decided to quit eating meat…

KLOKOV: You decided on your own?

ILYIN: I had been thinking about it for a long time, since I was 18. Arsen Kasabiyev [Georgian lifter] was there when in Poland [before London 2012] I sat with them to eat, and I announced in a serious tone “Guys, I’m thinking that I’m not going to eat meat anymore.” And it was clear to everyone that I actually meant it. And Arsen goes: “Maybe you should wait till you win the Olympiad first? And then make such statements”. And at that moment I realized how stupid my statement was, and I said “Alright, fair enough.” So I then waited eagerly till I was done with London, studied all this a lot. It’s not just some random decision because I read something on the internet – no, it was an educated decision.

KLOKOV: But why? I don’t eat much meat myself, maybe I should do away with it completely?

ILYIN: When I trained hard, at maximum loads, I could feel my stomach working, how it digested food. So I ate meat and I can feel how long it takes for it to get digested…


KLOKOV: I totally agree, that’s why I try to limit my meat consumption.

ILYIN: So I figured that my body just doesn’t need it. What’s the point if it only absorbs, like, 12% of protein? And I don’t even know how good this protein is… And everything else goes where? Transforms into toxins… Of course I didn’t go extreme right away… I can’t know my body perfectly well… nowadays we don’t listen to our bodies much, we just read the internet. But when you work at full load, in the mountains, 3 workouts per day, you begin to listen to your body. So I began my research, read one source, then another… and came to interesting conclusions.

KLOKOV: What about fish though? It’s pretty light.

ILYIN: Well, I’ve never been much into fish to begin with.. I also started to study the correlation between blood types and diet preferences. My type 2 is vegetarian. But overall, I tend to be skeptical about everything, even if it has the scientific seal of approval.

KLOKOV: I don’t believe anything at all.

ILYIN: So maybe someday I’ll even decide to go to a nutrition research institute, so they could show me those aminoacids… some say there are 9 of them, some say – 6, 10… and that one must eat meat to get those irreplaceable aminoacids… well, I still consider it a myth for now. So I’ll just experiment on myself, and if I feel bad, then I’ll realize that I should go back to meat. Then we have vegetable protein… then we have separated nutrition. Then we have the raw-eaters – it’s also a pretty interesting thing, and it deserves attention. Then we have the sprouted seeds – chickpeas, soybeans, etc. I tried growing those – I wasn’t too good at it, but I really benefited from it. When I was in Britain it was, of course, much easier – just go to Organic Planet and buy some. And this kind of protein is absorbed at 45% rate, and it’s really energetic. And most importantly, it’s not the protein that’s in deficit, but high quality carbohydrates.

KLOKOV: Well, we have bad carb sources these days. Pasta that you buy at a grocery store is like slime when you cook it.

ILYIN: And this same slime becomes a toxic burden for your body, and requires cleaning. I’m looking at my watch because it’s Sunday today, and that’s when I “clean up” – that is, short-term fasting.

On Health, Recovery and Immune System

Ilya recommends loads of vitamin C and glucose. He also advocates contrast showers. Stretching and warmups. Training system – one has to have a proper training system. Relaxation. Water procedures. Saunas. Ilyin has a masseur on staff in his team. He also has his own alternative medicine healer who does acupuncture. He uses BCAA, aminoacids all the time. His team uses the state funding to procure supplements via a company that is well-trusted and certified.


Ilya stresses the importance of developing sports medicine in Kazakhstan, and he attributes the recent events (banning of Kaz. athletes for doping) to lack of expertise available. Dietology, supplements, biomechanics, adjusting to individual traits – this requires development.

On Weight and Switching to -105

KLOKOV: Have you had any problems with controlling weight as a -94? Have you ever really struggled to make weight? How heavy did you ever get?

ILYIN: I went up to 106 kg.

KLOKOV: What prompted you to set your sights on -105?


ILYIN: Because I weighed 106 at one point [laughs]. And my results in training – 196 / 240 [video here] was pretty easy for me to lift, as people have already seen. So I was thinking that it was theoretically possible to go for 200/247. Well, at least 246. And my weight at that moment was 103 kg.
And cutting 11 kg to make weight as a 94? I’m already 24, my bodyweight gradually increases. I need to let myself grow, I’m still young enough to pull it off. Yes, it’s going to be hard – but what isn’t? Besides, I want to keep competing after Rio too. Why not go on till I’m 32? Therefore, weight should be higher. And hey, maybe I’ll even grow up a little more, to 177 cm, say, eh?

KLOKOV: Yeah, right…

[both laugh]


ILYIN: So yeah, purely professional rationale here. Results are nice, 196/240 at 103 kg? If I gain quality 105, I can potentially go for… snatch 203…. [takes a minute to think]

KLOKOV [interrupts, faces the camera]: After snatching 185, Ilya jerked 233. And now this guy’s thinking to himself “how much can I jerk if I snatch 203?..” [turns back to Ilya] Let’s leave it a mystery, alright?

ILYIN: Well, I don’t know about 203…

KLOKOV: Man, you’re gonna do just fine with 200. And dude, let us [Russians] get at least one medal, at least in the snatch. [laughs] The reason I asked, is that you competed as a 94 twice (at the Olympics), and I can see only two reasons why you’d move up to -105:
Either you’re having problems making weight at 94, or you’re just unable to find an incentive to keep competing in 94. That is, you feel like you could compete in either class, but -105 would just be more exciting.

ILYIN: No, it’s not about excitement, I’m trying to be professional in this regard. I just feel that it’s the natural thing to do. And of course there are issues like not eating meat…

KLOKOV: And what if the weight doesn’t go up?

ILYIN: It will go up for sure. And if it doesn’t, it’s going to be an emergency situation that we’ll have to deal with. As for protein sources, there are protein supplements…

KLOKOV: Do you use them?

ILYIN: I do, but in small doses.

KLOKOV: I can’t handle protein supplements…


ILYIN: I don’t use it much because my weight goes up as it is. If the need arises, I will eat protein supplements, in small quantities. And I will still make the weight. Gaining more is no big deal; now, getting the results up – now that’s a challenge! As for making weight, I at one point gained 102 kg of really bad fatty weight, and I had my arm injury, to boot – tore up the same arm as in Beijing, which was the reason why I didn’t go to the Worlds in Turkey. I had to do something, so I quickly began working out, recovering, and then I competed at Asian Games, and won with 175/217. Went for my PR at 229… managed to clean it! It was a miracle, considering how out of shape I was. Yet still managed to win. And cutting weight was simply horrible… Intense saunas… I so wanted to go to the Worlds. Then Turkeleri said “Get some rest”, and after a brief moment of silent hysteria, I came to terms with it and carried on. Had a really hard time cutting weight… I went down to 98, then 96, then ate a burger and I’m at 97.5 again…


KLOKOV: You get a lot of weight with burgers/pizza?

ILYIN: [surprised] And who doesn’t? [laughs]

KLOKOV: I don’t. Tomorrow marks the end of my month-long experiment, in which I was living off pizzas and Dr. Pepper only. [shows his stomach] Not too bad, eh? Even got into a better shape!

ILYIN: Me, I’m more prone to get overweight.

KLOKOV: On the other hand, my leanness leads to injuries…

On Competitors in -105

KLOKOV: As a 94, you noted Alexander Ivanov, and I agree with you, he’s a great guy. But now that you’re aiming for -105, there’s quite a company there waiting for you. What do you say?

ILYIN: Good company.


KLOKOV: Is it worthy of welcoming you to the class? [laughs]

ILYIN: I respect my adversaries a lot, and never underestimate them.

KLOKOV: I wish we could gather our entire roster together: Aramnau, Dolega, Klokov, Akkaev…

ILYIN: [laughs]

KLOKOV: …Ilyin! This would have been sensational.

ILYIN: Even freaks me out a bit.

[both laugh]

KLOKOV: Nonsense. Snatch 203 and you’ve already beaten our totals, no need to use C&J attempts…

KLOKOV: But the roster is really tight, isn’t it? Must be hard to single out anyone?

ILYIN: Everyone’s good…



KLOKOV: The new guy is damn good – [Ruslan] Nurudinov. I know you’re friends with him.

ILYIN: It’s my good friend, I love and respect him. We worked together at the training camp [Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan joint camp]. He’s a very open guy, very friendly and supportive. Man, what battles we used to have in training! And we’d give each other flips on the head [striking the head with a finger snapped from the end of another finger] as punishment for loss. Everyone knows that, but for those who don’t: it’s a joint training camp, me and Uzbekistani lifters, working hard together. There I meet Uncle Rus… he’s already in shape, and I’m only coming up. So I come up to him and say, “Okay, let’s bet on 5 flips”. Of course he can’t refuse, we’re both -94, young. So every Friday we max out, and I end up winning, so in front of everyone I give him five flips on the head. The second time he won, and I received the punishment. Then I won again… so for the entire month we had been battling, and our final score was 2:2. He jerked 235 in training, I snatched 189, but at the time I didn’t reach my peak performance yet.

KLOKOV: Khadzhimurat and I should have played the same game during our preparation for the Olympics, I guess…

ILYIN: Just gotta be very careful. When we “played” this with Sedov we ended up injured, and he finished like 7th or 8th… We basically got pitted against one another, back when everyone was hailing him as “the next Ilyin” and all that. Of course I had to stand up for myself, in 2010. It’s really bad practice, don’t make a habit of making stupid mistakes.

KLOKOV: But it’s not so much the coaches’ fault as of those around you, right? All those fans posting on the internet, fueling the rivalries…

ILYIN: This is one thing, but the coach is the person who’s supposed to control the environment. They must be wise enough to focus the athletes on the competitions that matter. But in that particular case they probably just failed to restrain us…

KLOKOV: Yeah, good luck with restraining…

ILYIN: “Hey, Ilyin, don’t go for 189… You’re not using your legs enough… nothing works for you, why are you trying to pull here? Put on straps? Okay, knock yourself out” – the entire hall heard the crack! And Sedov is already done with 180, and I’m like… Well, that’s your own damn fault, stupid!
But with Uncle Rus we played it safe…


KLOKOV: Why are you calling him Uncle Rus?

ILYIN: Uncle Vasya, Uncle Vanya – we were just fooling around with nicknames. So in France we were at the weigh-ins, just chilling out listening to music. And he was like, “hey, wanna play?” And no way in hell I could refuse – the competition starts in two hours, that’d be like giving up. So we ended up playing the “flip” game again.

KLOKOV: Just to remind our viewers, we’re talking about Ruslan Nurudinov, 2013 World Champion in -105. [video here]

ILYIN: I watched him compete this year in Poland, and I told him before the competition “You better win, or I’m going to give you some mad flips”. But hey, he ended up winning, so he’s in the clear. But yeah, the company’s going to be great. I always work hard to create a show, an exciting battle.

On Meeting Putin

Klokov watched TV one day and saw Ilyin sitting next to Putin at an event. Turns out, Ilyin was invited to Russia for the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Russia-Kazakhstan cooperation. There he was sitting near both Nazarbayev and Putin. Ilyin was very happy to meet Putin (he had already been well acquainted with Nazarbayev), and really respects him as a person who succeeded in life and has many accomplishments. Klokov said that not all would share Ilyin’s enthusiasm [I guess he’s referring to heavy anti-Putin sentiments among certain parts of the population], but he can still see where Ilya’s coming from.

On Eating and Sleep

Klokov says he skips breakfast all the time – he prefers to sleep in to make sure he’s well-rested instead. Ilya shares the sentiment, as he also often skips breakfast, or even goes to the gym totally hungry. He thinks sleep is the highest priority.

On Calluses and Hand Care

Ilyin uses steaming to moisten them up and then cuts them off with a small razor. Klokov prefers to file it dry.


Dmitry Klokov Interviews Ilya Ilyin is a post by Gregor Winter from All Things Gym.