Time for another interview in the series of interviews with Russian weightlifters. This time we talked to 26 year old David Bedzhanyan.
This is the first big interview with the 2 time European Champion, current Russian champion and also former World Record Holder in the Clean & Jerk.
Once again the interview was conducted by Alexey Goldbergs from wodloft.ru and translated by Sergiy Turchyn.
David, firstly, I would like to congratulate you with bronze at Worlds. Correct me if I am wrong, but it was your best performance at an official competition. At least you had never lifted such a large total (427 kg) before. How happy are you with your performance?
I could Clean and Jerk a bit more
What didn’t you like?
I think I could Clean and Jerk a bit more.
Clean and Jerk more? You got a world record!
World record is not the point. I was well prepared in the Clean and Jerk. Unfortunately, my old injury reminded me of itself, so two weeks before the competition my coach and I had to correct the training load.
It was possible to lift heavier for a bit longer, but we started to be careful too early by Squatting and Jerking less than we should have. Well, whatever happened happened. Overall, I am pleased with my result.
Here is his 187kg Snatch from Worlds:
What happened in the second Jerk attempt with 236 kg?
This was an old injury that appeared at the warm-up.
I wanted to open with 230. However, during the warm-up the knee began to hurt on 220 and we changed the opening attempt to 225 kg. We even had to freeze the knee [cooling spray].
During the 236 kg attempt I got a sharp knee pain. I slightly leaned on the toes. So, it went wrong starting at the Clean. Then I rushed through the Jerk.
Overall, I believe that if I Clean something, I must Jerk it.
I also thought that you rushed with the Jerk. From the side it looked like the bar crushed on you and you tried to free yourself from it quickly.
I just didn’t Jerk it. Maybe, I lost lower back tightness, or made a mistake somewhere else. Actually, in training sessions this is my approach. I quickly stand up from the Clean and Jerk immediately without thinking for a long time.
In this case I just didn’t sync with the motion. I Cleaned unsuccessfully, folded under the bar, didn’t catch the bounce, shifted a bit forward… The motion went wrong from the very beginning.
Wasn’t it too much to attempt 236 right after 225?
No. I was ready for such weights. I just had to get myself together, go, and lift. On Russian Championship I Jerked 241.
Of course, this was my limit, but not exactly, I could try even more. So, I was psychologically ready for this kind of weight.
There is almost no information about you on the Internet. I know that you started sports at 10 years old. Why did you choose weightlifting?
Like all children, I tried many sports. Karate, kickboxing… Only one day. I went to kickboxing and the coach made me run cross-country with the adults. I ran straight home.
So, I just didn’t come back to the gym and told my dad: “Dad, I will not go there again.”
Why weightlifting? My dad used to be a weightlifter and coached a little bit. He actually preferred freestyle wrestling. But in Bolshoy Kamen [“Big Stone” in Russian], the city where I was born, there was no good coach and he started coaching me. That’s how I ended up in weightlifting.
You were born in Bolshoy Kamen city of Primorsky Kray. Anyone can see that you have Armenian roots. How did your family end up in Bolshoy Kamen?
I am pure Armenian. I don’t consider it an advantage or disadvantage.
That’s not what I am talking about. How did you end up living that far in the East?
My dad studied in Rostov. According to the job distribution [in the Soviet Union the government assigns you a job where you had to work for three years after graduation, and you couldn’t be fired from that job], he had to either go to Moscow, stay in Rostov, or go to the Far East.
Since it was only for three years, he thought: “When am I going to visit it if not now? I should go see what the Far East looks like.” He went there, fell in love with Primorye, and stayed there. That’s where I was born.
Is your family still living there? You moved to Solnechnodolsk city of Stavropolsky Kray.
Yes, my family is staying there [Bolshoy Kamen] for now. I moved in 2009 to train with Vladimir Nikitich Kniga.
So, did you move just because you started to work with Vladimir Kniga?
This was my only reason. Nothing else interested me there. I didn’t even know where I was moving. I was attached to him during the first youth training camp in 2009. I liked working with him.
Vladimir Kniga is a person who fully gives himself to anything he does. I don’t exactly remember, but I had a two week break between training camps… or between a training camp and Russian Nationals… I don’t remember. Not to go back to Primorye, I asked to go with him to Solnechodolsk. Since then I stayed there.
Do you live in a training center or did they give you an apartment?
At first I lived in the gym. Well, not literally, of course, but in a separate room. This year they gave me an apartment.
Was it after the Worlds or before?
In February 2014 people who helped us – Izobilnensky district head Churikov Andrey Alexandrovich and Agromarket CEO Mataev Marik Gilodovich – gave me a fully furnished apartment as a gift. There was even a sponge and dish liquid.
Do you live alone?
Yes, I live alone.
Tell us a little bit about your family. Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Yes, I have an older sister. She lives in Krasnodar, works in a tourist agency. She did not become an athlete, although dad always thought that she could succeed in sports. I have softer character while she has my dad’s character. Not really very strict, but more athletically inclined.
So, she has never participated in any sport, hasn’t she?
Yes, she has never participated and is not participating in a sport. She went into academics. She studied well. At first she lived and worked in Vladivostok, but later she decided to go to a warmer place in the South and moved to Krasnodar. We also have relatives there.
You are one of the few non-Asians who power Jerks. Did you Power Jerk since the beginning of your career or switched like Apti Aukhadov?
When I started training I did Power Jerks only as assistance exercise.
At first, I Split Jerked. When in 2005-2006 I competed in 94 kg class I Split Jerked. And I did fairly well. At least I could Jerk 200 kg back then.
However, even back then I felt the power Jerk so much better, that I power Jerked 210 from rack in training.
I had some deeper understanding of it… Actually, not even understanding. You don’t need to understand the barbell, you need to lift it.
Later, I started missing my Jerks, so my dad and I decided to switch to Power Jerk. My coach Vladimir Fedorovich Kim was against that. Back then I was a student in Olympic Reserve School in Vladivostok.
He told me that I had good lockout, shoulder and elbow flexibility. But my dad and I decided to switch to power Jerk and I stopped missing Jerks since then. No matter how heavy the Clean is, I always Jerked with confidence.
At the same time I noticed that you jump forward on big weights.
Yes, I watched videos of myself many times and I do it. But I don’t feel it. I think that it is because I dip a bit forward for more comfortable Jerk and by making such a jump I prevent myself from having to put my hands way behind the head.
So, I Jerk it upward and jump a bit forward. But I don’t notice it myself during the motion.
But this is the difficulty in the power Jerk compared to split Jerk: move forward even slightly and it will be hard to complete the lift. If the barbell went forward, you can still balance with it in a split Jerk, but in a power Jerk such a trick does not work.
You can also go into full Squat after a Jerk.
Yes, you can do it, but only if the bar is overhead. If it is too far forward, it will probably not help.
I Squat Jerked 245 kg in training
I can say that if the bar goes where it should go, then it is not hard to stand up with it. I Squat Jerked 245 kg in training and I had no problem standing up. Of course, it depends on the athlete’s shape. But if you put the bar into proper position, it feels the same as a back Squat.
If you Squat Jerked 245 kg, why don’t you Squat Jerk in competition, but use a power Jerk instead?
Actually, in all competitions I Squat Jerk during the warm up to be prepared for it. It is another question whether I will have to do it or not.
Do you do any assistance work to feel comfortable during the Squat Jerk?
As they say: “To Snatch you need to Snatch, to Clean and Jerk you need to Clean and Jerk.”
So, I often do Jerks from rack during morning warm-ups, and sometimes after training. So that I will make the motion automatic and not think about it on the platform. So that I will go and lift it like a robot.
Besides that, Squat Jerk required very good flexibility. You need to have flexible shoulders and upper back. What do you do for flexibility?
I don’t do anything special. I always stretch before and after training. I use wall bars for that. Before Clean and Jerk I always Squat Jerk, making my grip narrower with each Jerk in order to stretch. For example, I have no problem doing a full Squat with the narrowest grip possible.
Here is David in the 2014 World Championships Training Hall:
What weight do you use?
Just the bar.
It is easy to do with the bar. How much can you lift using the narrowest grip?
I have never asked myself this question (laughing).
In the press conference after the competition Ilya told that he Jerked 245 and Cleaned 250 in training. What are your bests in the basic exercises: Snatch, Clean and Jerk, Front and Back Squats, pulls, Presses?
I don’t lift heavy in training at all. During the last training camp before the competition I Cleaned and Jerked 230 kg and Snatched 185 with no straps.
I never max out in the classic lifts
In general, I Jerked 250 from rack. I never max out in the classic lifts. I did two Cleans and a Jerk with 230. I did Clean + Front Squat + Jerk with 230. I have not tried more.
In the Snatch I have never lifted more than 190 in competition or in training. I once tried 195 in training, but unsuccessfully.
My coach prohibits me from maxing out. However, I did 265 Deadlift for 5×5. I back Squatted 265 for 5×5. I back Squatted 280 for 3 reps. My best back Squat is 300×2.
I Front Squatted 270×2 a while ago. During this particular preparation I Front Squatted 250×5. My best standing Press is 130 kg, or 130×2 seated. I don’t know why, but it is easier for me to press while seating. I Push Pressed 190 kg.
Do you do Bench Press?
I do, but with a narrow grip. I did 150×5.
What are your most and least favorite exercises?
Abs. Even though I do abs a lot.
I noticed that you have a wide waist. Not because of a belly, but because of its width.
My belly is actually a problem. Usually 105 guys are all ripped…
Well, I am not sure. Look at Vasya Polovnikov’s belly in Russian Nationals.
But Vasya doesn’t have fat, he has some unreal abs there. He has a six-pack. Martin Sabanchiev is also ripped. You can see his veins everywhere.
I have never been like that. I am softer. But this is not because I don’t lift enough. I probably have such body type. I will never have big arms, no matter how much I train them. My arms are probably the smallest in my weight class. Well, Ruslan Nurudinov also has skinny arms.
At least you have huge legs!
That’s because you lift the barbell with legs and back. Mostly legs. The back just has to hold whatever your legs lift. I noticed that if my back is in shape, I Jerk well. During the whole motion the back must be tight like steel.
In competition your bodyweight is always close to 105. What bodyweight do you train at?
I have never been above 109 kg. But these 109 kg were clearly unnecessary weight. I am relatively short (176cm [5’9”]), so my ideal weight is 107 kg.
Almost the entire year I was at 107 kg. A few times I was close to 108, but I mostly hold myself at 107 because I feel comfortable. I have a lot to work on at this weight. At 107 I do well both in the Snatch, Clean, and Jerk.
When my weight goes up, then I get slower, less flexible, and the motion breaks down.
Do you have any diet to keep yourself in your weight class?
To be honest, yes. At the moment I cook myself and try not to eat starch and fatty products. Sometimes I eat soups, but mostly it is chicken.
What kind of carbs do you eat?
I never eat pasta or potatoes
Buckwheat and rice. I love sweets, so sometimes I let myself have some. However, I never eat pasta or potatoes.
What is your favorite dish?
Honestly, I love to eat. If I have to pick a single dish, it will be our national food – dolma. Otherwise, I eat meat and like chicken. I also love sushi a lot. I eat them in huge quantities. Other guys are amazed at how much of them I can eat.
It is probably related to Primorsky Krai being your birth place. Japan is close and there is no shortage of seafood.
No, this has nothing to do with it. I never ate them in Primorsky Krai. At first I tried sushi in Chekhov during a training camp.
After a competition we went out and I tried sushi for the first time. Actually, I didn’t like them at all then. I even started feeling bad. In a while I got used to them and started eating them in big quantities.
How much time a year do you usually spend in training camps?
It depends. I prefer to train at home. I feel more comfortable there. There is everything I need. I train, come home, eat, and do all the necessary work… Of course, all of this is also available in training camps. Sometimes I even miss them. For example, this year I skipped two training camps. One was before the Europeans and another was before the Worlds, in Ruza. I went to the Sochi one.
Why did you skip them?
My coach and I decided that it would be a better choice. My coach talked to the head team coach, Venkov Alexander Ivanovich, and we were allowed to train at home. In addition, I had to show up at school at least sometimes.
Are you currently studying in the Agrarian University?
This year I graduated from the Stavropol State Agrarian University. I also got in the Kuban State University of Physical Education, Sport, and Tourism. I will get a second degree.
What training camp do you like the most?
Of course, the new one in Ruza. I was there for the first time, but I loved it. The gym, housing, and meals are amazing. Everything is first class.
The only problem is not the best water. Otherwise, I think that Ruza has ideal training conditions. I even told my friend Ruslan Albegov “Ruslan, if we stay here for a year we will see some serious gains.” He replied: “This is true, but we will go insane if spend the whole year in one place.”
You already mentioned injuries once, and, as the previous head coach David Rigert said, “Nothing hurts only for those who do nothing.” What were your most serious injuries?
In 2012 I injured my elbow on the President’s Cup. I didn’t break it, but had a tear in a place that connects joints, ligaments, and muscles. It is a very widespread injury among arm wrestlers.
Did you have a surgery?
As far as the doctors explained to me, my joints and ligaments remained fine. So, they did not perform a surgery. I spend a month with a cast, and then started work slowly on that elbow.
What knee injury did you have? Menisci problems?
My menisci are fine. I had an inflammation of the patellar tendon. I am finishing healing it.
In general, professional sport is not healthy. You can’t train so-so. You either train as hard as you can and get the results along with the injuries, or stay healthy without high results.
It is like miners who mine coal damaging their health, or a mechanic who can get shavings in the eye or damage the hand with a milling cutter. It’s the same in weightlifting.
What is weightlifting for you? Love or work?
Firstly, I obviously love weightlifting and I would not do it otherwise.
When I was living in Primorye and won Junior Europeans, they didn’t pay me anything. I paid for the preparation, food, and vitamins myself. I love weightlifting very much, but I would like to get some kind of money in order to fully give myself to it.
I like what’s going on with weightlifting right now. Everything I have now is from weightlifting. For example, I have a very close friend Ruslan Albegov and we often talk to each other.
There is a serious competition in the 105 class inside the national team. Besides you there are Andrey Demanov, Maxim Sheiko, Vasya Polovnikov, Martin Sabanchiev, Timur Naniev. Khadzhimurat Akkaev was talking about coming back. Dmitry Klokov hasn’t had the final word on a platform. Who do you consider your main competitors for a place in the national team?
I believe that each weightlifter has only one opponent – the barbell. You lift it and you are a champion. You don’t lift and you are not. However, each of those people is a worthy athlete and person.
It is probably not a secret for you that Khadzhimurat Akkaev said negative words about you multiple times. Why is that? Have you had any conflicts, or it is a rivalry between “old” and “new” schools?
We have never had any conflicts. I don’t know why he thinks that. Klokov also mentioned that I have no talent. I don’t have as high achievements as Akkaev, but I think that, no matter what you won and how much you lift, it is important to remain a noble person in any situation.
I have never had any confrontations with Akkaev or Klokov. Furthermore, I always admired them as athletes even when I just started training. They showed very high results while I was still a junior lifter. And now, when I started lifting good weights (I don’t think they are that good and I still can improve them), they behaved themselves in such a way.
By doing this they only spoil their own reputation. I try to turn a deaf ear to it. I am not interested in it.
In general, do you follow who lifts what? On the press conference Ilyin mentioned that as soon as he saw you Clean and Jerk 241 at nationals, he uploaded his own 242 on Instagram.
Firstly, I am not on Instagram and I am not a public person. I don’t need that. I don’t follow anyone on purpose. Especially since training and competitions are different. Some people do doubles with world records in training and can’t lift anything in competition.
Regarding Instagram and video upload. You may disagree with this point of view, but I agree with Dmitry Klokov. A weightlifter competes 2-3 times a year: Europeans, Worlds, and Nationals. However, if you plan to relate your future life to the sport, if you want to have sponsors, you have to be visible to the public more often to remind them of your existence. I don’t mean that you have to immediately create and Instagram account and start uploading photos and videos multiple times a day. I just want to know, what do you plan to do after you retire?
I don’t think about that at the moment. I train and do my favorite activity for myself, not for anybody else.
But you didn’t get a degree from an agrarian university in vain, did you?
To be honest, I got it in vain. I had an opportunity to study in an agrarian university in Stavropolsky Krai that is one of the best in Russia, so I used it. I don’t know what will happen after I retire. Maybe, I become a businessman. Maybe, a sports authority. I don’t know.
As far as I know, your dad has a business in Primorsky Krai. Has he tried to involve you in it?
No, he has never tried to involve me in it. At first, he just wanted me not to grow up on the streets, run around the apartment blocks, and smoke. He wanted me to get used to sports, regiment, and discipline.
That’s why I started doing sports. He wanted me to become a Master of Sport [currently the criteria is 310@94 or 320@105] and then go to university. But I loved the training process so much, that I did not want to stop at the Master of Sport level.
After the MS, I had a big improvement of results and decided to get International Master of Sport [currently 385@94 or 400@105]. I got the IMS in 2009.
How old were you when you got MS?
I was 16 years old and competed in Far East Cup in Khabarovsk.
Did you compete in 94 back then?
Yes. I Snatched 137, Cleaned and Jerked 170.
When I called you about the interview, you were driving. What car do you have?
It was my only car – Toyota Camry made in 2011.
I have read that you like to play pool and table tennis. Who did you challenge in these games?
I haven’t played table tennis for a long time. When I have time, I play with Vladislav Yarkin. He also loves it. I don’t play pool that often too. Usually I play with friends. They even gave me a nice cue as a gift.
I have also read that you read books and listen to music in your free time. What kind of literature do you like?
I can’t say that I read a lot, but I try to do it regularly. I love to read history books, sometimes fiction. Last I read Victor Hugo and Ray Bradbury.
In terms of music, I listen to everything. Even classical music. For example, Beethoven. Depends on my mood.
Lastly, I would like to wish you a happy New Year (the interview was held on 29 December 2014), new records and big victories. Is there anything you would like to wish our readers?
The most important thing – good health. Don’t give up and become upset in any situations. Also, good luck! Luck also matters a lot in our sport.
[Thanks to Oleg Chen for the help in organizing the interview.]
PS: Quick story about how the cover photo came to be.
As you can see on his badge the photo was taken during the +105kg session. David was assisting Ruslan Albegov, who was about to start his warm up for snatches.
Because the warm up platforms did not have enough weights for the Clean & Jerks of the super heavy boys, David ran too the other side of the warm up area to get four more 25s.
Since it looked kinda funny I snapped a couple of pictures of him rolling the plates back to Ruslan’s platform.
Half way through he saw me, smiled and posed for the photo.