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Ukrainian Vasyl Virastyuk once again proves to be the strongest man on earth
Vasyl Virastyuk, the strongest man on earth, has been interviewed by Yevhen BUDKO, Mizhnarodny Turyzm senior editor, for the Welcome to Ukraine Magazine.
The Ukrainian athlete Vasyl Virastyuk has once again proven at the competitions held this year that he is the strongest man in Ukraine, in Europe and in the world. He won this title at the World Strongman Competition which was held in South Korea in September 2007.
Vasyl Virastyuk was born in the city of Ivano-Frankivsk in 1974. In 1984 through 2000 he was a member of the Ukraine’s National Track-and-Field Team (shot put). After quitting the Team, he devoted himself to strong-man competitions.
Since then, he has won the title of The Strongest Man in Ukraine many times over; he won the bronze medal at the world championship in 2003 and at the World Cup in 2004; he won the title of The Strongest Man in the World in 2004 and 2007; he was a member of the Ukrainian team that won the title of the Strongest Nation in the World in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007.
Vasyl Virastyuk is 181 cm in height; his weight is 155 kilograms; the biceps — 50 centimeters in circumference; he lifts in the press exercise 225 kilograms; he performs two squats with a weight of 350 kilos and six squats with a weight 320 kilos; his high jump is 190 centimes; his long jump (from the spot, without sprinting) — 330 centimeters; he runs a 100-meter sprint in 11.5 seconds.
Mr Virastyuk, you’ve had a very tight schedule in the past few months — how does it feel to win the title of the Strongest Man on earth?
It feels absolutely fine, and I feel fine too.
Presumably, you did a lot of training. No mishaps or traumas, I hope?
Well, basically, everything had gone well except for one little mishap, as you’ve put it, shortly before I had to go to South Korea, one vertebra in my spinal column, fifth from bottom, got shifted and I became lopsided (he shows the way he walked as he was crooked to one side).
So what did you do? You would not be able to take part in any competitions in such a state!
Of course not, but I did get it back to normal — I went to see a manual therapist and he put it back into place. I did not go to any other physicians — there was no time for a lengthy treatment.
How many competitions have you taken part in this year?
Oh, quite a few. In early spring I took part in the Arnold Classic competition, which was held under the aegis of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and won the second place, for the third time.
Most of the summer was spent in training and workouts.
Yes, there was one, a sort of short respite that I took in early summer. I went to Turkey to spend some time at the seaside.
Then there was the European Championship held in Kyiv, and then, only two weeks later, the world strongman team championship, which was held in Ivano-Frankivsk, also in Ukraine.
Isn’t it a bit unusual that two major world competitions are held in one and the same country and with such a short interval between them?
Yes, it’s a bit unusual but the Strongmen Federation of Ukraine has a lot of prestige in the world and has shown itself as an excellent organizer of such competitions. The TV station TEC-TV provided good broadcasting coverage. Incidentally, this station is headed by Olena Kiba, wife of the Federation’s head Volodymyr Kiba.
You won the European championship. The Ukrainian team, of which you are a member, have once again won for Ukraine the title of The Strongest Nation in the World — you must have been exhausted after these competitions!
Exhausted? I’d think we have to look for a stronger word to describe our physical state after these competitions. Me and my team mates were dead beat. There was not enough time between the competitions to get back to normal but surprisingly enough all the competitors were up to the mark. One athlete though, the Lithuanian strongman Savickaus, missed the European championship in order to be in a better shape for the world championship. Incidentally, he did not win the gold, so I don’t know whether his staying away from the European competition really helped. This tight schedule of competitions was a great trial for all the athletes taking part in them.
There must have been not only physical but also psychological exhaustion…
You bet! I’m afraid that to fully realize how it feels you’ve got to go through it all yourself. Your body loses very much water, salt and calcium — plus the terrible muscle ache. In the first couple of days, after the competitions, you keep having muscle cramps, you ache all over, and keep drinking water and you do not seem to have enough of it, no matter how much you drink! And on top of all that, you are sort of drained of all emotions…
And yet you went to the world championship in Korea! Did you have time to get acclimatized?
I did, but I think it was not so good for me. You go through several stages of acclimatization and four of five days after you arrive at a new place, you become torpid, you can’t tell for sure what time of day it is…
The two days of qualifying competitions turned out to be very hard for me, but at the final I got an upsurge of energy, my breathing was fine and deep, and I went ahead of almost everyone with a relative ease. At the end I was ahead of the closest competitor by five points. The silver medal was awarded to the Lithuanian athlete and the bronze medal was won by the Russian athlete.
What about that vertebra of yours?
It gave me pain practically all the time and I was careful not to get it dislodged again, though I could not avoid straining my back to the outmost — there were a lot of events in which the strain on the back was the greatest. But I managed to get through the final in one breath, so to say. The events were of the kind that I like best — The Woodcutter Walk, it’s when you have to carry a 300-kilo log as far as you can; The Superyoke — it’s when you have to carry a 410-kilo yoke for a distance of 25 meters; The Relay Race — in which you have to be real fast and show endurance. All these events I won.
But there are some competitions in Ukraine that you organize and take part in too, aren’t there?
Yes, there are. Such competitions are organized jointly with my partners, Okko Trade Mark, and Altsest store chain. These competitions contribute to the development of sports in Ukraine and our strongmen are getting to be more and more powerful. When I just began my strongman career, there were no such competitions organized in Ukraine to help you develop your strongman abilities and skills. But even these days the athletes joining the ranks of strongmen mostly come from other kinds of sports that need great strength — weightlifting, for example.
What with all the competitions, do you have any time left for yourself and your son?
Yes, there’s a problem as far as free time is concerned. In fact, I even do not answer phone calls if they come from unfamiliar numbers. Even such a simple thing as taking my son for a walk means there’ll be many people coming up and asking for autographs — well, fans are fans, and you can’t do anything about it, but I do need some quiet time too!
Does anyone help you take care of your son?
My grandmother now lives with us and she does help. My little Adam is four and soon he’ll start going to a kindergarten … I took the death of my wife very hard (Mr Virastyuk’s wife tragically died in an avalanche at a ski resort in Turkey two years ago), all kinds of bad thoughts came to my head but time passes and though I thought I’d never be in love again, I did meet a woman I fell in love with. We got married on September 22.
You have won practically all the strongman titles — who are you going to compete with from now on?
With myself. All those titles tend to make you lose your competitive edge. That is why I keep training and working hard as though I’m just a beginner.
Would it be true to say that to be the first is harder than to be the second?
Yes, when you’re the world champion, all your competitors want to be better and win the gold. Some are jealous and you can feel it in the way they talk with you, in questions they ask. As a champion, you become a hurdle everyone wants to overcome.
Is there an achievement in the strongmen world that you want to equal or do better?
The Icelandic athlete Magnus ver Magnusson won the world strongman championships four times. Nobody else has done it as many times so far — my dream is to win as many or more.
Photos are from Mr VIRASTYUK’s archive
Fingel Fingers weigh 350 kilos each.
In the Car Lift, the weight to be supported
Log Lift event — each log weighs 130 kilos.
In the Viking Press Event — 140 kilos