Krastev – A 30 Year Prediction

My last weightlifting coach, Antonio Krastev, was a Jr. World Champion, Sr. World Champion, and a world record holder from Bulgaria. His 200 kg snatch at the 1982 World Championships was the first 200 ever made at a world championship and earned him the gold medal over reigning world champion, Anatoly Piseranko. Krastev’s famous world record 216 kg snatch at the 1987 World Championships was remarkable because most struggled to reach 200. Antonio’s record stood for 30 years, which he envisioned.
Some people might debate how long the record stood for because of weight class changes. Since 1987 there have been multiple times when the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has shuffled the weight categories for one reason or another, and each time they deleted all the record holders’ names and replaced them with the generic “world standard.”

Erasing the history and minimizing the legacy of legendary athletes is a tragedy, but a topic for another time.

World records are not equitable when a weight class increases and allows stronger athletes to compete in it. All lifting records are more likely to be eclipsed by larger, stronger athletes. When the IWF changed the categories, they addressed this. To reconcile the record books, the IWF calculated the “world standard” by estimating what someone hypothetically could do in that new bodyweight category.
Defeating the entire purpose of a “world record”, the IWF intentionally made the new records easier to attain, which is a total rip-off if you were the athlete who previously made that colossal accomplishment. Granted, it is essential for the marketing of weightlifting. When the World Championships and Olympic Games roll around, they can announce “A world record attempt” or “An Olympic Games record attempt.” It sounds good in news clips and adds excitement to the sport, but it’s disingenuous for those who know the history.
When someone sets a new world record in the super-heavyweight weight class, it’s different from all the other weight categories because they lifted more than everyone, including every subsequent category. When you win the world championships as a super, you also receive the title “Strongest Man / Woman in the World.” Putting on a display of what humans are capable of, not restrained with size limits.

The entire reason for weight classes is to make the competition fair for smaller individuals. Suppose you were to eliminate the other nine categories and make just one for everyone. There would probably be 90% fewer weightlifters, just like the World’s Strongest Man. How many 165-pound athletes are competing against Brian Shaw? Two lifters of equal skill and relative strength, one who weighs 75 kg will not outlift the other at 125 kg. The IWF developed a trigonometric function called the Sinclair Formula to calculate the Best Lifter award for an entire competition. They could not just award it to whoever had the highest total because it would always be the heavier athletes. Why is this relevant? Because if you change the weight class Krastev competed in, the +110 class, to +105 or +109 you are not changing anything. You are allowing lighter lifters to compete in the top, unlimited-weight class. It’s no secret that larger lifters lift bigger barbells, and why there has never been and will never be a super heavyweight lifter to set the world record for weighing the minimum weight in that category. Ever.
It is erroneous to erase the super heavyweight world records using the same reasoning used in the lighter categories. Unlimited is still unlimited, no matter how you cut it. Until recently, Krastev’s 216 snatch was, and Leonid Taranenko’s 266 Clean and Jerk is still the true world record until legitimately exceeded.

I lived with Krastev for a few years in the late ’90s, during which he told me about his past roommates. Shockingly, most were not weightlifters, but gymnasts or professionals from another sport. How more aspiring lifters didn’t attempt to learn from him perplexed me. His knowledge and experience were so overwhelming that I moved across the country and surrendered most of my possessions and luxuries to train full-time and live with him. (Which could be why more chose not to.) I reasoned that if I could learn from someone who, at one time, was king of the mountain, the greatest the world had ever seen! Someone who had lifted more than any other human that ever walked the face of the earth. Why shouldn’t I? My logic was irrefutable. I could either learn from him or take coaching advice from someone who had ascended halfway up the same mountain, failed miserably to make it further, and was now speculating on how to reach the summit. Someone who walks a path has experience, knowledge, and wisdom from that journey. Others can only theorize how they would navigate the same journey. He was an invaluable resource, a good friend, and at the time the only world record holder living in the United States.

I was committed to becoming the best weightlifter possible. Armed with my insatiable appetite for learning, I made it a point to ask him about so many things in great detail. We discussed, among many topics, the mindset of setting a world record. It was then he first told me this story:
“When I was a kid, probably about 14, I had a dream. I dreamt that I snatched 230. I went to school the next day and told my lifting coach about it, and he laughed at me. At the time, the world record was 187.5 kg, and my best was about 140. He told me that I was talented and could probably snatch 200, maybe even 205, and be a world champion, but 230 was not possible. That barbell was too big and not for a human.” It was then he began to reflect on his dream and what the coach told him. Over the next few years, he postulated it was possible. That a 230 snatch could be done. Antonio was a historian of the sport and an encyclopedia of lifting information. “I began to think about what my roommate, Naim (Sulemonoglu) was accomplishing at 56 and 60 kg bodyweight. He was lifting as much as Paul Anderson (the USA Super heavy Olympic Champion of 1956, who weighed over 300 pounds) How was this possible? Have humans evolved that much in 30 years?” No, he surmised. “Human evolution has not made those kinds of leaps. The only thing that has changed was the mindset.”

At that point, we began to discuss the first 4-minute mile, the first sub-10-second 100m sprint, and other milestone sporting achievements where the mindset of specific individuals forever changed their sport. When we got back on topic, he continued: “When I realized that humans hadn’t evolved that much in 30 years, yet their totals had, I began to think — what would lifters be doing 30 years from now? I thought they would be snatching 220 or more.“ Once he speculated on a 220 snatch, he set 230 as his lifetime goal and tried to make his earlier dream come true.
Antonio’s 220 snatch at the 1988 European Championships was his attempt at setting the record he imagined possible for the future. Unfortunately, he missed it behind. Sadly, he never achieved his goal of an official 220 kg snatch nor the 230 kg in training. His personal records were a 222.5 kg snatch, plus a 257.5 kg clean and jerk on the same day. On another day, 220 kg plus 260 kg. Both workouts totaled 480 kg. The 216 made in 1987 remained his best competition snatch.

Fast-forward to the 2017 European Championships in Split, Croatia. Exactly thirty years after Antonio Made his 216 in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia, Lasha Talakhadze successfully made a 217 kg snatch. Later that year, in Anaheim, California, at the World Championships, he also successfully made 220. Coincidence? Maybe. Although Antonio came up short of his goals, he still set the record 30 years in the future.
It’s been 20 years since he shared his vision, and I still ponder the outcome if he imagined what the record would have been in 40 or even 50 years.

Antonio was able to see his 30-year prophecy come true. He passed away on July 9, 2020. May he rest in peace.


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