In the extremely tight vote for The World Games Athlete of the Year, Powerlifter super-star Larysa Soloviova finished second behind Speed Climber Reza Alipourzenashandifar, who took the title by a tiny margin: 90,790 – 90,036.
“I feel really proud!” says Soloviova. “So many people all over the world showed me their support, love and devotion. It was unbelievable. I want to thank everyone for their votes and support! It was really marvellous.”
However the Ukrainian powerlifter is simply not used to being second to anyone. The serial champion only ever occupies the top step of the podium. The last time any rival prevented her from taking the title in the annual World Championships was in 2009. With Soloviova's comprehensive victory at Wroclaw 2017, she became a quadruple gold medallist in The World Games, the Ukrainian national anthem having previously been played in arenas in Germany (2005), Chinese Taipei (2009) and Colombia (2013). What is the secret of her success, what makes her the best powerlifter in history?
“Each of my victories is the result of a colossal amount of work, lots of perseverance – and also fanaticism! Each competition is proof of this and a reward for all my work for the sport. I feel a great satisfaction after my fourth World Games success, but we need to strive forward and forward,” Soloviova says.
To do well in the sport, two elements are essential: technique and timing. Soloviova possesses both qualities in abundance. It is stated that in lifting, having one finger one millimetre out of place can be the difference between a good lift and a failure. Soloviova's vast experience means that she always approaches the bar in a flawless manner. Then just at the right time when she is ready, she will use all her agility to thrust her body forward and complete the lift.
In sport, equally-matched teams or players will often produce drama; however when legendary competitors enter the arena the effect is often one of wonder. Nobody minded that Usain Bolt's races were mostly uncompetitive; the thrill was in watching the Jamaican, in cruise control mode, striding away from rivals who were straining every muscle. It is the wonder of seeing Lionel Messi score amazing goals with no discernible backlift, or witnessing gymnast Simone Biles and marvelling at the height of her somersaults. It is no exaggeration to suggest that Larysa Soloviova belongs in such exalted company.
Her rivals approach the bar as though they are engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the weights. They grimace, they grunt, they stagger through the pain barrier. None of these things are present when the Ukrainian makes her lifts.
There is an assured confidence; Larysa Soloviova is in control of the situation and the bar will only move according to her will and ability, with an economy of effort. And the judges’ assent confirms what we already knew before the lift was even attempted. Of course it is good, there could be no other possible outcome.
Thanks to the support from the powerlifting community and sports fans able to recognise an amazing talent, Larysa Soloviova so nearly made it to the top step of the podium for The World Games Athlete of The Year. It may only have been an unaccustomed second place this time for the incredible Ukrainian competitor, but rest assured that normal service will resume shortly! And there is a great chance we will see her in Birmingham: “It would be amazing to take part in my fifth World Games in 2021,” Soloviova concludes.
Brian Salmon for The World Games