Lifter Stanislav Chalaev waiting for big moment
IAN ANDERSON IN GLASGOW
After having to hurry to qualify for Glasgow, the waiting starts for Stanislav Chalaev.
The burly, bearded lifter will be the last of the 12-strong New Zealand weightlifting team to compete at the Commonwealth Games - his 105kg men's competition doesn't take the stage until next Thursday; a week after the Kiwi team begins its quest for medals.
So he's had to teach himself to relax - whereas his qualification to make the team was a hectic affair after the 27-year-old had to overcome a string of knee operations to make his second Commonwealth Games.
Chalaev won silver in 2010 in Delhi in one of the most emotional moments of the Games, less than a year after his mother Larissa Reid - who emigrated with her son from Siberia when he was 12 - had died.
But as he worked towards the 2012 London Olympics. his knees began to betray him.
"I started to experience some pain," Chalaev said.
"I had two surgeries on each of my knees. It took me about two and a half years to recover from that, and I'm very thankful for the people that supported me through that."
Chalaev initially had screws inserted to support his failing patellas but his latest surgery removed them and cleared him to train and compete in a last-ditch bid to make the Games team.
"They took all the metal out, so I'm functioning like a human and not a robot.
"So I've probably had a year - maybe just eight months - build-up to this, and it's been quite a fast-paced build-up, and not something that I liked.
"But I've just had to push through."
The injuries meant he could only manage to near peak form this year, and he only qualified at the Oceania champs in New Caledonia in May.
Now he will draw breath while his fellow Kiwi competitors start the weightlifting action on the opening day of the Games.
"The main issue is burnout - if you're waiting too long, you can get too excited over the first few days and then feel a bit down after," he said.
"But that's why I'm approaching it more calmly this time, so I can peak at the right time."
Chalaev admitted he was an excitable athlete at his first Games, spurred by the passing of his mother.
"Last time I was very intense, now my mindset is a bit calmer.
"Of course, on the day, I plan to unleash the beast - know what I mean?"
While a number of the NZ weightlifting contingent spent time in Finland recently at a training camp, Chalaev remained in Auckland to prepare and not break his training cycle into two phases.
He was the first Kiwi lifter into the Athletes' Village last week, after an uncomfortable flight that took over 24 hours.
"I had a middle seat, so I had both of my arms into the other two seats, disturbing the two ladies on either side," he said.
Chalaev will now work on losing weight to make his class, which sees the lifters range between 94-105kg.
"The main plan was to keep the weight up - I'm 110kg now - until all the heavy sessions are finished, and today is the last one," he said on Monday.
"Then I'll drop 5kg over the next week and go in just under 105."
Despite the hindered preparation for Glasgow, Chalaev is happy with his form.
"If I had to compare it to Delhi, I'd say it's certainly stronger.
"But of course the competition at these Games is going to be a lot higher. It all depends on the day, but I'm going to bring my A game."
His chief obstacle for gold is likely to be David Katoatau from Kiribati, a regular rival at Oceania events who has a best tally over the past year for the two lifts (snatch and clean and jerk) of 353 kgs - notably heavier than Chalaev's recent best of 331kgs.
"I always said after I had surgeries, if I can lift more than I did at the last Games, I'll be very happy," Chalaev said of his then personal-best tally of 334kgs.
"Obviously a medal of any colour would be very nice."
Head coach Adam Storey said it promised to be an exciting time for NZ weightlifting at Glasgow.
"We've literally got the largest team in our history competing in Glasgow - it's the first time in 40 years that we've had a full men's team," Storey said.
"We are really looking forward to getting maybe three medals and there's a number of NZ records we're eyeing up as well."
What did you make of the Glasgow Games?