Follow by Email

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Breaking the World Record- 2017 World Masters Games Championships

I am back in America after 2 weeks between Auckland and Dubai!  I am coming home to America holding the World Record in the Snatch in women's 63kg at 35-39, the Games record in the snatch, and a medal.   I also broke 4 Games records in the process.  

Another highlight was an Australian coach telling me that my article on UCL rehab helped save his lifter's bid at the Australian Junior World Team; it's pretty cool to do a good deed just through writing.

Breaking the World Record and becoming the undisputed best snatcher in the world is a pretty awesome feeling. There are many champions and fewer World Record holders. So, I feel I accomplished my top goal for the championships.

It was a hell of a journey getting here...I had many trials and pulled it all together at the last minute.

The Journey

My journey started back in September. I had just done 80/100 at the Olympia Cup in Vegas,  narrowly missing 83/104 weighing around 66-67kg.  2 weeks later, I attended the 2016 World Masters Championships as coach.  The top 63kg did 168kg; the top 69kg did around 174kg.  Then, I hear the World Masters Games are in New Zealand and the World Records are weights I've lifted more than in the past.  So, why not throw down and try out this whole master thing?

***Know what you are*****


Training was going awesome….until Christmas.  It was somewhere around December 27th, I had the week off before starting my training for the World Masters Games.  A dear friend of mine invited me to go skiing. He’s an expert skier among other things.  I, on the other hand, can count the number of times I’ve skied. 

I get to the mountain, Its dark. Its two for Tuesdays night skiing.  My friend is late.  I wind up getting on the wrong lift; I couldn’t even see where the lift let off because it was past the top of the mountain.  It was so dark.   It was like the worst theme park ride ever: I’m alone on this slowly moving, rickety wooden thing, barely held in.   Its bobbling along, swinging in the lonely darkness, and I have no idea where its going. I just sit in it, holding on, hoping I don’t accidently slip out to the pile of boulders 50 feet below.  

After realizing that I put myself on a near deserted triple black diamond slope in the dark,  all I can think is "If I kill myself getting down this mountain, my coach is gonna kill me."

Anyhow, being alone, I ski the parts that are reasonable (*cough* no death turns)  and hike down the actual triple diamond parts.  Well, way to jump into it after a year off from only the second time ever that I ever skied on an actual resort hill.

So, I make it down alive, and there is my friend.  I tell myself, I am going home before I get killed.  But…I drove all the way up here and spent money, I'm not going to have a chance to go skiing again until next season.  ....   Anyhow, my friend convinces me that I should stay and let him coach me.

We get off the "smaller" lift which is still fairly advanced because, apparently ,  this ski area only has “difficult hills” open  for night skiing.

At the top of the hill, we are standing to the side, ready for me to be coached. Suddenly, snow boarder plows straight into my friend, taking him out at the heels! This was not a good sign. I had never skied on something that was so icy and fast before. I cautiously ski back and forth on the hill.

He tells me to speed up, that I’m an ATHLETE, WHY IAM I BEING SO WEARY.  GO Faster! I start going faster and faster, and take more risks. Then,  I try an advanced maneuver and wind up digging the tip of my left ski into the hill, pulling my groin. This was a verifiable “oh fuck moment”. Worst part was, I still had to get down the mountain! Only way this was going to happen is if I skied down or hiked- the insult to injury.

I drove the whole way home with plastic Market Basket bag full of snow wrapped around my thigh, telling myself, “I am not a skier, I’m a weightlifter! I am not a skier, I’m a weightlifter".

I didn’t snatch over 70 kilos again until late March.  The funny thing with the groin injury is that I could clean more than my front squat without pain.  Sometimes front squatting anything over 90 kilos didn’t hurt—it would just kill me the next day.   I rode the fine line of training sore and training injured, everyday.  Two steps forward, one step back.
The battle between the negative self talk – “how could I fuck this up”-- and positive affirmations commenced. 

Aside from skiing, there were some other interesting trials and things going on in my life, that, now, lead me to the Florida Space Coast where I will be nowhere near a ski hill!

***which weight class am I?****

With the new weight class rule-- that being lighter has no more advantaged-- being a 69 held less and less appeal.  I have, yet, been able to attain a bodyweight of heavier than 67 kilos and change.  I lifted at the 2016 American Open just to post a qualifying total. weighing around 66kg.  I saw  that the top 63’s were barely touching my snatch attempts from 2014 nationals , my last competition as a 63.  And, now, with my injury, a world record was much more realistic as a 63 than a 69.

 Well, should I have been more focused on winning than world records?
I don’t know. There are fewer world record holders than world champions.  I felt it was only worth competing for a World Record. If you have a World record, you can undisputedly say you are the best at something in the world.   If you are a world champion, you may have just been the best that day.  It’s the same at any level in the sport- youth-senior-junior-master.  Maybe I’m impatient and didn't want to wait to start breaking records.

****Strategy and How I actually lifted***
The startlist showed that 63kg and 69kg were going to be competitive weight classes with top entry totals at 177kg and 204kg.  As always, in seniors and in masters, the 75kg weight class looked like a cake walk compared to the lower 2 classes.  With my leg healing, the strategy was: lift 63kg and close the session, pull everything together last minute, definitely get a world record in.  What we didn't know and couldn't have known is that the 69kg at 204kg total did not show-up to weigh ins.

This was the first meet that I had lifted as a 63kg in almost 3 years.  It was my first meet, ever, as a Master. Judging from the competition field, the strategy was to open light then take larger jumps.   My nearest competitor had lifted at several major championships as a Master (Pan Ams, Nationals) and appeared to be a veteran crossfitter. Actually, it seemed many of the 35-39 US lifters had been crossfitting longer than olympic lifting. 
Snatches went really well. They were so easy.  What's strange is that I actually went to snatch each lift versus just go for a power snatch.  This is actually a safer move since a full snatch, technically requires less energy.  I was fluid.  I put down a solid 73kg.   My competition had a lower lot number so she went first, I followed.  We went to 76, so she went to 76. She took the weight. So, we increased my second attempt to 77kg, a lift I’ve done a million times, just not since September.  This lift would break the prior world record by 2kilos.  I nailed it. 


 Then we went to 80 . I actually didn’t know that my competitor missed 80kg.  I got overly excited and cut my pull. It was easy. I had more in the gas tank.  Honestly, if I am to "Monday morning quarterback",  I think I should have just went to 82kg, because I have done 77-82kg jumps a thousand times, and I might have approached the bar more focused and made it.  I did get to close the session =)

Clean and jerk strategy was tricky.   The safe strategy is to open light, secure the medal, do 3 good lifts, put pressure on the competition.  The risk strategy would be to open light then take big jumps.  l had not cut weight in years, so we were not going to open with my "real opener" in the clean and jerk. Also, judging from the competition, there was a good chance that the safe strategy would work out for the win.  
In the warm-up room, I had so much energy that I felt tired. On the platform, it was a different story.  I FELT AWESOME.  I muscle cleaned 85kg. If I was lifting 69 without a weight cut, I probably would have opened 10 kilos higher, no joke. My 90kg was a toy. I would say the say the lift was a 9 out of 10; I caught it a smidge forward.  I think I had spaced my feet a little too wide in my start positions. 

My third was a debate.  I wanted to save it and jump to 105kg, because that was the World Record.  My coach, on the other hand, didn’t want to take too huge of a jump being I am barley back from injury.  So, we took 95kg, and, like my 80kg, because it was a light weight,   I feel like I rushed my set-up was  and I popped it forward.  Again, just sayin, I really think we should have done a repeat of my 13kg jump at the American Open.  

Call me unrealistic-- because I don't know what the words "realistic" and "impossible" mean.

 At the end of the day,  I really wanted to get a world record and be certain that a I medaled. It turned out, my total was even higher than the 75kg gold total and I would have won 69kgs.  I guess that’s why  my lifts were a World Record breaking performance- because they were good enough to win the next two higher weight classes! 

It also seemed that my story was compelling enough for me to be interviewed on World Masters Games TV.  I really feel that I captured the hearts of the audience.    I  described how I broke the world record after a near career ending injury.   Let me tell you though, if I knew what my competitors were going to say, I TOTALLY would have been like "I've only been competing for 2 weeks as a Master, and this is my first major event EVER as a Master"- that would have been funny as hell. #satire  #icanthelpmyself
There was a nice barbend write-up on this video. I would say, more than "its never too late to start", you can always leverage what you have done in the past to excel at new ventures in life.

The interviewer also asked me about competition training and "rituals" , so I explained how Risto Sports factors into all of that.  They cut out my blurb on Risto Sports (it was germain to his question, and just 5 seconds!! I swear lol) so hear it is:  I wore 2 different pairs of Risto shoes, a Risto singlet, Risto warm-up suit, my new book on the Soviet system has key strategies for training for competition, and I wore Risto wrist wraps in the process of securing the World record, a medal ,and breaking 4 Games records.   Side note, there were a ton of Australian and New Zealand lifters competing in Risto Singlets or Shoes.
Additionally, USAW had a great write-upnas well; it is great to see the organization celebrate successes https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Weightlifting/Features/2017/May/03/Team-USA-Wins-More-than-50-Medals-at-World-Masters-Games

A lot of people ask me if I’m happy.  Yes, I am very happy that I won the snatch world record.  And, I look forward to destroying all the other records, and I would like to do across a few weight classes. 



***What was it like lifting at the World Masters Games ***


The World Masters Games is recognized by the International Olympic Committee.  So, I guess its kind of like lifting at an age specific Games such as  the Youth Olympic Games or the Universiade.  There are many good things yet also many areas that could have been improved.

The filed of play was great. The competition platform had a perfect surface finish.  The lighting was bright and shined-in from the sides.  The audience area was nicely cordoned off by World Masters Games banners.  The audience seemed fairly into the competition. They seemed pretty behind me, which was awesome to feel.  (When I got my medal, I was actually announced as "Gwendolyn Sisto of Australia" if that says anything). The Officials were very professional, helpful, had a great attitude.

**Things that could have improved***

The first thing that could have been improved was training hall.  The venue had ample training areas that could have been used.  There seemed to be about 3 different areas just by the competition area that had training platforms built into the floor.  It would have been ideal to have a section of training hall platforms right at the venue.

Ok, so maybe for some reason the organizers couldn't make that happen. The solution was not that great: basically, an email was sent out with a lift of places offering training, many asking a fee per session, many with only limited time slots. We were basically on our own to figure it out.  

This is problematic as New Zealand is on one of the least populated continents in the world. So, most people would be traveling long distances to this competition. Most people would need to acclimate. Hence, out of any place in the world, New Zealand is one place where would want to have  easy to figure out training timetables and locations all posted and ironed out before the competition.

 Some of the rules were inconsistently applied. For example, there is some rule at Masters that you can always move up a weight class the day of weigh ins; however, the organizing committee sent out an email indicating that the final verification of entries was when the final startlist would be published implying no further changes. 

Then, there is the legless singlet debate. One lifter in the women’s 69kg 35-39 wore a legless singlet and was made to change it or be withdrawn from the competition.

This is the most laughable thing I have ever heard for two reasons: 1—We weightlifters have fought for the right to wear legged singlets and weightlifting suits with sleeves, why would anyone want to wear a retro legless singlet? AND 2- how could legless singlets ever be illeagal? Prior to the early 90’s, there was a rule that singlets could not cover the thighs.

My dear people, do you see how backward the situation is?  The weightlifting community is willing give up its right to have legged singlets and some officials in the IWF are now forgetting that legless singlets used to be the standard mandated for decades.

As a side bar, of course legged singlets give you an advantage because there is less friction on the singlet fabric than skin. But, hey, people do crazy things for style. I’ll probably start making legless ones at some point.

Another improvement area was the disconnect between the world masters games regulations and how the weightlifting competition was run. The World Masters Games website was pretty clear that coaches needed to register for credentials.  Really, only athletes needed to. The weightlifting was run much like a normal Masters meet- the athletes were given a coaching pass. If there was more than one athlete per country in your session, then you totally got shafted on getting a coaching pass if you had a higher lot number.   However, the warm-up room was so spacious, that control on passes wasn't that strict.  So, it seemed everyone got to bring their coach in the back.

*****Drug testing**********

Drug testing went home at like 5 o’clock. Like, no shit, they literally didn't test anyone in the evening sessions day 7.  WADA,  never around when you want them to be.... bahahaha.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Did Texas's UIL just say its ok for teenagers to Dope?

Editors note: Let me first start this post with the following background.  I  work with, know, and am friends with many LGBTAQ people. This includes transgender people.  I am willing to accept anyone who treats others with kindness and respect. Likewise, it is still important that we talk about the how we can make sure that everyone has the opportunity to compete in sport, while being fair.  It is better to resolve conflict than to let it fester.


In the world of the IOC and WADA, taking a steroid hormone like testosterone is considered DOPING.  There are now penalties for up to 4 years of suspension for taking testosterone among other hormones.  Likewise, in some very limited cases, an athlete is allowed to take male steroid hormones if they satisfy a "therapeutic use exemption" (TUE).

Recently, a teenage wrestler who was born a female and is taking testosterone, a male steroid hormone, to transition to male, won a girls wrestling division in Texas.

A brief synopsis of the story is such:
Mack Beggs was transitioning from their birth gender of female to "male".   They wanted to compete in the boy's division.  The UIL (University Interscholastic League) dictated that they had to compete in the division of their birth gender.  At the time they were competing,  they were openly taking steroid hormones to "transition to male".   This created a lose-lose situation where 1) Beggs had to compete as a girl, even though they were transitioning to male, and 2) the female athletes had to compete against an athlete with an unfair testosterone advantage or a "doped-up" athlete.

The UIL clearly prohibits doping such as taking of steroids.  This is evident as the UIL clearly references WADA in anti-doping policies, therefore, they were inconsistent with WADA guidelines on handling trans-athletes and doping.

How transgendered athletes on steroid hormones are supposed to be addressed
WADA's policy, to paraphrase is such: basically, a trans athlete has to take "hormone therapy" for two years, then they can compete in the "gender" division they desire.   It requires multiple medical exams and documentation as well as getting an approved TUE. The athlete is allowed to compete in the new "gender" only after 2 years of therapy. (one can argue, these guidelines are insufficient especially for male-to-female athletes as strength gains for a male during puberty are not erased by taking female hormones. This is another topic).

Balancing eachother's natural freedoms
On one hand, sports are so important to our culture because they help connect our physical reality to our spiritual reality.  It takes both heart, intellect, and physicality to be the best athlete.

Certainly, for a teen dealing with gender identity issues, it is probably a good thing for them to compete in a sport.

On the other hand, the UIL created a condition where an athlete was allowed to take steroid hormones, out of accordance with WADA guidelines, and still compete against clean athletes.

In the real world of professional and olympic sports, this is calling permitting DOPING.

In sports involving explosive strength like wrestling, track, and weightlifting, steroids can provide a huge advantage.  Just look at the re-tests of the Olympic drug tests from the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games of weightlifters. Almost all the weightlifters who tested positive in the re-tests won medals. In effect, there is a documented competitive advantage of taking steroid hormones.

What the UIL should have done- be creative!

There are many ways we can give trans-kids the opportunity to compete whilst keeping the playing field fair to everyone else.  Here are some options:

Option 1- Probably the least safe and practical- everybody dopes
If the UIL is going to let Beggs take testosterone, then they need to let every other female athlete that Beggs was competing against take the same steroid hormones.  And, to make it even more fair, make sure their hormone levels are testing in the same range for the same length of time.

Option 2- What Beggs requested - compete as a trans-F-to-M Boy!
Have Beggs follow WADA guidelines for female to male trans athletes, then compete in the boy's division. ( note: This might also cause some inequities.  Boys, like girls, have a natural hormonal cycle.  Because Beggs is taking synthetic hormones at prescribed dosages, they may actually have an advantage of having level testosterone hormones year round)

Option 3-  Create an un-gendered division
Create some sort of "open division" where anyone can compete.  Maybe have males "transitioning" to female compete against females transitioning to male.

Option 4- Probably the most equitable but least feasible option
Create more than 2 gender divisions.  Do you know a tiny percent of the population is intersex?  There are people born with only an X chromosone. There are people born XXY (true "hermaphrodites"?). There are men born with vaginas. There are women born with penises.  And, then, of course, there are transgender people who feel, as Caitlyn Jenner put, " were born with the soul" of the opposite sex.

Any of the 4 options presented above would have been more fair then what went down this weekend in Texas.

(Side thoughts: Why did the UIL let this problem fester in the girls division. Would it have been more scandalous to the UIL for Beggs to have competed as  trans-boy in the boys division?  )


Conclusion

The UIL did none of the above. If anything what they did was lazy.  They forced an athlete in transition, to compete as a doped-up girl, when Beggs really wanted to just compete as a transgender-female-to-male boy.

By failing to take an equitable stance on Beggs' situation, the UIL created an environment where Beggs had an unfair advantage over their competitors.  If anything, the organization violated its own procedures on doping by allowing a trans athlete to compete in a manner inconsistent with WADA guidelines. As the UIL references WADA in their constitution, they should have simply enforced that Beggs to file a Therapeutic Use Exemption, complete all medical history documentation, and take hormones for a minimum of 2 years per  WADA guidelines.  Then and only then should Beggs compete and  compete in the boys division.


UIL's antithetical actions made a mockery of the sport. By not following their own references to WADA guidelines, they sent a message that "its ok to dope".  Because of their ( perhaps cowardly) actions, clean athletes were denied their rightful placements and Beggs was put in the awkward position of  competing as a doped up athlete. Basically, the UIL created a Lose/ Lose situation for all the wrestlers, including Beggs.

Final thoughts to the angry mob
Remember, this situation is due to adults failing kids. If anyone wants to be angry, then be angry at the UIL.

References:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/highschools/meet-the-texas-wrestler-who-won-a-girls-state-title-his-name-is-mack/2017/02/25/982bd61c-fb6f-11e6-be05-1a3817ac21a5_story.html?utm_term=.48bd07586e97

http://www.uiltexas.org/site/search?cx=006910494062867778790%3Aaazkbtwv1gu&cof=FORID%3A10&ie=UTF-8&q=doping&sa.x=0&sa.y=0&sa=Search

https://www.uiltexas.org/files/constitution/uil-ccr-section-1207-1210.pdf

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Goals and your athletes

"You will find yourself in a place where you want it more for them more than they want it for themselves.  ...when you do for them what they should be doing for themselves, you create entitlement and dependency rather than empowerment"
 - Matthew Kelly, "Resisting Happiness"

The above quote is from the book Resisting Happiness.  It's helped me realize that you can't want something more for your athletes than they want for themselves.
Do you know what your goal is? How hard are you willing to work for it?
Photo by Gwendolyn Sisto. 2016 American Open. Go to www.ristosports.com/blog for more photos


Many times, people walk into to my training center asking to be made into a champion. Yet, are they willing to go all the way and make the sacrifice. Most of the times, athletes seem content to train hard for a solid 6 months.  Somewhere around 6 months, many start complaining that they are too tired to go out on weekends, or that coach told them they can't go hiking on their day off because it will make them too tired to train the next day.

My biggest flaw as a coach is that I expect too much of people. That I take their words of wanting to be a champion at face value. Hence, I  expect them to want to be the absolute best they can possibly be and aim to inspire them to move in that direction.  I assume that they want to be pushed in the direction of their goal, because that's what they said they wanted to do.

This goes back to doing my thesis at MIT.  Every few weeks, I would meet with my thesis adviser. I loved meeting with her, she was so smart and we could talk for hours (if it wasn't for the fact that she was equally busy).  Anyhow, I would bring my latest draft, and , indeed, it would be much better than the last time. But what would happen was, although, I would get affirmation that I improved, I would also get an, " ahh I'm, sensing more chapters" or "this is good, now you just need to flush it out more".

It was a wonderful , beautiful, seemingly unending torture. There was a point where I wanted to write something really good, and I also wanted to balance that with level of effort to graduate. Well, with the inspiration of my advisor and other researches in the lab, it really pushed me in the direction of writing a 150 page thesis ( the average in my major was around 75pages?).  But, you know what, I like being an over achiever. And, it still bothers me when I open up my thesis and see some tiny grammatical errors, or I think of how I could have further developed one idea or another. Art is never done.

I've found for athlete retention that this is not a good approach . If I am going to self reflect, I have been through some difficult trials in life.  So, when an athlete tells me something is too hard, my empathetic reaction is, " Yes, I know, and you can do even more".  And, many people don't want to hear this.

Here is what I run into with many athletes: when they come to Risto Sports, they want to do the hard program, they want to get better. We tell them what they can achieve . And, after the first macrocycle , every single person improves.   But, for some, something happens- they quickly realize they don't want to sustain this same level of effort to keep getting results. Some are happy just to have lifted at nationals- scratch that, most are just happy to have trained enough to go to a national meet, and even better if they win a medal .

The problem is most will not tell you this. Ok, you might say, ''this is my job as a coach to check we're on the same page". But, if someone is paying us to train them for predetermined results, then we will train them as such.

It's up to the lifter to say, "  I want to lift fewer days" or " I'm ok with only improving less than the projected forecast".

Instead, some just quit, and complain that we were too mean.... because we trained them them too hard , and they didn't have enough fun.

This situation is a complete contrast to international lifters who train at Risto Sports. Most will train with no complaints about not going out enough on weekends. Though some may whine during training, most will just complete the program regardless.  And, they seem grateful for the results.  It's important to note that many of these athletes are paid to train and get paid based on yielding results. (I feel like these observations are somewhat opposite of a Millgram experiment I read about- ha)

So, what's the point of this whole article?

Its a cautionary tale for both lifters and coaches.

Advice for lifters:
Be clear about for what you are paying your coach.
- Is it just to increase your total enough to lift at a national meet?
- Is it just to get a little better at lifting so you can win some trophies at local meets?
- Are you just doing this to learn how to lift and get in shape?
- Is it about truly pushing yourself to see how far you can go in the sport?

AND , do your goals match the level of effort you are willing to put in?
- Be honest about how many days a week you want to train
- Be honest about how important your social life is to you
- Be honest if you like to continue doing other sports - like crossfit, kayaking, hiking,...

AND, Lord forbid your goals actually change, or your desired level of effort changes, then:
- Tell your coach!
- Quitting or switching teams isn't going to fix this. It's just as easy, probably more beneficial to you, to have this conversation with your current coach than a new coach you have barely worked with.

Advice for coaches:
Ask more than once what the new lifter's goals are.  Make them flush it out as much as possible.

Be clear about how much effort it will take for someone to reach a goal
- if the level of effort talk seems to scare your potential customer away, then offer them back-up options that they may not be thinking of

Remember, it's not your job to want success more for the athlete
-If they are not doing the heart-emotional-mental heavy lifting as much as the physical heavy lifting, then they need to step it up, not you
- Your job is to inspire

Check in with the athlete after every macrocylce about their goals for the year

If your athletes are not responding to inspiration - ie they're not putting their heart fully into the training, and whine often, then:
- Instead of acting like their over-zealous parent and pushing them, its better to pull them aside and ask them to re-evaluate their goal/level of effort ratio
- Give them options. Come prepared with a back-up plan that might meet their social life needs with reduced results

Finally, a Harvard study showed something like 70%+ of the time people act irrationally, that it is hard wired into us.  Sooooooo.... Good luck!




Monday, January 2, 2017

Thoughts on being more than just one thing, and why it may scare people

I'm tired of people telling me that I do too many things.

I'm tired of people telling me to pick a direction, because I'm pretty sure I'm aimed in one.

Its happened more than once in the last few months.

Is it wrong to want to be good, even great, at more than one thing?

Whatever happened to being a "Renaissance man"?

I'm gonna go out on a limb and throw in a pop culture reference.  I think of the movie Divergent. Actually, it was a series of like 3 movies.  Anyhow, the whole point was there were people who were "divergent" because they didn't fit well into one type of mold. Everyone had to take a test when they were 18 to see which of the 5 career categories they best fit into. People who fit into all 5 or had no strong bias for one category over another were called "divergent" and were stamped out of the system.   SPOILER ALERT: the heroine unlocks some occultish device which reveals lost knowledge, that the true goal of the society was for everyone to be "divergent", for everyone to one day be able to equally do any of the 5 careers.

Call this confirmation bias, but I kind of agree. What fun is it to be just good at math? Or just good at writing? Or just good at one sport?    Can't a person be even great at more than one thing?

I think back to the great artists of the Renaissance- such as Michelangleo and Da Vinci. Leonardo Da Vinci is known for painting the Mona Lisa.  The funny thing is, he was so much more than a painter, he was so much more than an artist.  He was an engineer, an architect, a pioneer in anatomy. Sure these things are different and related at the same time.  To paint people well, it would help to understand anatomy, even if it meant dissecting cadavers in secret when the practice was considered heresay.  To design an incredible building, it would help to understand architecture, and it would help to understand mathematics. This could lead to being able to think like an engineer- he made the first sketches of ornithopters, and he made sketches of gliders, well ahead of his time.   Michelangelo was arguably just as multifaceted.  He was a sculptor, a painter, an architect, and a poet. He was a perfectionist and mostly a self-taught painter. Again, his areas of expertise were similar but slightly different.

So, many people want to put me in a box, and I'm sure this happens to many other people too. To some, they want to see me as just an engineer. To others, they want to see me as just a weightlifter. To others, they want to see me as just an author. Some want to see me as just a coach. Some want to see me as just a weightlifting shoe innovator, etc ,etc, etc..  And I wonder why?

To some extent, society reinforces this.  I see it every time I get interviewed for a news article. It unnerves the interviewer, because they see a news story going in too many directions if they can't just label me as one thing. Many want to reduce a multi-dimensional story into a 1-dimensional narrative, something simple and digestible.

For some people, its easier for them to categorize you if you are just one thing.  It makes them feel warm and fuzzy on the inside to be able to think, "yep, this person is this category. They belong with this group of people. Done. " . Some people even seem to feel unsettled, maybe to the point of fear, when they can't neatly and simply put someone cleanly in a box. Usually, these types of people do not like uncertainty.   Though, what can I say, you can't please everyone.

For some, they genuinely think doing more than one thing will prevent growth and expertise in any one area.  And for that, I appreciate their concern.

Still,  I really think there are some people in this world that really cannot go their life doing just one thing.  And, maybe people like me are just a tiny percent of the population, and , well, I think the world needs us.  Its like that little bit of saffron you sprinkle on rice to get that something extra.
 Saffron costs more per ounce than gold; I can live with being saffron.

Popular Posts

Snatching 92kg at the Risto Olympia Cup

Snatching 92kg at the Risto Olympia Cup
This was the 2nd highest snatch in all of the USA for 2014 in official competition for women's 69kg weight class. The only athlete to snatch higher was Jenny Arthur with 98kg. Gwendolyn Sisto lifts for Risto Sports, the premier weightlifting company in the world. The Olympia Cup is held in conjunction with the Mr Olympia in Las Vegas, NV Join us in 2015! Gwen is lifting in all Risto Sports apparel and weightlifting shoes.

Carlos Andica training with Coach Ivan at Risto Sports

Carlos Andica training with Coach Ivan at Risto Sports

Built for the Platform - Risto Sports weightlifting shoes

Built for the Platform - Risto Sports weightlifting shoes
Russian boots, classic weightlifting shoes with modern shoe technology. Exquisite full leather upper, wood heel, rawhide forefoot, natural rubber outsole. One of a kind.

Risto Sports: Official Sponsor of USA Weightlifting

Risto Sports: Official Sponsor of USA Weightlifting
USAW national team member in Risto Singlet

Ivan in the Warm-up room with the Andica Brothers

Ivan in the Warm-up room with the Andica Brothers

Arnold, Carlos & Joni Andica in Front of Risto Sports banner

Arnold, Carlos & Joni Andica in Front of Risto Sports banner

Risto sport's Leidy Solis- PAN AM Champion 2009

Risto sport's Leidy Solis- PAN AM Champion 2009
Leidy in winning form, wearing her Risto weightlifting shoes. Congratulations Leidy!

Oscar Figueroa,Olympic Silver Medalist, World medalist, approves of Risto's

Oscar Figueroa,Olympic Silver  Medalist, World medalist, approves of Risto's
Pictured at Salitre with Oscar Figueroa in center. We will be proudly be sponsoring Oscar with a pair of Risto shoes.

Exceeding expectations - www.ristosports.com

Exceeding expectations - www.ristosports.com
Classic weightliftng shoe design with modern accents

In the Risto shoes

In the Risto shoes

Coach Jonny Pan AM champ

Coach Jonny Pan AM champ
Afternoon coach, doing pwr cleans while his lifters finish up

More wild custom shoes

More wild custom shoes
note pawprints

Abs

Abs
More on Facebook

Custom Weightlifting shoe

Custom Weightlifting shoe
Made to customer specifications, detailed embroidery

Custom Youth Sizes available!

Custom Youth Sizes available!
Little Gwen wears these for technique work in the gym. She also likes to match mommy and daddy in the gym. Lifting time is family time!

Bucharest Training Center

Bucharest Training Center
Ramanian Coach Doru, Ivan, Romanian Lifter Eiza

Nikolai Stoichkov- JR Bulgarian Lifter, son of Zdravco Stoichkov

Nikolai Stoichkov- JR Bulgarian Lifter, son of Zdravco Stoichkov
Training with a pair of Botev shoes. These shoes take a beating of 18000 to 20000 reps per year and heavy loads 90-100% - Also known as the Bulgarian system.

Custom Singlets too- Made to Order

Custom Singlets too- Made to Order

Future Champion- Tough lifters wear pink!

Future Champion- Tough lifters wear pink!
Gwendolyn Rojas getting ready to snatch 60kgs at 20kg bodyweight and 4 years old.

Stoichkov in Action

Stoichkov in Action
Coach Stoichkov adjusting my starting position.

Ivan giving training advice in Frankfurt Oder

Ivan giving training advice in Frankfurt Oder
Here Ivan, as a coach, is giving lifting advice to German Junior lifters at the Olympic Training Center in Frankfurt Oder, Germany. Yes, Ivan is fluent in German and is speaking German to the lifters.

Coach Ivan Rojas

Ivan Rojas is my coach and husband. Since training with Ivan, I have went down 3 weight classes while exceeding my prior best total (acheived while training by myself as a junior vs with proper training under Ivan).

During the 80's, Ivan trained extensively as a coach and lifter in former Eastern block countries as well as Cuba.


Working out with the Champs

Working out with the Champs
Gwen squatting wth Georgiev, Peschalov, and new lifter in background

Training in Bulgaria - Gwen and Coach Zdravco Stoichov

Training in Bulgaria - Gwen and Coach Zdravco Stoichov
Stoichov is coach of Peschalov, Georgiev, etc. Also of key interest: Similar to USA lifters missing out on their chance to medal at the 1980 Olympics , at the time of the boycotted '84 Olympic Games, Stoichkov outlifted the LA Games Gold Medalist at the Friendship Games/ Druzhba Games. The Druzhba Games were held in 1984 by Eastern bloc countries not participating in LA.

Ivan with Nikolai Gergov, Bulgarian Wrestling Champion

Ivan with Nikolai Gergov, Bulgarian Wrestling Champion
Ivan with the Greco wrestling world champ, Nikolai Gergov, after their workout. I still think its uncanny how elite athletes from multiple sports would just show up at Slavia for a workout (....and atleast one ask for lifting advice). Again, overall, Bulgarian athletes were humble or, rather, didn't "have an attitude" in the gym.

Gewichtheben - training at the German Olympic training center in Frankfurt am der Oder

Gewichtheben - training at the German Olympic training center in Frankfurt am der Oder
Me with the German Junior Team and Coach/German Olympian Lars Betker

Coach Burgener Shoe

Coach Burgener Shoe
Portion of all sales got to Charity. A perfect shoe for our CrossFit friends! A wonderfully patriotic, Americana themed shoe and T-shirt. GO USA!!!

Gwen posing with Peschalov

Gwen posing with Peschalov

Stoichkov during competitive years

Stoichkov during competitive years
Vintage photo of Stoichkov winning international Championship

Rumy, Bulgarian lifter

Rumy, Bulgarian lifter
Rumy,75kg lifter, stops by for a light workout in Slavia, Bulgaria

Botev stops by Slavia

Botev stops by Slavia
Gwen, Stefan Botev (multi-time Olympic Medalist and world champion), and Ivan

Gwen with Power Clean/slpit jerk with 80kg

Gwen with Power Clean/slpit jerk with 80kg
First workout in Slavia.

Size perspective for youtube video

Size perspective for youtube video
In Beijing, junior lifter

Ivan and Eric, the speedskater

Ivan and Eric, the speedskater
After a hard work out, Ivan and Eric go summertime cycling in Maine. Eric is a competitive Speedskater and a proud owner of weightlifting shoes. Ahhh ...nothing like summers in Maine!!

Stefan Georgiev

Stefan Georgiev
World and European Champion, 62kg. Rooting for him to medal in the 2008 Olympic Games!

Hanging out with Weighlifting heroes

Hanging out with Weighlifting heroes
Peschalov, Stoichov, self, and husband

Old Stuff - early Risto Weight lifting Shoes

Old Stuff - early Risto Weight lifting Shoes

Peschalov and Coach

Peschalov and Coach
Peschalov trained with Stoichkov leading up to his Gold medal win in 2000 Olympic Games

Training in Kennedy, Bogota

Training in Kennedy, Bogota

Euvgeni Popov, Stoichov, and Gwen

Euvgeni Popov, Stoichov, and Gwen
Popov - 1980's Bulgarian weightlifting team, also accomplished power lifter and strongman competitor.

Beijing - Gongti Area

Beijing - Gongti Area
Gwen lifting at second training location in Beijing near Workers Stadium, Gongti

Sylvia, Bulgarian Junior lifter, wearing Botev shoes

Sylvia, Bulgarian Junior lifter, wearing Botev shoes
Schoolage Champ, one of Stoichov's newer lifters. Sylvia also trains in Botev shoes. Her pair is also several years old and has lasted over 18K reps per year!

Romania - Training Center in Bucharest

Romania - Training Center in Bucharest
Me trining with Romanian lifters in Bucharest. Former USAW National Coach, Dragomir Ciroslan, had once lifted in this gym.

Wrestling World Champion (Greco) Nikolay Gergov working out in Slavia (BG), me in background

Wrestling World Champion (Greco) Nikolay Gergov working out in Slavia (BG), me in background
Nikolay Gergov is a Bulgarian Wrestling World Champion - Greco Roman 66kg category. Nikolai is already naemd to the 2008 Bulgarian Olympic Team. He is also competing at a meet at the Colorado Springs US OTC later this month (FEB 08). Anyhow, Nikolai just stops by for a workout in Slavia. He saw Ivan and I working out and asked Ivan for some technique coaching.

Gwen with Chinese coach of junior team at Chaoyang Ti Yu Chang (Beijing)

Gwen with Chinese coach of junior team at Chaoyang Ti Yu Chang (Beijing)
The coach pictured with me had won a gold medal in the snatch lifting against Karolina Lundhal (world champion) at the 1998 Worlds in Finland in 75Kg class.

Lifters in Bucharest

Lifters in Bucharest

Ivan with Coach Chiu, gongti area Beijing

Ivan with Coach Chiu, gongti area Beijing
After discussion of Chinese pull technique. Chiu is a former Junior World Champion.

Good Leather Smells good

Good Leather Smells good
Really, this was a Candid photo..."wow, this smells good", says Little Gwen

Ivan Lifting in China - 2006

Ivan Lifting in China - 2006
Chinese training center, Chao Yang Ti Yu Chang in Beijing, a JR team pictured in background

Choayang Ti Yu Chang - Ivan with chinese junior lifters

Choayang Ti Yu Chang - Ivan with chinese junior lifters

Abigail Guererro, Almerimar, Spain 2004

Abigail Guererro, Almerimar, Spain 2004
In forefront, Abigail , who has been on the Spanish National Team, with teammates in background.

Me with Blessed Udoh, in Spain (DEC 2004)

Me with Blessed Udoh, in Spain (DEC 2004)
Blessed won the silver medal in 48kg at the 2001 World Championships representing Nigeria. She also trained in Bulgaria for the 2004 Olympics. Sadly to report that she died in Nigeria, last year.

Gwen lifting at Chaoyang Ti Yu Chang - Beijing,

Gwen lifting at  Chaoyang Ti Yu Chang - Beijing,
In Beijing, Chinese Juniors in background. Great kids, good sense of humor, listened to their formal coaches

Spain- Ivan and Miguel Borrazas

Spain- Ivan and Miguel Borrazas
Our good friend Miguel has coached Spain's national team.

Training Bogota

Training Bogota

Ivan with Coach Ediberto Barbosa, fmr Col natl team

Ivan with Coach Ediberto Barbosa, fmr  Col natl team

Mock Competition in Bogota

Mock Competition in Bogota
Gwen out snatches the challenger

Rick Bucinell, breaking master world record in Risto's!

Rick Bucinell, breaking master world record in Risto's!

Ivan arm wrestling Peschalov

Ivan arm wrestling Peschalov
My husband "attempting" to arm wrestle Peschalov with his good arm. Ivan remarked "Wow, he's strong..he was really trying to arm wrestle me" ..no kidding ....ha ha ha

Belts, singlets, knee and wrist wraps. Custom styles available

Little Gwen doing workout with new lifters

Little Gwen doing workout with new lifters

Team USA with Risto donated gear at 2010 University World Championships

Team USA with Risto donated gear at 2010 University World Championships
Me lifting for Team USA. We won 15 medals, Ivan was Assistant Coach to Team USA. Risto Sports donated gear such as USA polos and t-shirts. Got to represent our country well!

Risto Sports,Order at:

http://www.ristosports.com/
info@ristosports.com

(207) 319-7607

Training, shoes, singlets, knee wraps, belts, straps
Eliot, ME

Tanya Morillas - 2004 in Spain

Tanya Morillas - 2004 in Spain
Training session at Almerimar. Subsequently, Tanya has been on Spanish national teams.

Dare Alabi , 77kg lifter (Nigeria)

Dare Alabi , 77kg lifter (Nigeria)
Nigerian lifter, Dare, lifting in Spain

warming up power cleans

warming up power cleans