At age 21 Kianoush Rostami has won gold at the 2011 Paris World Weightlifting Championship, and Bronze at the 2012 Olympics. I had the opportunity to interview Kianoush. Below is excerpts of what stood out so starkly about his life and training, and his continuing road to Olympic glory.

Kaevon Khoozani (Interviewer) Victoria, B.C., Canada (I)

Kianoush Rostami, Kermanshah, North Western Iran (KR)

1. Start Weightlifting When You’re 10

I: So first off, I want to know – how old were you when you began weightlifting?

KR: Yeah, I was 10 years old, and was in gymnastics before as well. My brother, he trained weights with me, and he would tell me, “You’re coming to the weightlifting“.

The myth that weightlifting stunts your growth has been perpetuated for as long as lifting has been around. Get it out of your head if you want to raise/be a champion. I think this myth was best de-bunked by Strength Coach Joe DeFranco:

“…Parents won’t hesitate to get their young children (6-7 years old) involved in sports such as football, gymnastics, basketball and soccer, yet they feel that participating in a strength-training program is damaging to their children’s bone health and will stunt their growth…The fact of the matter is that running, jumping and tackling can create loading on a child’s body which is up to ten times greater than most strength training exercises..”(DeFranco).

Starting so young also means you can compete in more Olympics. Naim Suleymanoglu won his first gold in 1988 at age 21, and 2 more in ’92 and ’96. Kianoush was also 21 at his first Olympics, and won gold at worlds at 20.

I: Where do you see yourself in 4, 8, 12 years? You are only 21; would you like to keep competing as long as you physically can?

KR: Yes, I like weightlifting, and all the time I try to train very hard for next competition. I want to make it to three or four Olympics.

2. Conquer your fears

For anyone who has competed you have experienced it; the anxiety created by the thought of failure. Even on (and even more so) an Olympic level, it is a detrimental factor that must be mastered and controlled for success.

I: What happened in the London Olympics that you only made two out of six lifts?

KR: Yes, I can’t make a good lift, that’s what happens; I can’t make a good lift. I have so much – I have too much distress, and I fear. That is my problem. Fear is very bad for my sport. This is my problem. I fear maybe I am out. Sourab Moradi was getting ready for competition. I fear the competition, maybe that he beats me. He got to 165 for warm-up training, and I got to 165 but it was very hard. I begin to fear that I cannot make a good lift. I was just wishing to medal, and I’m happy that I did.

3. Only train for weightlifting.

It seems so simple, so obvious. If you want to be better at the Olympic lifts, do them over and over. Why would you bench, run, or do anything else but weightlift? Weightlifting is as much about skill as it is about strength. My old coach Henrik Grigoryan used to tell us that it takes about 3 years of training 5 days a week to “master” the clean and jerk, and about 5 years for the snatch, and even then it is still never truly mastered..

I: Do you just train weightlifting, or do you use other training methods too? Do you maybe do bench press, or use – you know miel (Persian clubs)? Or do you just do weightlifting?

KR: Just training weightlifting, I no do nothing, just training weightlifting. And before, I did gymnastics, and now just weightlifting.

4. Train 4 times a day.

I: How many times a day do you train?

KR: For example, in one day, eight hours. Four times training.

I: Holy!

KR: Yes.

I: Four times.

KR: That is right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Before the breakfast, after the lunch, after the dinner.

If you’re coming to Iran, I’ll show you what I do all day.

I: OK, four times a day though. And do you do that the whole year, or just until – near a competition?

KR: Yeah, if I’m near the competition.

I remember when Pat Mendes blew up on YouTube and forums were loaded with people debating whether overtraining was real or not. While the arguing continued the proof was in the pudding. Mendes was rekindling hope for weightlifting in America, and decades before Coach Ivan Abadjiev had pulled Bulgaria out of a disappointing performance in the 1968 Olympics, in which Bulgaria did not win a single medal in weightlifting, Abadjiev was appointed as the national coach. Three years later in Munich, Bulgarian weightlifters won three gold and three silver medals. And the success continued, with Abadjiev coaching a total of nine Olympic and 57 world champions in his first two decades as national coach. Such success could not be ignored, and soon countries such as Greece, Turkey and Iran began adopting what came to be known as the Bulgarian system. Abadjiev’s greatest pupil was Naim Suleymanoglu , who won gold in three Olympics, broke 51 world records and pound-for-pound is still considered the greatest weightlifter of all time. Another of Abadjiev’s most memorable athletes is Antonio Krastev, a super heavyweight lifter who in 1987 snatched 216 kilos (476.2 pounds), a record that has yet to be surpassed. (Poliquin, 2010)

Pocket Hercules

5. Quit your job and drop out of school

I: Do you work as well, or are you a student, or do you just weight lift?

KR: No, just weight lift.

When you’re training 4 times a day, there is just no time for anything else. This is the toughest part on deciding whether to pursue your dreams, or settle into adulthood. Do you do what you love and be poorer for it? This is especially tough in Canada where funding for Weightlifting is next to nothing. Even when Christine Girard won a bronze in weightlifting in 2012 for the first time in Canada’s history, she only received $10,000 and $5,000 for her coach. Her awesome success story was one of perseverance. After losing $15,000 in funding when she left Quebec for B.C., she pushed through, having to train in her garage and being coached by her husband. Christine being 27 in the prime working years of her life chose passion over money. (Maki, 2012)

6. Learn to do nothing.

I: OK. So how many times a day do you train right now, now that you had your big competition?

KR: Now I no do nothing, now it’s just holiday. (laughs)

I: Oh, OK.

KR: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don’t like training now, just like a big holiday.

Kianoush (in true Persian style) was driving through the mountains while talking on his cell phone, 3 rowdy friends with him. They were en route to another city to go shopping for Kianoush’s new house. I was surprised by this. A world champion, taking time completely off, not even thinking about weightlifting. During the conversation he seemed more interested in talking about girls, cracking jokes, and ripping on my beard then he did about weightlifting. This man is a world champion, and an Olympian, but even the best in the world need to take a step back completely away from it all.

I first met Kianoush on Facebook in December of 2011. I berated him with weightlifting questions and after a while, he granted me a full interview. We did a Yahoo video call, and a series of phone interviews. He used to have a website www.kianoushrostami.com but it seems to have gone down. You can follow him on Facebook here.

Kianoush lives in Kermanshah, Iran, a primarily Kurdish part of Iran.

Works Cited

DeFranco, J. (n.d.). Articles. Retrieved February 17, 2013, from www.defrancostraining.com: http://www.defrancostraining.com/articles/38-articles/63-ten-training-myths-exposed.html

Maki, A. (2012, June 1). Sports. Retrieved February 18, 2013, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/olympics/the-weights-been-worth-it-for-christine-girard/article4226101/

Poliquin, C. (2010, November 11). Articles & Multimedia. Retrieved February 18, 2013, from http://www.charlespoliquin.com: http://www.charlespoliquin.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/491/Five_Lessons_I_Learned_from_Ivan_Abadjiev.aspx