Not too long ago I had the distinct pleasure of attending a seminar run by the 2012 Olympic Champion in the 105 kilogram weight class, Aleksey Torokhtiy and Dr. Sergei Putsov. The information and perspective these two have on the lifts, training methodology, and general enthusiasm to make you better then when you walked in the door was well worth the price of admission. But as the weekend went on, with every question they answered I wanted to dig a little deeper. Lucky enough these two were kind enough to sit down with me and answer any and all questions I had. Aleksey’s English isn’t the best yet but he is working hard to communicate better with his audience. Sergei was kind enough to translate and clarify any points made by both parties. Below is an interview that I conducted over the course of three days. AT/SP represents our Ukranian friends and SA represents yours truly. Enjoy!
SA: What sports, if any did you do before fully committing to weightlifting?
AT/SP: As a kid I played, I didn’t do much in the way of sports. I did do dance, all styles and variations though.
SA: Dance, that’s a unique answer, anything else?
AT/SP: When I started lifting I was like most young boys, light bodybuilding-style training. Mostly consisting of upper body work, but I did not do any major sports before comitting to weightlifting.
SA: How old are you now and how long have you been weightlifting?
AT/SP: I am 30 years old and have been training for 17 years now.
SA: Did you have one particular coach/mentor/athlete/person you looked up as a young lifter for motivation or inspiration?
AT/SP: I never had one particular influence or person for motivation, no matter the athlete’s status, great or small the accomplishment, I always looked for their best quality that they possessed and tried to make it my own. Always being mindful of my surroundings allowed for me to see how athletes of all varieties got their tasks accomplished.
SA: When did you get that “moment” when you knew you had a shot at the Olympic Dream?
AT/SP In 2009, I took some time off the sport for financial reasons, but after the short break I was back training and competing at the European Championships. After taking 2nd amongst some better established lifters I knew I could achieve my goal of an Olympic medal.
SA: You’re in London, walking up to the bar for your 6th attempt. What was going through your head?
AT/SP: When you go to the Olympics you are not there to break records, you are there to win. My opening attempts were selected to establish a total, my second attempts were to secure placing, and my third attempts were for PRs or a medal. I missed my second clean and jerk, but based on the rest of the field I needed to increase the weight and make the third attempt. As my coach got me ready for the lift he said to me “This is it, it’s your moment, do what you want with it.” So I went into the attempt with an all or nothing mentality and it came out in my favor.
SA: Wow, that is just awesome, how did your life change after the Olympics?
AT/SP: Mostly financial. I was on the Ukranian National Team receiving a monthly stipend for training and competing. After the Olympics, my federation rewarded me (a large sum of money) for my victory and I receive a small pension for the remainder of my years from the federation.
SA: You have recently started doing more seminars in the United States, how do you like the U.S? What has been your favorite moment so far?
AT/SP: I like the U.S a lot, there lots of lifters here who are willing and eager to learn and better themselves. I am always happy to help someone who wants to improve. My favorite moment so far has been on my visit to Chicago (of course it was). When we went downtown and visited The Bean (Cloud Gate), I was waiting for my friends and a person came up and said “Aren’t you the 2012 Olympic Champion Aleksey Torokhtiy?” and asked for a picture with me. I looked to Sergei and said that everything I have ever done in my career, all the training, and all the competing, were well worth it for that moment alone. For someone outside of our little community to recognize me for my accomplishments validated all the sacrifices I have made over the last 17 years.
SA: That is awesome, where do you see the future of weightlifting heading?
AT/SP: I feel like the classes may be changed again after Rio or Tokyo. Especially on the women’s side. It would be hard to do but I would also like to see some sort of element of show in the sport. There is little crowd engagement and that sort of engagement is what draws in the big sponsorships to events.
SA: I have to ask who do you have winning Rio in the 105s?
AT/SP: Change is good, no one really wants to see the same Champion over and over. Illya has had great opportunities but I like Nurudinov to win. (Nurudinov was 2nd at the 2014 World Championships and pushed Illya to break the World Record in the clean and jerk in order to win).
SA: When you plan out training for a competition, do you plan out the entire prep or parts of the prep?
AT/SP: I plan out the whole program leading up to a competition, I like to know what I am doing at all times. I then select control sessions where I have certain lifts I need to hit at those points. If I am successful I stay on the plan, if I am not, I make adjustments until the next control session.
SA: Thoughts on the Split Jerk vs Power Jerk? I notice you use the Power Jerk.
AT/SP: I started out as a Split Jerker, but did not like it. I suggest athletes try and incorporate both into their training.
SA: Your videos, seminars, and the “Torokhtiy Gang” are creating a community. How important is community in the weightlifting world?
AT/SP: The community is very important for the growth and sustainability in the sport. What will kill the momentum is the lack of progressiveness. I work with the Ukranian Federation and often have my ideas rejected or dismissed because those in charge are not thinking progressively and are stuck in their ways. That was when I decided to start sharing my information with the world. I want to work with and help people who are open to new ideas and willing to try something that can possibly benefit their training. If one person makes a national or international team because of help I was able to give them that is enough for me.
SA: In today’s world, there are lots of internet gurus that are in the online coaching business to make a quick dollar. Your online coaching and information that you put out is free. For someone of your caliber that is pretty uncommon, why do it this way?
AT/SP: I don’t understand why this is viewed as a bad thing. The more that is shared with the community the better of a chance that community has to grow and advance. As stated earlier I want to work with people who are open to new ideas and concepts and not those who are close-minded. Unfortunately there are many more of the latter than the previous.
SA: It has been a pleasure to sit and pick your brain the past few days. You are true sportsman and ambassador to the sport of Weightlifting my friend. We wish you nothing but good things in all your future endeavors. Don’t change a single thing to your approach, the sport needs more folks like you in it.
AT/SP: Thank you and to Big Shoulders Crossfit for hosting us. This has been a great trip.
Well there you have it. As previously stated the man is a great ambassador to our sport. If you aren’t subscribed to all his channels on social media you need to do so. Also do not hesitate to check out his social media pages here: Facebook, Google+, and YouTube for articles, information, and his seminar schedule. Lots of his free programming and training can be found at All Things Gym. I hope you guys enjoyed this interview, we have a few more great pieces from the seminar and other content coming your way!