Wednesday, November 30, 2011


It's with wistfulness that we note the passing of Vasily Alexeyev, "the strongest man in the world." Alexeyev was a Soviet-era Russian weightlifter, and handily won gold medals in the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games. He could pick up and put down a staggering amount of weight.
In 1972 I was five years old, and I thought it was the best thing in the world that a guy with a name like Alex was on TV, being celebrated as the champion of strength and power. Apparently, though I don't remember it well, I'd go around the house hoisting objects above my head and claiming to be Alexeyev, champion of the world.

This is not a situation well tolerated by a five-year-old's elder brothers. It won't do for the youngest to be the champ. For the two elder brothers, it's far better to have the youngest to be the loser, in third place, and even better for him to have a funny name. In this photo from '72, the guy on the right is the bronze medalist, the East German Gerd Bonk.
Every time I Alexeyev-ed, I was Bonk-ed with greater vigor. This went on till Bonk became my nickname, and I still answer to it. So, today I am obliged to pick something heavy up and grunt as I hold it over my head in honor of my late, almost namesake. As for Gerd, he's still alive, though apparently not doing well. His body is a wreck, debris from the East German penchant for chemically-enhanced athleticism.

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