By Emma Ylitalo-James, President - BPU and ABPU.
Well, as Alan Wilson said, we managed the impossible. Well actually, I think you all managed the impossible.
I was sat at home writing about critical thinking and the use of cognitive restructuring when an email with the final numbers for the ABPU and BPU Nationals 2018 at Bodypower came in.
409? no, hang on, this cant be right............ I checked the cells on the Excel file 3 times as I thought maybe the number started at 120 or something.......... but no.
I telephoned the head honcho in a panic and the first words he said to me when he picked up were "Dont Painc"! The figures I had given him the whole time and had hoped for were around 250.
How the hell, in the 3 weeks before the nationals were we going to be able to get 400 excited and way too bouncy, angry, stressed, worried and plain terrified lifters through in 3 days in one area and make it feel effortless for them with the least stress.
Last year I had a grand plan - that the 2018 Nationals would be over 5 days, be absolutely lifter focused so every person felt like the entire competition was all about them and no one else. Then Bodypower asked if we would like to run the nationals there. Well the area that was there to start with 10 years ago was tiiiiiiiiny, it had become an "elite" competition and when I started the federation in 2013 and was then offered Bodypower in 2015, at 3 weeks notice because the previous person running it pulled out at the last minute I knew I wanted to make it all about EVERY lifter of every level, so that people at the Expo could relate and see they could do it too and also progress from beginner to potentially skull crushing weights! They gave us a bigger area and the story began there. Sport is not for the elite few - its for everyone at every stage of thier sporting career and this has to be respected, otherwise what the hell are we doing it for?
So from the feedback we had from last year - lifters needed a loo beside the comp area, they needed to be able to get out and in, the warm up area needed to be huge, in fact we needed double the size at a minimum and also be right beside a food area. they said yes - so then I started talking tot he lifters and everyone said they wanted to do the nationals at Bodypower - this wasnt what I had in mind but hell - lets try it! I floated it past a couple of people within the federation who were absolutely against it - but at the end of the day if the lifters are saying they want it then thats it.
The people that offered to help when the announcement went out was incredible. I will never be able to say thank you properly to the degree it should be to all the referees, the help with sending the invitations, setting up the flight lists, extra announcers, table crew, weigh in staff, runners and getters, people you trust who can talk to the organisers because you cant leave the platform, coffee grabbers, records writer downers, and, the most important part - the spotters and loaders and the platform managers. They were under immense pressure - I mean pivotal. The whole success of being able to get through 160 people in one day on 2 platforms on the Saturday rested with those guys - 1440 loads in one day. 3681 loads over 3 days.....................
If you think the platform manager does nothing you are wrong - the platform manager has to keep the time and pace going, be able to hand out anything up to maybe 300+kg, be able to work out the loads in their head even though the loads are on the screen (looking at the screen knocks seconds off the load time, multiply that by 1440 and you can see how late the day could have gone), get the loading right, check it, handle the spotters, and not many can do it, I certainly couldnt. The spotters have to be able to load and keep loading as well anticipate something going wrong but also not touch the bar - thats a fine line.
We had the usual technical equipment issues, screens not working, no power, headsets needing changing and usually happened every morning so my heart was in my mouth every morning trying to get the AV guys to come and help us so we could start at 9am which was critical - and every time they appeared with a smile, fixed, added, changed and taped and all usually with a relaxed stroll and usually finishing with about 3 minutes to go!! They always knew it would be fine - for me, I get incredibly stressed if things are not right and ready an hour before hand. EVERYONE at Bodypower so so damn kind and supportive especially when they knew the challenge we were facing. I know there some jobsworth's on the Saturday (NEC staff, not Bodypower) not letting people in when they should have but I had no idea and when someone finally came to get me, it was the financial controller of Bodypower who happened to be standing close to the entrance who sorted it out for me in a matter of a minute - not his job but he stopped everything he was doing and dealt with it straight away.
If the paperwork and lists and hotels and organising people and travel and timings and tickets and parking passes and all those things are not not done well in advance then it all happens last minute and thats when mistakes are made. With this comp - one tiny error as the timing was to tight - could cost the lifters everything and make is a rubbish comp. I was up til 5am a couple of nights just working on it all. Kalle and I through the weekend were still up doing data input until midnight then up again before 6am and at the venue by 7am. It didnt seem to matter how tired we were in the morning and the terrible anxiety of whether it was all going to fall apart - once the lifting started, the tiredness went, the Adrenalin soared and watching each person, especially being able to be there announcing, push to the limit to try and get a place at the AWPC and WPC worlds was just incredible. As the president and the founder of the federation, I have the privilege to know a lot of the stories behind the scenes. The trials and tribulations for people and how hard each person has worked to try and get thier places on the world stage. It is a shame in the last year or so I havnt been able to have as much interaction as I would like due to my own personal work commitments and the fact the federation has grown so much BUT with every person that walked on that platform, me and probably every person that has ever competed, went with them through the lift. Whether it was a 48kg woman pulling 80kg or a 140kg guy squatting 400. The atmosphere at times was completely electric - you could feel the entire area crammed with people and 10 people deep around the barrier willing them on and I still remember a few people bursting into tears because they had finally hit a target they been working on for so so long.
I really must thank our lifters for going with it - I hope my posts and info that I gave warned people and set the scene for what it may be like and bless you all you, you took it in your stride and made this the most inspirational event I have ever witnessed. I desperately hope you got what you wanted, felt valued and somehow felt it was worth it all. I really must tell you all that Bodypower form the outset, because they knew we had a hard job on our hands went the extra mile. You wont have seen this but behind the scenes they helped so much. I must thank Paul (in particular), Ash, Grace, Tom and Nick for all the support they gave me when they reliased the pressure we were under as well as well as being under severe pressure themselves trying to run an event that size. Also for telling the NEC parking people to "f+++ off" when they were going to try and ticket our van at the back of the hall because I ran out of time and couldnt move it to one of the perimeter car parks from unloading that morning.
It is still emotional thinking back over the weekend - I just cant thank every competitor who came there enough. I am beyond words for the help that was given and how tired everyone was but still kept going. I am also extremely grateful for the friendships I have made and the words that made the difference when I really did want to throw everything out the window and walk away.
Alan Collins - my dear dear friend and the man, who if it wasnt for him, there would be no federation. In the midst of the shitstorm when I ended up with the license in early 2013, there was no one else on board. He listened, pushed me and got me to keep going and set this up through all the shit and barriers and down right rotten stuff people were doing because they were pissed off. He leant all his equipment for every comp until we made the money to buy all of our own (we still had to borrow Alans kit for this one, and Dayle Longfords! because of the sheer size of this) and he is someone I cannot and never will be able to thank properly - the best I could do was to name a competition after him (Dan Evans idea). Also a few people who were part of the original founders who still are there when I get down or get shit and publicly stand up for me when so many do not want to put their neck on the line - Dan Evans and Dan Yeates and of course Alan - thank you all so much.
Finally, my husband. He came on board in 2015 and is now the administration officer but in all fairness is a lot more than that. He has to live and breathe this with me, even when he is trying to get on with his own stuff, he has to listen to the exasperation when monumental pillocks are either giving me crap or when things fall apart while I am trying to make everything look effortless and smooth! He has had to drag equipment all over the country, answer emails at midnight through the admin, do lists (he isnt big on that), get shouted at for not doing things quick enough (nothing is ever quick enough) but mainly for seeing and feeling what I feel about the people and the sport we have and the true companionship and camaraderie a majority of the lifters bring to every competition. He has worked so very hard with me on progressing this federation in the last 2 years and I think without him i just wouldnt have been able to manage as well as bringing his own Finnishness and also some truly terrible Finn music!
Anyway - thats it! My deepest respect to everyone - my endless thanks for helping get us all through this. I will let you know if Bodypower want to host the nationals again, if they do then we will work on the basis of 3-4 platforms! I should know soon.
Until the next time - in France, at the Euros - yes I am lifting and woe betide anyone that tries to talk to me when im lifting............. (yes im a diva) SEE YOU THERE IN SUNNY FRANCE AND THEN AT THE WORLDS!
SEE YOU SOOOOOOOOOOOOOON!