Although he missed out on the Rio Olympics due to the blanket ban of Russian weightlifters, 22-year-old Artem Okulov still has his eye on weightlifting’s most celebrated prize.
Okulov is perhaps best known for winning the 2015 World Weightlifting Champion in the -85kg class with a 176kg snatch and 215 kg clean & jerk, and he has put up some seriously impressive videos of his training lifts — you can see him performing an insanely fast 180kg snatch and hang snatch complex below.
In a new interview posted on February 25, he has revealed some interesting insights about his training methodology, the meaning of his name, one of his personal lows, and a few words of advice for aspiring lifters. The interview was conducted by Russian YouTuber Yarkin in the comfort of Okulov’s hotel room in Sochi, where he’s training with his team.
The clip does have English subtitles, but the translation is awkward and misses a significant amount of dialogue and nuance, which is why we had a professional Russian translator write up the interview below.
Before you get into reading it, you can watch some expertly-performed lifts by Oleg Chen and Artem himself, including a couple of 140-kilogram (308.6-pound) hang snatches, in the first 30 seconds of the clip.
Yarkin: We’re at the base where the Russian weightlifting team is training in Sochi and we’ll visit one of our strongest, most serious athletes, world champion Artem Okulov. Here is Artem Okulov with his friend Sergey Kolesnikov. They’re staying in this room. A few words with world champion Artem Okulov, let’s do an interview!
Artem, you know my subscribers often ask me, because I speak with you, whether “Okulov” (shark) is a pseudonym you chose on purpose to scare your opponents. Your real name is probably “Rivkin” or “Platvin” or something and you just took on a pseudonym. Is this true or not?
Okulov: Well, you know, there’s a story. I used to be called “Selodkin” (herring) at first, but it’s not scary, not serious. (Editor’s note: He’s joking here, Okulov is his real name.) But “Okulov” is a serious hit, like a shark, right? It’s automatically understood that he owns the ocean.
Yarkin: Well you have to scare your opponents with something, right? It’s understandable.
Let’s talk about methodology. I think, and I want to talk about how, in principle, just like in the UFC and boxing systems, we have trainers and each has his own methodology. For example, in UFC, one person may be stronger in striking and someone else may excel in technique. We have the same situation in weightlifting—someone may have strong legs, for example. Tell us your secret. What is your methodology?
Okulov: To tell you the truth, I’m trying to gain strength because my technique is pretty solid. During training, I try to focus on deadlifts and squats and do more of those to improve my physical ability.
Yarkin: So you increase your strength, but you probably nailed down your technique during childhood. You worked on your technique and now you’re working on strength.
Okulov: Yes, when my trainer took me in my first year, I suffered a lot. As a young athlete, he drilled technique into me and that’s all we did—technique, technique, technique—and once I mastered the technique we began to work on strength. My legs were good for the most part, but I began to really focus on moves that strengthened my back. Having a strong back is very important to me.
Yarkin: You’re a young athlete, and I’ll share my opinion with you. Currently, there are only four people in all of history who competed as youth in the Olympic games from our country. You won the competitions in Singapore (Editor’s note: the 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG)) and my athlete took second place in Nanjing (The 2014 Summer Youth Olympics). What can you recommend to other young athletes? How should they orient themselves, how should they work?
And I’ll tell you right now, I want to interview other athletes too—Oleg Chen, Adam Maligov, Aslanbek Ediev—to communicate with them and show them that each place has its own school of methodology. In Chechnya there’s one school, for example. In Chechnya, Aslanbek has his own views and Ibragim Samadov has his own. Everyone has their own nuances, but it would be helpful for our viewers to know what you recommend. Think about what you want to say at the end of the video, what advice you have for viewers about what they should pay attention to.
Okulov: First, it’s common for a young athlete to train and not see results, so he says, “Ah! I don’t want this! I’ll do something else.” You cannot do that. You have to believe in your trainer. Since he’s a trainer, he knows what he’s doing, he’s not stupid, and he won’t recommend anything bad for his athlete. You also have to believe in yourself.
Yarkin: Yes, don’t get discouraged!
Okulov: I also had similar situations. Actually, my back hurt right before the championships in Israel, in 2009 I think. My back hurt so badly that I couldn’t even get out of bed. My trainer helped fix my back and I went and achieved my best results there. So, you can’t throw up your hands and give up.
Yarkin: Artem, look. I’ll be filming your moves later to show to our viewers. But I have one more question. Online trainings are popular now. Do you lead any of your own?
Okulov: You know, many people ask me that, and I don’t know if I’m lazy or what… you have to constantly keep up with them. It’s difficult with trainings.
Yarkin: I know, I know. I’ll give you a hint. I’ll give you my phone number and you send whoever asks you to me. (Editor’s note: Yarkin is a trainer.) But listen, I have a proposal. My friend Dima and I want to put together a weightlifting event for next year—we won’t have time to do it this year since we started late, but next year—would you participate in these events as an invited athlete? Would that interest you?
Okulov: If I have the time, yes.
Yarkin: No, if you’re interested in it!
Okulov: Well, that too. But really if I have the time, in between trainings.
Yarkin: Goodbye, good luck with training and preparation!
Featured image via @okulllov on Instagram.