Though it’s certainly nothing official, summer is as close to barefoot weightlifting season as it gets. And while we’ve highlighted some of the heaviest (and funniest) barefoot Olympic lifts in a previous post, we definitely left out some notable examples of weightlifters who ditched their shoes whether by choice or design.
In a video that’s been floating around since the early days of YouTube (we’re talking all the way back in 2007, which is basically the Internet Industrial Age), two Bulgarian lifters are seen training barefoot before competition in the International Tournament of Sicily.
Legend has it that Plamen Boev (lifting at 85kg) and a very young Ivan Markov (lifting as a 77kg) traveled to the competition but had their luggage lost along the trip, meaning they arrived to the venue a couple days ahead of time and without their lifting shoes. While they eventually borrowed and/or recovered their shoes before the competition itself (unclear which), they got in their final training sessions in an outdoor gym with a combo of slide-style sandals and completely bare feet.
Despite the less-than-optimal conditions, Boev and Markov seem to still be having fun, ribbing each other between attempts as they get in a light session. Check out Boev removing his sandals mid-lift around the 1:57 mark (though admittedly with a very light weight overhead).
Markov, it’s worth noting, put up a pretty impressive career after this video, moving up to 85kg and winning silver at the 2013 and 2014 World Weightlifting Championships; he was also the 2014 European Champion and placed 5th at the 2012 Summer Olympics. His competition best occurred at the 2014 WWC, where he snatched 179kg and clean & jerked 211kg on his way to silver. (Markov also qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics but was one of eleven Bulgarians to test positive in the months leading up to that competition.)