Also, the United States, with 24-year-old Kristyn Vytlacil of Snohomish part of an American contingent to a competition that requires athletes to lift, pull, carry and toss heavy objects in grueling tests of strength.
Vytlacil, a onetime swimmer at Walla Walla's Whitman College, started training and competing in Strongwoman competitions in 2006. Last fall she won the United States lightweight (140 pounds and under) title, leading to her invitation to the world championship.
"The fact that I'm going to this contest shocks the hell out of me," said Vytlacil, who teaches GED and adult basic education classes at the Monroe Reformatory. "I've been doing this sport for just two years, and I imagined doing something like this maybe five years or 10 years down the road. Because this sport takes time for your body to grow and for you to figure out what you're doing."
Vytlacil stands just 5 feet, 2 inches tall, and weighs 158 pounds -- she hasn't had to curb her weight in recent weeks, as she does when she's entered as a lightweight -- and at the world championship, where there is just one weight class, she'll be competing against athletes who are closer to 6 feet in height and upwards of 200 pounds.
And that, she said, means she is hardly the favorite to win.
"I'll be the smallest woman at worlds, and that's a huge disadvantage," she said. "I'll be ecstatic if I don't get last place. I'll be ecstatic if I get last place, but there's an event I don't get last place in. … I know I won't win. That's the least realistic expectation I could have."
In a sport like Strongwoman, she went on, "you cannot control how other people do. I swam for 13 years and it's the same kind of deal. I can try to compete against the person swimming in the next lane, but I can't control if they're a lot faster than I am or if they're a lot slower than I am. All I can control is how I do."
In Poland, she said, "as long as I score on everything -- as long as I don't get a zero in anything -- that would make me really happy."
Vytlacil trains four days a week, spending two days mostly in weight training at Bally's Total Fitness in south Everett. She also devotes one day to event training with a group of Seattle-area Strongman athletes, and one day to conditioning with a coach.
When people find out she is a Strongwoman, they're often curious to know how strong. Frequently, she's asked how much she bench presses.
The answer is not a lot because Vytlacil is not training to be a weightlifter. Her workouts are geared specifically for the events of her sport. Still, she can squat between 275 and 300 pounds, and she has a maximum dead lift of 375 pounds from floor level.
And if that's not impressive enough, try this one. About a month ago, she pulled a semi-truck with a 51-foot trailer on the back -- total weight, about 31,000 pounds -- 50 feet.
"That was pretty sweet," she said with a smile, "but it was hell trying to get it started."
Strongwomen and Strongmen have what Vytlacil calls "functional strength … It's not just about static strength (as in weightlifting). You have to be able to pick stuff up and run with it or walk a long distance with it, so you have to have some amount of conditioning and athleticism."
One benefit, she said, "is that I can move my stuff fairly easily if I ever move. Picking up boxes is not hard. And I always tell my dad that I don't need AAA because if my truck ever breaks down I can push it or pull it wherever it needs to go."
Her sport, she added, "is not just a hobby. I do it because I love it. I feel very independent and very strong and very much like I can do whatever the hell I need to do whenever I need to do it. I've always been a very strong-willed, bull-headed kind of individual, and being able to do something just as well as a guy can is really awesome."
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