Ed Graney’s Olympics Postcard

Meet a new friend of mine. This is Ilya IIin from Kazakhstan. I’m big on Kazakhstan. Love just saying it. Kazakhstan! Ilya was wandering around the streets of London on Tuesday, taking pictures with anyone who recognized a 2008 gold medalist from Beijing in weightlifting. Not many did. O.K., so I also had no clue who he was but just wanted a picture with anyone from Kazakhstan. He could have been a barber from Saran for all I knew. He doesn’t compete until later this week. His clean and jerk of 216 and a total of 386 are the current junior men’s world records. There is nothing junior about Ilya. He has no neck and his handshake makes others seem like wet noodles. Kazakhs are a Turkish people from northern parts of Central Asia and are descendants of Turkic tribes. They intrigue me.

— Ed Graney, Las Vegas Review Journal