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PV Science Teacher Competes in Russia
Posted On:
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Photo courtesy of Frank Cowan, SM Times
Photo courtesy of Frank Cowan, SM Times

VIDEO LINK - 2017 World Armlifting Championship, St. Petersberg, Russia

'Brains and Brawn' - Riccardo Magni, Pioneer Valley teacher, to compete for Team USA

Article courtesy of Kenny Cress, Sportwriter, SM Times 2/14/17

For a long time, Riccardo Magni's goal was to compete at the international level.

He will. The Pioneer Valley High school science teacher just won't do it in the sport he had anticipated competing in internationally.

"I competed in the shot put and discus at Haverford College in Pennsylvania," said Magni.

"When I started, I was just terrible but I eventually went on to become all-conference and the captain of the track team," Magni said. "My goal was to compete internationally in (track and field), but I wasn't good enough."

Instead, Magni will compete at the World Armlifting Championship which will take place May 12-14 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

"Armlifting involves moving odd objects, like a car, and lifting heavy weights," Magni said.

"I qualified for the Worlds at the World Rolling Thunder championship," Magni said. "I will compete for Team USA, and it's just such a huge honor. I'm only the second American ever to be invited to the (event).

"There will be 250 of the strongest men in the world there, so the competition will be very, very tough."

Magni will compete in the 243-275-pound weight class. "I weigh about 250," he said.

Although he qualified for the World Armlifting Championship at a Rolling Thunder event, Magni said his best event is the Hub. In fact, "I have an unofficial world record in that event," he said.

"In the Shallow Hub, the hub is about 3/4 inches in diameter and is attached to a weight. You pick up a weight by the hub.

"The official world record is 55.2 pounds, and I lifted 55.5 pounds in my training room."

Magni said, "The Hub is an old-time event dating back to 1910-1920. The announcer would pick out anyone in the crowd who wanted to try to lift the weight. No one would be able to, and eventually the strongman would lift the weight.

"At the Worlds, the hub will be 1 1/4 inches in diameter, and I'm hoping for the world record in that event."

There will be three events each day at the Worlds. The Silver Bullet and Rolling Thunder and Hub events will take place the first day. The Apollo N's, Excalibur and Saxon Bar Deadlift will take place the second day.

"In the Silver Bullet, you close a hand gripper around a weight and hang on to it for as long as you can," said Magni.

"In the Rolling Thunder, you grip a bar about the size of a coke can. The plates (or weights) are stacked horizontally, and you pick up the maximum amount of weights that you can."

On the second day, events will include the Apollon's Axle Deadlift, the Excalibur and the Saxon Bar deadlift.

In the Apollon's Axle Deadlift, competitors pick up the heaviest weight possible on a two-inch, non-revolving bar. In the Excalibur, athletes will attempt to deadlift a vertical bar that is two inches in diameter.

Finally, in the Saxon Bar deadlift, competitors will try to deadlift a 3x4-inch rectangular bar.

"Having competed with you for about a year now, and watched how you've refined your craft is impressive," fellow lifter Bryan Hunsaker said in an email to Magni.

"It is rare you meet someone that you can compete with, and yet with whom you can still remain friends while pushing each other to greater heights. I want to thank you for being that type of person, and for the help and advice you've lent me as I've known you!"

Odd E. Haugen, the president and CEO of MAS Wrestling U.S.A. said in an email, "I have known Riccardo for years. We have trained and competed together. I'm sure that he will be in great shape for Russia and make podium in one or more event (sic)."   

Magni said he has been weightlifting for 22 years. Before that, his athletic aspirations were quite different.

He said with a chuckle, "I wanted to be a high jumper, but the coach said to me, 'Oh no, you're doing the shot put and the discus.' We already had a very good high jumper, Noel Watson. He cleared 6-8."

Magni has been teaching at the high school level for 21 years, and he has taught at Pioneer Valley since the school opened in 2004. He is an award-winning teacher.

"I won the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators," he said. "That's from the White House and there were only 19 given in the whole country."

Magni was the Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year in 2013.

Now, he has earned the chance to show his weightlifting strength on the international stage. If he can get there.

"The cost of going is going to be expensive," he said. "I"m looking for funding." 

Armed for victory: Pioneer Valley High School teacher Riccardo Magni competes at Armlifting World Championships in Russia

By KRISTINA SEWELL, Santa Maria Sun Sports Contributor

There is nothing Riccardo Magni does half-heartedly. From teaching to training, Magni aims to compete and succeed, which is why he has the honor of being one of three Americans to compete in the Armlifting World Championships on May 12 through 14, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Magni, a science teacher at Pioneer Valley High School, has weightlifted for 21 years.

"When I started track in college I was really skinny and weak," he said. "To be a thrower, you had to be big and strong."

Pioneer Valley High School science teacher and competitive weightlifter Riccardo Magni qualified for the Armlifting World Championships last year during the Los Angeles Fitness Expo (pictured). He competes in Russia against 130 opponents from 18 different countries May 12 through 14.

 And so his weightlifting journey began.

Before delving into armlifting (which works grip strength; more on that momentarily), Magni spent plenty of time competing in strongman and powerlifting. He started competing in armlifting just a year ago.

"A friend of mine, Odd Haugen, invited me to compete in a contest he was hosting," Magni said. "That's how I got started in it. I had good results and I enjoyed it."

Russian armlifting is best described as a unique hybrid between powerlifting, strongman, and grip strength. It involves traditional lift movements, and places more emphasis on using the strength of your hands to lift heavy objects or weights.

"I like it more than traditional weightlifting. You develop functional strength for everyday activities," Magni said. "It's fun to set goals and beat them, and I do things I never thought I could do."

Magni will compete against 130 armlifters from 18 different countries at the event in Russia. The teacher/weightlifter qualified for the championships last January at the Los Angeles Fitness Expo.

"I placed 10th in the Rolling Thunder world championships and qualified as a result of my finish," Magni said.

While he knew the meet was a qualifier, Magni hoped he had done well enough to place. But after his big finish in the Rolling Thunder event, Magni got an invite to the championships by Russian armlifting competitor Roman Penkovskiy.

"I'm the second American that's been invited to compete in this contest," Magni said.

Since then, Magni has been training every day, anywhere from one to three hours between teaching and helping raise his three children. Magni intersperses his training with cardio workouts and traditional weightlifting movements.


Magni said that armlifting applies several traditional weightlifting techniques at once, providing functional strength that he uses daily.

"Some of the training is trial and error, some of it's being coached by others who are stronger than you," Magni said. "And some of it is listening to your body and finding out what works for you."

Prior to entering the competition, Magni admitted that he was not really nervous. After training as hard as he could, he was confident in his abilities.

That confidence will be essential, since he'll compete against some of the best weightlifters in Europe, as well as last year's Canadian National Champion.

"Weightlifting is very mental; it's easy to get caught up in what weight other people are lifting and if they're doing better than you," Magni said. "Luckily being older and competing so much, those are non-issues for me."

For Magni, he is simply looking forward to the intense competition, saying he wants to compete against worthy opponents. Going into the contest, he stays focused on setting personal records and making improvements.

"I just care about competing at my best level," he said. "A sign of good competition is making your best lifts during a contest."

Aside from the competition, Magni looks forward to meeting with fellow weightlifters and friends in person at the competition.

"I've been blessed with this opportunity, and I feel very good," Magni said. "I've lost 42 pounds and feel as strong as ever; I'm excited for this adventure."

Sports contributor Kristina Sewell is also an English teacher at Pioneer Valley High School.

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