One of the biggest collections of weights, containing more than hundred of samples, is situated in Ukraine. It were Vasily and Konstantin Prontenko, brothers-sportsmen, native of Zhitomir, who collected these weights. The slightest artifact weighs only 50 grams, and the heaviest — 48 kilograms. The brothers found weights made at the time of Peter I, the weight which Alexander III, the Russian tsar, kept in his hands, original glass and plush weights. The Ukrainian athletes dream of collecting weights from all over the world. Curiously enough, they are not alone in their aspiration. Alexander Denisiuk, the Associate Professor of Physical education and sports department in Vitebsk State Technological University, who has been working as a coach in weights sport, arm-wrestling and power-lifting for more than 20 years, learned about the Prontenko brothers collection 4 years ago in Zhitomir where he brought his educates in order to participate in the International tournament in weights sport. Then the coach from Vitebsk took thought that his sport apparatuses, which future champions used to grow biceps, were equally important.
It appears that Denisiuk was cut out to be an athlete. His grandfather, a native of Lepel, practiced smith craft. He could shoe horses and make baby carriage as well as laced fence.
“My grandfather was shoot up in 1942. That is why I’ve never seen him. My relatives told me that he was a strong man, tall, more than 2 meters high”, says Alexander Ivanovich who can never be told to be short, being 198 cm of height. “One of the most ancient weights of 24 kilograms in my collection remained after him. My grandfather poured it by rule of thumb, probably to use it as a measure of weight.”
Early in life our central figure used to throw discuses, won a slot on the national youth team of USSR, and became a silver medallist of the Soviet Union Championship. As it is known, throwers are barbell-friendly. Denisiuk hoisted weights of 210 kilograms, stood up of crouch stand position with 300 kg weights on his shoulders. In the course of military service he trained in sport troop under the command of Romuald Klim, the Olympic champion. In 1976 he moved to Vitebsk where he trained under the command of his new tutor Nikolay Svitin. Within ten years Alexander Ivanovich trained young throwers himself. However, at the end of the ’80s he decided to take a crack at new weights sport, not so popular at those times.
“Today students from almost all higher education establishments train in my gym”, says Denisiuk. “Five of them became medal winners in the world championships at different times. As far as it has always been a problem with inventory, it was very often necessary to invent exclusive exercises, construct fitness equipment which required weights of various configurations.”
On a visit to his parents Alexander Ivanovich received a fabric of 32 kilograms weight, made in the times of the tsar, as a gift from his parents’ neighbor. The coach accepted the present because he couldn’t allow the guest returning home, situated within a distance of half a kilometer, with such a weight. In due course there was made a pair of weights for the “cast iron elderling”which did not stay idly during the training. Weights of 16 and 24 kilograms with irregular elongate handles are used in a gym for French press. 8 kilogram weighting in the form of a barrel can be fixed to the belt when doing chin-ups. 20 kilogram bar, which reminds a part of the railroad rail with a handle, is used widely. Apparently, some time ago it was used to weight grains on a barn-floor.
“Generally speaking, all this collection was made incidentally”, smiles the coach. “I exchanged some samples with my colleagues. Some of the samples were brought by students-graduates. I suppose that only one interesting sample was made by the Soviet industry — portable weight of 16–40 kilograms”.
However, you can find underhanded improvisations in gyms. Hollow 16 kilogram weight filled by lead is one of them.
“It is interesting to check newcomers using this weight”, Alexander Ivanovich is joking. “They see number “16” and relax. As a matter of fact, it weighs 46 kilograms! Try to lift it!”
The moment when the sacred dream of the coach to educate 50 masters of sport can come true is just around the corner. Nowadays he trains only 49 sportsmen but he hopes that after the regular championship of Belarus in arm-wrestling this figure will exceed 50. It will be the appropriate time to think over the establishment of a weights museum.
“It’s interesting,” agrees Boris Ryklin, the pro-rector of Vitebsk State Technological University. “In my opinion, it is early to talk about a special museum but it is real to exhibit the most interesting samples in the university museum or to design exposition in a sport club. Furthermore, advertising of a healthy life-style will never be superfluous”.
While Denisiuk is busy finding new exhibits his trainees continue to win. And not only in sports. For example, not long ago Dmitri Prudnikov and Dmitri Krupnov as well as Artem Babenok helped to hold the belt by Vitebsk region team in the television project the “Battle of Cities” which was on air on one of the Belarusian channels. People say that now athletes are preparing for the similar international competitions, in which teams from Russia, Ukraine, France and other countries will take part. It turns out that weight is a very useful thing in every respect.