Riccardo Magni traveled all the way to Saint Petersburg, Russia, and came back with his hands full.
Earlier this month, Magni went to Russia to compete in the World Armlifting Championships, where he won four bronze medals.
In Saint Petersburg, Magni and a crew of Americans battled Russians and Ukrainians in lifting competitions that test competitors' grip and overall strength.
There are events called the Silver Bullet, a grip-strength tester, Apollon's Axle, a deadlift-type exercise, and the Rolling Thunder, a lift that tests both grip and brute strength.
Magni talks of his niche sport with an air of inspiration, nothing his motivation after winning no medals in Russia two years ago.
"I didn't win any individual medals when I went to Russia in 2017," Magni said. "But I was determined to come back and win some of my own. I did that. After 2017, we formed the Armlifting USA League to give everyone a chance to compete. We held the world competition here in the U.S. in 2018 and I ended up No. 1 in the United States in one of my two weight classes."
When Magni first traveled to Russia in 2017, only three Americans competed in the world event. Magni says he and his teammates then focused on growing the sport in the U.S.
There were 17 men and women competing for the United States in Russia this month.
Traveling all the way to Russia is a grueling test that saps about 10 percent of his lifting power, Magni says. There's the 10-hour time difference and the long flight that factor into the drainage.
"The first day of competition was 13 hours," Magni said. "The Apollon's Axle was on day two, which was 15 1/2 hours. We ended day two at 12:30 a.m. on Monday and my flight back was at 5:55 a.m. I just stayed up all night, had a big steak and hung out with the Finnish team, which was working on some 're-hydration techniques,' so to speak."
Magni is on a strict diet regimen, so he didn't partake in any festivities while in Russia, though many of the fellow competitors did. Magni says he's dropped about 70 pounds over the last few years, falling from 290 to his current competitive weight of 220.
"I have learned that, for me, carbohydrates are bad," Magni said. "Anything that comes out of package goes right to my stomach. So I don't eat any packaged food and I have the biggest sweet tooth ever. But I made the conscience choice, 'Hey, do you want to be alive and healthy and look good--very good!-- or do you want to have a big waistline?'
"But I'm very disciplined and I get it done."
Magni went from a size 42-inch waist to a size 33 after dropping from 290 to 220 pounds.
"I've been very disciplined. I get up every morning at 5, walk the dogs and then train. Every morning," Magni said. "Then, three to four days, depending on what I'm training for, I'll do double workouts after school."
While Magni isn't competing in far off lands like Russia, he's a science teacher at Pioneer Valley High School. He's also an assistant track and field coach and will be involved in PVHS athletics as a strength coach this coming school year. Magni hopes to compete next month in Dallas at another elite competition.
"For a lot of people it's a pastime and it is something of a pastime to me," Magni said. "But it keeps me out of trouble and gives me some goals. My own kids and students, I think they look at my goals and what I do and some of them may say, 'Wow. Maybe if I work hard I can get the result I want.'
"And that's what it's about. Improving and trying your best and not limiting yourself. Instead of thinking to myself I would never make the world championships podium in Russia, I thought I could do it. And I did it."