Kettlebell Sport is popular all over the world — with Australia sending a team to the upcoming world championships in India – ABC News

Kettlebell Sport is popular all over the world — with Australia sending a team to the upcoming world championships in India
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For most Australians they're just one tough leg of their gym routine – but in many parts of the world kettlebells are a sporting obsession.
Have you ever heard of Kettlebell Sport? In short it's like weightlifting with a few added layers of difficulty.
It's the ultimate combination of endurance, power and mental strength.
And it's the reason why kettlebells now exist in thousands of gyms around the world.
"What makes it hard is the fact that you can't put that bell down… you cannot wear gloves or anything … and your hands rip … people don't really understand that it's a real sport and then they try it and they're like, oh it's really hard," said Monica Bezuidenhout.
"A lot of people they'll call it a 'kettleball', or you tell them kettlebell… they don't know what a kettlebell is until you actually show them and explain like, oh OK, I've seen those at the gym."
Bezuidenhout is a member of Australia's rapidly growing Kettlebell Sport community.
But it's overseas, where the sport is extremely popular and its origins date back centuries.
In Eastern Europe, cast iron was used as counterweights to measure goods in markets and farming villages before people started using them to gain strength.
As it increased in popularity, local village competitions were held. Eventually, in the mid-1900s it became a sanctioned sport — and in 1948 the national sport of the Soviet Union, with unified rules, similar to weightlifting, with the first World Championships held in 1993.
This week Australia will send six representatives to the world championships in New Delhi, India.
Anthony Evans has been coaching and competing in Kettlebell Sport for a decade, and is one of the team members.
"The Russians invented it but the sport itself has really taken to Europe and, you know, it's travelled around the world now everywhere — it's gone, it's like an avalanche it's just getting bigger and bigger and bigger," said Evans.
"I say … watch this space.
"It's been spoken about as going into the Olympics at some point. So, it's big enough that it can … I mean, there are enough people in the world doing it — it is well known.
"It's really big in Europe, big in the USA. Australia's probably just getting into it, like in the last decade, we've really come into the fold … our qualification standards are the highest — to make the team is really difficult.
"There's representation from all around the world [at the World Championships] — we'll probably be the smallest contingent there. There'll be some teams of probably hundreds. So that sort of gives you an idea how big it's going to be.
"Over there they even have a professional league where there's professional lifting."
Like weightlifting, there's all different moves and classes.
One thing remains the same – you can't drop the kettlebell.
There's snatch, jerk, long cycle – some while holding the kettlebell in one arm or holding a kettlebell in both arms.
"So we have to go for 10 minutes, 12 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes depending on the lift you're doing," said Bezuidenhout.
"If you're doing a 10-minute lift, you're only allowed one hand swap … So you can do five minutes on the one hand and then swap to the other hand, but you're not allowed to put it down.
"In Queensland, it's humid so the bell starts getting slippery, and you tear your hands … so it's that mental game, because once you put it down, you're out.
"So it's the endurance of it that makes it so hard, the physical strength that you have to have to just continue on, when it hurts.
Bezuidenhout said she has no expectations but to have fun and to try to not put the Kettlebell down when she competes at her first world championships this week.
"It's pretty special to think that I'm one of six people that's going to be on the world stage and flying the flag for Australia," she said.
Four of the six team members train together at a small gym at Algester, in Brisbane's outer southern suburbs.
The Kettlebell Sport community might be small in Australia, but it's expanding if you ask those involved.
Evans said just a few years ago, he'd turn up to events and it was just himself and maybe one other competing in the open male event, now there are dozens.
"When I first started lifting, you'd be lucky to have 10 people," he said.
"So in a short period of time we've grown every year, we've sort of doubled our numbers.
"People are starting to see [kettlebells] more.
"A lot of gyms are getting proper competition lifting bells, because they understand the value and I believe CrossFit lately has been using them in competition.
"The Rogue Invitational which is an international event was using the kettlebell snatch in one of their events.
"So even kettlebells are being recognised by sports like CrossFit, they appreciate the technicality of it and want to get to know it better.
"So, yeah, now it's in the gyms, I think you'll see it growing a lot more."
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