By Maryana Naumova, Russian teenage powerlifting champion – I am a 16-year-old, four-time bench press world champion and was the first female in the world under the age of 14 to bench pressed 100 kilograms without the bench shirt. It happened at the Arnold Classic XPC in 2013 . In 2015 at the Arnold Classic XPC, I was first in the history of the sport amongst girls age 15 who bench pressed 150 kilograms in a single-layer bench shirt.
In 2012, the magazine Powerlifting USA posted my picture on the cover; I’m very proud of this!
Unfortunately, the producer of federation XPC Dan Duggie (for reasons unbeknownst to me) did not invite me to the Arnold Classic XPC in 2016. I am very grateful to Dan for everything he did for me in 2013-2015, but I am very upset by his decision for 2016. Maybe he will change his mind? I really would like to get an invitation to the Arnold Classic in 2016.
My good friend, the great English sportsman, Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates once said to me, “It is great that we are able to follow our sports and win titles and so on, but the real purpose of life is to give love and help to others.” I remember his words very well. Dorian is a great athlete and a very good and proper person.
I have been doing social work and I believe that the athlete should promote sports and help people. I have gone four times to Donbass and also I decided to support the people of Syria. Children should be children despite the war. The Syrians are our friends and I wanted to help them. Many people do not know what’s really going on, but I was in a huge city in Damascus and talked with the people and I want to tell it to my audience.
Our trip began on September 6 on a Sunday evening and our unique flight was detained for four hours. We arrived at 9 am at the airport in Damascus. Everything was covered with “pink dust.” It could be spooky looking but it is also very difficult to breathe in. This phenomenon is the first time in 75 years in Damascus. On the way to our hotel, I saw many houses suffered from war, and they had huge barrels of water on the roof. I saw many checkpoints and soldiers with guns. Everywhere were posters of Bashar Assad. I noticed that the roads of Damascus were perfect, no holes.
In front of the office of the Union of Syrian Women also hung a huge poster of the president. In the office, we discussed our plans for the week and gave these women our Russian samovar and bagels.
Next we went to the hotel to rest. Our hotel is one of the best in Damascus. It’s huge and beautiful. Every woman from our delegation had her own room. We had a rest for two hours and moved to lunch with women from Union of Syrian Women. We went to the wonderful restaurant. I noticed that the Syrian cuisine is light and diet. There was a lot of salads, vegetables and hummus, which I love so much.
I had an amazing meal, but Syria without the Syrian sweets is not Syria. I wanted to drink tea, but in this country, tea and coffee is drank separately from the main meal. On the tables there were only soft drinks. At lunch, each of the women talked about herself and her family. The first day was no meeting, so we had time to relax after the flight.
We had a meeting in the Olympic Committee of Syria. I learned that during these difficult five years, the school continued to operate, but they also had to endure falling shells and some athletes died during workouts.
Not long ago, the weightlifting team competed in Los Angeles, where they won several medals. Asma Assad, the First Lady of Syria, met the athletes and congratulated them for their victory. Also, there was a girl who bench pressed. She has performed at the Paralympics Games in Beijing and won a silver medal by pressing 120 kilograms.
We had a workout at the gym and shared the experiences with each other.
There was a meeting with the Foreign Secretary. We talked about relations between Russia and Syria. The Foreign Secretary said that Russia supports Syria in all directions, and he is very pleased that our woman’s delegation arrived in Syria to support people of their country.
We had a meeting with a Minister of Information. He told us how many journalists were killed in the war, and how much is not true in the Western media. He also said that his granddaughter has double name Syria-Maria, for the peace on this earth.
I was in the refugee camp. Many children and adults live here who lost their home during the war. Adults work and children learn here. Men serve in the army of Assad. I met a boy who told me that his father was a prisoner of the terrorists, they mocked him, but he was able to escape and now he is back fighting against terrorists. I came to this camp, on birthday of Bashar al-Assad. The children celebrated the holiday, sang, danced, and we were treated to a traditional meals.
I also met with the First Lady of Syria. She is very beautiful and intelligent; a real lady. We had talked a lot, and I learned that she is also involved in sports, going to the gym, and sometimes doing the bench press. I learned that during the war, she visited more than 10,000 families of dead soldiers.
Bashar al-Assad is engaged in military matters, Asma Assad is engaged in humanitarian. They do not throw their people and fight against terrorism together. People are very loved and respected by the president. I was in Damascus for a week and I have not heard anything bad against the president. People of Syria are very fond of us Russian. When they learned that I was from Russia, they said, “Thank you for you support.” I hope that the peace will soon come to this ancient land. I’ll help any way I can. I am pleased that Russia has officially started to support Syria.