Kukka Laakso Interview
Kukka Laakso has been competing in Kettlebell Sport for over two years. In that time, she has traveled from her home near the Baltic Sea in Turku, Finland to countries as far as Estonia, Latvia, Spain, and the US in search of more education and high level training.
Kukka recently became the IUKL’s Women’s World Champion in the 16kg Snatch event! …and after earning her CMS rank in the One Arm Long Cycle with the WKC, she went on to earn 122 reps (61/61) with the 20kg kettlebell at the 2009 Long Cycle Invitational in Croatia. More recently, she missed Master of Sport in the One Arm Long Cycle by just a few reps (65/62) due to an injury which occurred at the 2010 Arnold Sports Festival. We know Kukka will be back in full force soon as she is one of only two women to rank with the 28kg bell in the WKC’s new StrongSport contest, making her undoubtedly one of the best lifters in the club! Here’s what Kukka has to say about her current training regimen, her coaches, and some of her goals…
Maya: Who is your coach?
Kukka: Catherine Imes.
Maya: What is your current WKC rank? What are your goals for 2010?
Kukka: I’m CMS in Biathlon and Long Cycle. My goal is to get better as a lifter… but ok, my goal is MS. Of course, I also want to do as well as possible in competition.
Maya: What did you do before Kettlebells? What led you to kettlebell lifting in Finland?
Kukka: I had been training with weights and done various stuff for many years, but more or less with kettlebells since 2006. Marko Suomi, my good friend, introduced the sport to me in 2008. He practically forced me to compete. (That is his evil tactic to get people on the platform. Works pretty well!)
These days I lift kettlebells, swim (I love ice swimming in the sea) and run whenever there’s time. There’s plenty of things I’d like to try but I’m pretty much “kettlebell immersed” right now.
Maya: Tell us about the different coaches you have learned from along the way.
Kukka: I’ve met impressive coaches with different athletic backgrounds and been to several workshops, but the only KB Sport Coach I’ve really worked with is Catherine Imes. Around January 2009 I started consistent training and started to follow her programming more seriously. After I had booked the flights to Columbus and signed up to the Kettlebell Competition last year, I had no choice. So I finally chose lifting instead of talking about lifting and haven’t stopped since. Catherine has helped me since the very beginning. I emailed her after I had done 40 snatches in total in an international meet in Riga, April ‘08. We didn’t have coaches in Finland and I don’t speak Russian, but I knew I needed help. Lorraine Patten told me to email Catherine and so I did (and haven’t stopped since, haha). Meeting great coaches and elite lifters in competition is very “educational.” They are always kind and helpful. Just like Valery Fedorenko said, “arrogance has no place in this sport.” So true. Everybody loves to be a star, but there will always be someone that will come and wipe the platform with your ass. Maybe someone smaller, lighter and older – or maybe just more dedicated, fierce or tough. You never know.
Maya: What is your favorite lift?
Kukka: Jerk I guess. The heavier the merrier!
Maya: How would you describe your current kettlebell training? How often do you train?
Kukka: Five to six times a week. If I have time I run or go to gym. I have a full time job in an advertising agency and I’m a mother so it’s not always easy to make time for training. I train at home. Trying to concentrate on lifting and pacing while listening to Bambi Barbie talk is hard sometimes, but if I can lift under these noisy conditions, hell the competition should be a cakewalk (it never is).
Maya: What are some quick tips you would give a female lifter just starting out?
Kukka: Here are some thoughts that would have helped me when I started.
- Find a coach or train with others and concentrate on your technique. Learn the basics first and remember there is only one way to learn and that is by doing it.
- Be patient. Realistic. It takes thousands and thousands reps to find the technique, and yet there is always something to learn. I was not patient in the beginning. I’m so embarrassed now because when I started I actually thought “this is easy.”
- Focus harder.
Well, seriously… it took me a long time to realize that if I really want to see progress in my KB lifting, I have to focus on KB lifting. It’s not fun all the time and it’s definitely not easy. But seeing the progress is very motivating. I could talk all day about snatching, jerking, swinging, chalking the handles, or fixing lockouts or drops or following the bells, etc. I guess I talk so much that the bells are following me (LOL).
Even my daughter knows when it’s time for me to lift (and that I talk too much). She’s been watching my training and even that 5 years old girl seems to know how a good lockout looks like. She lectured me one day when she saw that there was no chalk on one of the bells. “Mom, you haven’t lifted the orange bell. There’s no chalk on it. Stop talking and do your training now.”
…and there is no way I could have said that any better. :)