Postcard from London: A new friend from Kazakhstan

Meet a new friend of mine. This is Ilya IIin from Kazakhstan. I’m big on Kazakhstan. Love just saying it. Kazakhstan!

Ilya was wandering around the streets of London on Tuesday, taking pictures with anyone who recognized a 2008 gold medalist from Beijing in weightlifting. Not many did. OK, so I also had no clue who he was but just wanted a picture with anyone from Kazakhstan. He could have been a barber from Saran for all I knew.

He doesn’t compete until later this week. His clean and jerk of 216 kilograms and a total of 386 kilograms are the current junior men’s world records. There is nothing junior about Ilya. He has no neck and his handshake makes that of UNLV football coach Bobby Hauck feel like a wet noodle.

Kazakhs are a Turkish people from northern parts of Central Asia and are descendants of Turkic tribes. They intrigue me.

(Ed Graney is covering the Olympics in London for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney. More Olympics coverage can be found at