There was a big announcement on Facebook last week – one that rocked the Kettlebell Sport world.
If you didn’t hear about it, the Orange Kettlebell Club (OKC) declared that starting in 2016, they will no longer offer single arm events for women at their competitions. Women will now be competing in the same traditional lifts as the men: Long Cycle and Biathlon (with two kettlebells).
While OKC events are obviously not the only ones available to athletes, the OKC is a prominent and popular organization and their latest announcement is going to affect a lot of lady lifters.
What’s my opinion on this? Well, I think it’s very interesting that men are the ones calling for “equality for women”. I think the female voice should be the loudest one heard with regards to what options they want to have in competition – hence this article.
I also think it’s important to note the women who have so far been successful in double bell events are already strong lifters who have used heavy weights in single arm events. What about those ladies just starting out in the sport? They deserve a say as well, because if women become too intimidated to try the sport, growth just isn’t going to happen.
I reached out to what I believe is a wide range of female athletes in Kettlebell Sport (which was limited to those who I could reach by Facebook, email, etc.) and asked them to share their thoughts on the OKC’s announcement. Huge thank you to everyone who contributed!
“Women’s physical strength, technique, and most importantly passion for Kettlebell Sport have been growing rapidly. Since 2008, John and I have been traveling around the world, watching and participating in the sport. The last few years we saw many women with the ability to lift double bells. We thought this is the right time to change. Many women think ‘I was almost at MS (with single Biathlon or LC). I have to start again!’ or ‘I don’t think I can lift doubles’. We did not decide the change based on individual situations or ‘men and women’s equality’ but looked at the much bigger frame of this whole sport’s direction. This is THE sport of ‘weightlifting'; it has to be a tough, hard and ‘heavy’ sport. Whether a man or a woman, everybody can lift two bells overhead if they have a healthy body. If you want to lift a single bell, it is your choice. There are still five minute single Biathlon and LC events at the OKC competitions.” – Nazo OKC
“I applaud the OKC for allowing women who wish to lift doubles to follow their dreams in a competitive venue. I only wish it didn’t come at the exclusion of OALC as this is beginning to catch on as a legitimate lift for women on the international scene. However, the truth is that if American women wish to rank internationally amongst the best in the sport, they have to learn how to snatch.” – Melissa Swanson
“One-arm biathlon and long cycle have been the foundational lifts / events for women. Kettlebell sport is about increasing reps, and if we consider the professional level (pinnacle of the sport), women will move faster under one 24kg bell than under two. North American female kettlebell sport athletes have made excellent gains in the one-arm lifts and will continue to do so. To end the competitive field of professional OA biathlon and long cycle altogether would be a shame and will not necessarily make the sport better. These events should continue to be offered alongside two-bell lifts.” – Kathryn Golbeck
“OKC abandoning single arm lifts in favor of doubles is an example of why I have always liked the idea of multiple organizations. OKC is attempting to differentiate themselves with this and cater to a specific interest. That’s not a bad thing in my opinion. However, if they have miscalculated the interest in women moving to doubles and especially at the higher weights, it could be disastrous for them long term. So, it is a risk.” – Catherine Imes
“I think that the jump from women’s OALC and OAJ to TALC and TAJ is premature. Originally women were not allowed to jerk due to the belief that it would be damaging to breast tissue. Is there science behind that? I have no idea. I think that the OALC and OAJ instituted by Valery Federenko was a very safe compromise. The sport will evolve, but let it evolve more slowly and naturally. There may come a time when single arm lifts are no longer challenging and the obvious solution would be to move on, but I doubt that time is now.” – Lorraine Patten
“I really don’t think equality for women lifters is the real issue here; that battle is over 40 years old even if it’s still playing out. I think the issue is the history of Kettlebell Sport, which is male-dominant outside the U.S., yet there are a large number of women that participate in the U.S. OKC eliminating one arm lift events sets them apart, allows women to experience different ways to compete, and may contribute to the growth and mastery of the sport in general. History tends to show us that the strong will survive! Two arm events for women? One arm events for men? Why not?” – Joyce Luke
“Respectfully, I think the move to eliminating single arm events is premature. I believe the first step is thinking about equality for all lifters at meets. If your goal is to be progressive, then offer the same options for men as for women. That is equality for women. Not eliminating events that many of us still enjoy competing in and want to see how far we can push our abilities with those heavier bells.” – Avery Wittkamp
“So the men decided to discontinue women’s OA; did their female lifters have a say or was it a select few? By just offering doubles, they state they are stopping discrimination but in fact they are discriminating with all the current female lifters that have no desire to lift the doubles and or can’t. With the IUKL starting to introduce OA events, these women are now forced to move to another organization if they ever want to lift in a world championship.” – Misty Shearer
“Having two bell events for all is the logical next step in the sport. Women’s events and men’s events should not differ. In all other sports this is goes without saying, but for some reason, some don’t like it in kettlebell sport. Here’s the thing – if you don’t like it, you can easily find OALC in several other organizations. Those who switch to traditional (2-bell) events have nothing to lose, and a few years of experience to gain before it becomes the accepted norm.” – Amanda Wegner
“I think especially with OALC, women were becoming so good and fast at it that many organizations had to increase the kettlebell weight to 28kg. Well, to me 28kg sitting on one arm overhead or even in rack is heavy. Yes, I could do it, but it is much more taxing on my body than lifting 2x16kg (which totals 32kg). We can lift doubles with less weight sitting on each arm (less taxing on the joints), yet actually lift more total weight – which I think is brilliant.” – Katarina Cmanovska
“After the shock wore off I felt bittersweet. I am still processing it but I think it’s a good move overall. OALC isn’t going away thanks to BOLT. I’ve been practicing TALC for years and now there is a platform for it. My feelings about being ‘granted equality’ are complicated. The politics in this sport drives me nuts. Because of it my event is being eliminated when I am ‘this’ close to MS – so not happy about that. I wonder how many women were actually clamoring for this decision and outcome.” – Shermayne Shepherd
“Quality of reps first. I have nothing against double bells for women, or singles for men for that matter–lift whatever you want–but elimination of an event before many folks have mastered it to begin with seems premature.” – Jennifer Cord
“The opportunity for women to be allowed to lift double bells, to me, is great. OKC took a step forward for women who prefer TALC and TAJ by deciding they would only host double bell long cycle and biathlon events. When people are uncomfortable with decisions or change, rationale goes out the window and the inflammatory remarks start flying. Most people don’t realize that this announcement wasn’t intended to degrade OALC or OAJ events, it was meant to open yet another door for women in the sport.” – Chelsey Marr
“I’m all for equality but don’t take away the events that women kettlebellers have been working years towards mastering. Yes add a category for doubles for women, but add it to the events we already have. If we want the sport to grow as a whole, eliminating events is not the answer. I would even say add a OALC category for men as well. The more accessible we can make it for new athletes the better. No matter what, achieving Master of Sport in any event is an impressive feat.” – Corissa Sivorot
“I have lifted double bells my whole kettlebell training life. I do so because I didn’t think it was fair that I should be told what I should or shouldn’t lift. I personally think the path OKC has taken to be very bold and forward thinking. It is fantastic, and the future of Kettlebell Sport for women. As with any choice, not everyone is going to be happy. Although I do believe to push forward in the sport it needed to be done at some stage.” – Jessica Wadd
“Personally, the announcement will not impact my training or goals. I enjoy the single arm events and I am still working on my technique and proficiency up to 24kg. From the moment I began the sport it has been my goal to develop one arm proficiency before considering two arm events. Although it will be sad to have fewer opportunities to present my work and effort on a large stage platform, it is good to know that when (and if) I decide to compete in two arm events there will be options that exist for me to compete.” – Cynthia Roulston
“I don’t understand the need to eliminate. I am one of those CMS in LC that is striving to reach MS; and after IUKL worlds in November I’ll return my focus to that goal. Until we have many woman obtaining MS with one bell, why should we be moving to two? I won’t be joining the movement.” – Teri Stabler
“The new opportunities for women to compete with two bells, are simply that — opportunities. In my mind, formally offering two bell events for women within the competitive landscape makes focused training with doubles a legitimate expenditure of energy and time. There will still be plenty of events that will offer one-arm lifts, simply through other organizations. Pragmatically, fewer events will increase competitiveness at meets. The only downside may be an increased ‘incubation’ or training period before beginning athletes are ready for their first competition.” – Jessica Gorman
“The problem may emerge that OKC has further divided the sport. Now we have BOLT, 5-minute events, IUKL Classic Championships and, what, OKC-style? The fact remains that only one organization will take women to a World Championship competition, and they have only just started including OALC (with 16kg) as the second qualifier event for Women. More power to the OKC for initiating this change, but now it comes down to us women lifters to represent ourselves and each other as we make our way toward personal goals.” – Christian Goldberg
“On a global scale, this change has little meaning. After all, the only way a woman can currently win a world championship is if she snatches. And while that will probably change, it will take years. So what’s all the fuss about? Find the lift that you enjoy, train smart, and compete where and when you can.” – Sara Moore
“While women are fully capable of competing with two bells, I think that it could discourage beginners from competing in anything but snatch if they were to have to use two bells for long cycle and jerk. It would also be a hard adjustment for women who aren’t used to training and competing with doubles.” – Miranda Robbeloth
“First – when I read that this decision was made by men (majority), I wanted to laugh. Perfect misogyny there; perfect irony. Second – I understand that Aaron, who I respect, wants to open doors for his lifters, but in this search for equality there is exclusion. We are in the infancy of KB Sport in the U.S., so let’s include everyone who want to participate. OALC makes this approachable for all.” – Wendy Barsky Price
“Women should pursue higher numbers in one arm events with heavier bells (20,24,28 kg). There aren’t many women who can lift 120+ repetitions in LC or Jerk lifts. If you have more people in the same category with higher numbers, competitions will be more interesting to watch and the sport will grow.” – Ivana Goricki
“Hearing that OKC is eliminating one arm events for women is disheartening and makes me feel like everything I have done thus far isn’t good enough. Lifting the 16k @ 14 rpm for 10 minutes is moving 4,900 pounds; lifting double 16k’s @ 6 rpm for 10 minutes is moving 4,200 pounds. Which is more impressive? I could see this change if the majority of women at competitions were lifting the 24k at MS rank. We are not there yet, and need I say ‘fixometer anyone’.” – Sue Danneker
“Personally, I am excited about moving to double bells. Structurally, I feel it is better for the body to be lifting a more even load with two bells than being lopsided lifting one very heavy bell. I do think that there should be a longer time given to phase it out so that those who are currently working on a rank/goal can have time to accomplish what they set out to do.” – Sara Lee
“The elimination of single arm events for women in the OKC does not affect me directly, as I do not choose to lift under that federation. What does concern me, however, is the fact that this abrupt change in the OKC regarding women’s participation in Long Cycle events has been led by and made by men. If women are being affected by the change, shouldn’t women be the ones to lead the charge? I also feel this short-sighted decision only further divides our sport, rather than uniting it under one standard.” – Renee Martynuik
“I actually see the removal of OA lifts for women potentially setting the sport back and dividing us more. Internationally the sport is moving in the right direction, perhaps slower than some people would like but progress is progress.” – Linda Gilmour
“If you look at other sports, there are not many where the sport differs for each gender, even if the standards are gender-specific. I see a lot of male voices in social media commenting about the change and it’s a reminder that the rules for women, for better or for worse, are created by men. I hope the conversation around competition guidelines will lead to more women chiming in.” – Phoebe Lee
“While the ‘Equality for Women’ mantra has its moral and philosophical appeal, I really think it’s just savvy marketing by the OKC. And, given the dramatic increase in available competitions with varying rules and events in the U.S., I expect that they will be successful in attracting their intended demographic and will help continue the sport’s growth.” – Sherry Murphy
“I believe the reason more Western women than men currently take up Kettlebell Sport is because we can work and compete with a single bell. It is daunting enough for a woman who is a beginner to consider competing with one bell, much less two. I am all for experienced women lifting doubles if they wish, but we need more competitors in each weight category lifting high numbers with one 16kg, 20kg and 24kg.” – Clara O’Connor
“I really love that the guys support double bells for women. It makes me feel good to know that men see that women are strong and not these delicate little flowers. However, I still enjoy doing the single arm and secretly hope they keep them in.” – Vero Talamantez
“Change usually comes with growing pains. Some will like it, some will not. That is how we grow, evolve. OKC is their own club. Their club, their rules, right? Their members have the right to leave the OKC at any point they choose. If you want to be part of a club/federation you follow their rules or leave.” – Edwina Horn
“The evolution of programs never comes at a good time. But we move on adapt and grow from these changes. I think this is a move toward the future.” – Kim Fox
“Consistency, consistency, consistency. No matter who you are, male or female, diligent and patient work ethics are rewarded and acknowledged by ANY accredited organization. New techniques, or in this case a ‘new discipline’ for anyone to perform will take time to become organized. Putting all personal vendettas aside for the continual growth and evolution of Girevoy Sport in terms of female athletes is the most important goal I believe we ALL share.” – Maritza Dudenhoeffer
“I’ve been training OALC since I began competing three years ago at age 49. I have always supplemented training with double jerk and LC because I entered the KB world through an RKC door. I’m glad double LC will be out there at some venues when I’m ready. For now I am trying not to feel the need to prove something or rush to double LC and derail my OALC goal with the 20kg.” – Katherine Hartmann
“I don’t see have a problem with woman doing two bells. I have actually been doing it for years. My concern is taking away OALC for woman who are new to sport, and the women who may try to go extremely heavy. Where does that leave us small gals? I am open to trailblazing and all things new, but why take away not add to a great organization?” – Donica Storino
“Women have had a voice, which led to TA events at IKFF competitions, and the development of a rank table (IKFF) with TA events for women. I think the new OKC events add to the options available to female lifters, not a step toward the demise of OALC. Unfortunately, right now all of the options are only being provided at a few events. Teams with female athletes interested in TA events and others in OA events will have limited options if they want to compete at the same venue.” – Christina Danos
“I feel that OALC and TALC should both be included. We are trying to encourage women into the sport and due to some woman’s anatomy they physically can’t do double bells as can’t get into rack position.” – Kathleen Cleary
“I was surprised to hear about OKC’s elimination of one arm events. Unfortunately, I think that by eliminating them completely, it may discourage women from competing at all. I would love to see more women achieve 100+ high quality reps in 10min w/the 24kg bell in one arm lifts before the consideration of adding any more events.” – Sayaka Torra
“I’ve been competing OALC for the last 1.5 years. While I LOVE the ability to add double long cycle to my list of options, I’m on a solid path to MS in OALC. Removing the OALC option feels a little like the time I spent training could be considered wasted. It won’t stop me–I’ll continue working on my technique in all of the Kettlebell Sport modalities, and competing where I can give my best platform performance.” – Jessica Nelson
“I enjoy working with double bells and incorporate them into my training, but I don’t have a desire to compete with them right now. I am focused on my snatch goals, and the success of my students. As a coach I have some female athletes who love lifting double bells, and others who find it uncomfortable because of their body type. I’d like to see other issues we have in our sport, like 5 minute ranks eliminated before we change and add more confusion.” – Kelsie Minder
“First and foremost, I have the utmost respect and admiration for women who choose to embark upon the advancement to perform TALC. However, in my opinion the call for “eliminating” the single arm lift seems a harsh and drastic decision. Let the women who want and can play at the higher level add TALC but don’t take away goals from the rest of us who are progressing steadily towards a very carefully planned goal.” – Valerie Pawlowski
“Personally I don’t think we should be trying to have equality. I have seen many women that need more work on their one arm events with technique and fundamentals so I don’t see taking away an event that women haven’t fully mastered yet and now giving them two bells to do the same thing. I see this causing injury in the future to athletes who are simply not ready to work two bells but still try. I think it’s great that some comps have double bells for women but this should be for fun while still keeping the one arm events.” – Jenna Brian
“In one respect it’s great for the sport to show equality of the sexes. But on the other hand, to remove the one arm component that every female has been working so hard for seems ludicrous. The IUKL have just agreed to allow women’s OALC into worlds in 2016, but the OKC has decided to eliminate it from competition? I know it’s progressive but it will change the playing field forever.” – Christine Broadhead
“As an up and coming kettlebell lifter, I can absolutely understand the frustration from some of the talented ladies who have spent years training for single arm events. That being said, although it seems like an abrupt decision, I think that double bell lifts are a natural and inevitable evolution of the sport for women. Personally, doubles feel better on my body because of the symmetry and I am looking forward to taking on the new challenge.” – Kristen Karhio
“I support Orange Kettlebell Club’s decision, as I have been treated with true respect by them at every turn, even as a newcomer. I trust implicitly that they are acting out of deep consideration for everyone involved – including but not limited to the female athletes. I am sure at this time last year I would have been frustrated to hear that my preferred event was being changed, but I am excited to compete in the same format as men!” – Michelle Morales
“I think there aren’t enough women competing with the heavier weights (20 and 24kg) to make it a reasonable change. We don’t typically train with doubles, so we aren’t immediately prepared to compete with them. If single arm events are removed for women, it will take time to change technique to better suit double bells.” – Rylee Reeves
“I am thrilled with the inclusion of TALC for women in the KetAcademy ranking tables. It’s been my focus in training for the last two years, and to finally have it recognized as an official event is a victory for women and for the advancement of the sport. I was initially saddened that OALC and OAJ were downgraded to 5-minute events, because they have great value as goals for those new to the sport. As GS can be intimidating for novice lifters, single-arm events provide a great introduction to the biomechanics of the basic lifts.” – Tricia Dong
If you would like to (positively) contribute to this discussion, please comment below.