Oli Mell training with kettlebell

An outdoor gym owner from Nantwich has scooped gold and silver at the little-known Kettlebell World Championships in France.

Oli Mell, who runs Wolfpack Fitness near Snugburys, flew to Lyon last week to compete in the tournament.

And the former Royal Marines Commando walked away one gold and one silver medal.

Oli set up his own outdoor gym in January 2019, just weeks before the Covid pandemic and lockdown.

But they emerged from that to host their first UK outdoor competition in June – and his gym business has not looked back.

He has been training with kettlebells since 2008 and did his first competition in 2012 in America.

Now, five years after leaving the Marines in 2016, he has been crowned the IKMF World Champion.

“Even through I won a World Championship online during lockdown it didn’t feel the same and this was something I was really driven towards,” said Oli.

“As I trained harder and longer with kettlebells I wanted to get the best information for myself and my clients.

“I started looking at more and more qualifications and first found Steve Cottor and the IKFF.

“It was an American company and he was in the UK to do a trainers certificate course.

“I have always been into sports and am very competitive so I ended up flying on my own to Detroit in 2012 to take part in the IKFF open championships.

“I was only competing with 2x16kg bells but I won my group and ended up with two gold medals.”

IKMF kettlebell champs in Lyon
Oli winning at IKMF kettlebell champs in Lyon

Oli then spent four years as a Royal Marine Commando, leaving in 2016 when his daughter was born.

“I needed that buzz and that drive to really push myself so I started looking for competitions and found the EKA (English Kettlebell Association) had formed since I was away.

“From my first grass routes competition I never looked back.

“The standard had really shot up in my absence and I had to work hard to get to the top of the national circuit.”

Oli hired a coach and developed a programme to help him get to the top nationally.

He went to Spain in 2017 for the IKMF Marathon Championships and won a silver medal, second to fellow Brit Attila Kunn.

He had more success in Denmark in 2018 at the a European Championships, winning two gold medals and a silver.

He went on to achieve a CMS rank (Certified Master of Sports), allowing him compete in the open/professional group.

“This was stepping up against the best of the best,” he said.

“In 2019 I was just opening my gym and took bronze medal.

“From there life got very hectic. I had just opened my own gym, and we were hit with the first lockdown. It was a very hard time.

“The gym was just starting out so there wasn’t a huge amount of help available.

“My partner is a nurse in critical care at Royal Stoke so she was almost always at work.

“I was having to home school our daughter and at the same time stopping the gym from collapsing.”

kettlebell training
kettlebell training

Zoom sessions and online competitions kept Oli motivated until they can open up again.

“The gym started growing and I could throw myself into my training.

“It was only when I started placing first and second at online events against the top lifters in the world I realised I had a chance of getting to the top.

“I had won my event online the year before, but in my eyes I wasn’t the champion until I did it on a platform against the best in the world.”

And that’s what he did, beating a Spanish rival.

“The first 20 minutes I knew I was going fast, I managed to keep my pace for another 20 minutes and then I really hit a wall.

“I slowed down, started to lose my technique and really struggled.

“When there was 10 minutes left I still had a chance.

“My team mates were screaming at me to keep going and I gave that little extra to finish it off.

“It’s a great feeling to know you’ve climbed to the top.

“Even though it’s not a well known sport to say your the World Champion. That’s something.”

group training with kettlebell
Club training

His gym how runs a kettlebell club with a number of promising lifters hoping to make the England team.

“I know I’ve got more in me, now it’s up to me to stay hungry and working again for next year,” added Oli.

Kettlebell sports is traditionally a peasant and farmers sport, and became an official competitive event in the 1980s.

It started with a traditional biathlon, combining the “double jerk” two bells cleaned to the rack position and pressed overhead like an Olympic jerk motion, and the “snatch” one bell thrown between the legs and locked up over head again.

More events have emerged as it has grown.

Watch a video of Oli in the recent World Championships, below:

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