I first met Abadjiev 12 years ago when I traveled to Bulgaria. I appreciated the legacy that was Bulgarian weightlifting and the fact that Abajiev was chiefly responsible for its success, but I no idea who this man was or how impactful he would later become on my life.
Initially, I tried to implement his system of weightlifting in the United States by funding a non-profit called American Weightlifting. I wrote Visa invitations for him and three other Bulgarian athletes. After training with him for more than a year... It became clear that importing Bulgarian weightlifting strategies was a flawed concept but what I ended up learning from Abadjiev was so much more powerful than the Bulgarian System of training.
In fact, I ended up modeling California Strength on his idea that you could take an incredibly under resourced, insignificant place and turn it into a center of excellence. Bulgaria was one of the poorest countries in Eastern Europe, with a population of roughly 6 million people and it ended up rivaling the Soviet Union for weightlifting supremacy during his coaching tenure. California Strength is a 4,000 sq. ft warehouse in San Ramon that has always aimed to emulate that same irrational optimism and maintain those same unrealistic expectations for ourselves.
Abadjiev truly believed that nothing was impossible and I am so grateful for the time that we spent together; his presence, his sense of humor and his ability to inspire greatness through fear, compassion and love remain guiding principles of my coaching efforts. Most people only know the legend, I had the opportunity to know the man and that was an experience that I will always treasure.
Rest in peace Uncle.