Kramer: Ha ha, the Ukraine. Do you know what the Ukraine is? It's a sitting duck. A road apple, Newman. The Ukraine is weak. It's feeble. I think it's time to put the hurt on the Ukraine.
Ukrainian: I come from Ukraine. You not say Ukraine weak.
-- Seinfeld, The Label Maker (1995)
Taya, Trading Dead Lifts for Dead Money
Taya Kuznetsova hasn't watched much Seinfeld since coming to the United States three years ago, but she'll attest that the Ukraine isn't weak. In fact pound for pound (or kilo for kilo) she's one of the strongest women to come out of the country.
Kuznetsova is a six time World Powerlifting Champion, but you wouldn't know it looking at the petite, attractive blonde who's taking her competitive nature to the poker table. And while poker and powerlifting seem diametrically opposed there are similarities.
"Powerlifting isn't just physical, it's mental also," says the 105 lb (48 kilos) weight class champion, "Before you go for an attempt you have to forget about everything. You go inside yourself and go and lift."
Kuznetsova is relatively new to poker and this is her first time playing in a big series like the Borgata Winter Poker Open. "I've been playing great," she says before Day 2 of the Championship event, "but, I've been getting such bad beats," she says about her other tournaments in the series.
Kuznetsova, who earned her seat through a satellite qualifier, made it through Day 1 with her initial starting stack of 30k, but it's a cooler, not a bad beat, that sends her home. She's crippled early in the day when her QQ runs into KK and is out a short time later.
"I love this game," she says, "it reminds me of life. There's lots of psychology and reading people. You also have to be able to overcome adversity."
Kuznetsova is now living in New York City and outside of her poker hobby, she's pursuing a career in modeling and acting and powerlifting is on the back burner.
While there's a limited future in the sport, which is different than Olympic weightlifting, Kuznetsova's stats are impressive. In addition to her World Powerlifting Federation (WPF) titles, she holds several world records including these personal bests:
Squats: 407 lbs
Bench Press: 240 lbsDead Lift: 396 lbs
So the next time you play against her in a tournament, be careful check-raising Kuznetsova, she's probably stronger than you are.
Kuzentsova, Ukraine Strong