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Obscure sport-tastic! Harrogate leads way in world

World Kettlebell Sport number three - Chris Guyll of Harrogate at his Big Kat gym.  (1801152AM2)
World Kettlebell Sport number three - Chris Guyll of Harrogate at his Big Kat gym. (1801152AM2)

A quiet Harrogate hero in a non-descript building in Hornbeam Park is leading the way in one of the world’s hottest new sporting disciplines.

Based in his own Big Kat gym, for the last three years Chris Guyll has been teaching Kettlebell Sport, a demanding cousin of weightlifting.
Once regarded as a novelty, it’s not an Olympic sport yet but it’s well on the way to becoming one and Chris is the ideal man to give classes in this fast-rising sport.At the age of 44, this Starbeck father of two, is currently the British champion in his age category and won a bronze medal in the last World Kettlebell Sport Championships held in South Korea.
Chris, who also runs his own engineering business, says Kettlebell Sport is an under-rated discipline which not only improves fitness but brings people together.
“The classes are usually a 50-50 split between men and women.
“We’re not like a commercial gym. We like to think of it as a family.
“We also organise social get-togethers and hold charity events. People become friends.
“Although it seems like it’s upper body-based, it builds up total body strength, which appeals to a cross-section of people.”
Having set up Big Kat with co-owner and fellow martial arts expert Chanelle McGill in 2010, Chris now works with some of the leading sports groups in the Harrogate district, including Knaresborough RUFC, the Harrogate Harriers’ junior section and Harrogate RUFC’s Pythons squad.
Originally invented in Russia, this endurance weightlifting skill which involves the swinging of peculiar looking, ultra-heavy weights with a bulbous shape, first started gaining popularity in Britain less than ten years ago.
The two main disciplines of the sport are the biathlon, comprising two separate events, the jerk and the snatch, and the long-cycle which is clean and jerk.
Formerly a Thai kickboxing champion who competed round the world, Chris has become a key figure in the move towards Kettlebell Sport in his own country.
Big Kat is a small club doing big things in the wider world.
It has already hosted the GSU’s British Championships for the past two years at, firstyl, Harrogate High School and, then, Rossett School.
And this hard-working athlete has also travelled all round the UK running beginners’ competitions, too.
Chris, whose next goal is to step up from the 24kg category to the 32kg, said: “The Russians are still the best, so I will be lucky to qualify first time round.
“It’s quite a hard sport. Every time you compete all you want to do after six to seven minutes is put them down!
"You have to pace yourself or you just burn out.”

Harrogate's British champion Chris Guyll in his Big Kat gym. (1801152AM1)

Harrogate's British champion Chris Guyll in his Big Kat gym. (1801152AM1)