Longform

THE FLYING LEININGER BROTHERS

Page 6 of 6

Competition, on the other hand, is not funny.
On the mat at the Grand Canyon Games, Bryan is locked in battle with a man built like one of those pineapple-shaped palm trees one sees around the Valley. His opponent weighs in at 454 pounds, more than twice what Bryan weighs, but Bryan attacks relentlessly, nonetheless.

It's a frustrating fight. Every time Bryan wraps a knee around the behemoth's leg, the big man simply leans forward and drives Bryan into the mat. Bryan grimaces in pain, but wriggles free, and attacks over and over until the referees have had enough and throw in the bean bag that signals the end of the match. As luck would have it, at that exact instant, Bryan manages to throw the big man, cartwheeling him off the mat as referees and spectators scatter to avoid being crushed. Bryan is judged the winner.

A friend on the sidelines shouts advice: "Next time, Bryan, throw down a ham sandwich."

Christophe is more circumspect. "He fought you good, Bryan, and he's happy with that," he says, before launching into a critique of Bryan's strategy.

Then it's time for Christophe's rematch against his earlier opponent; in judo competition, you have to beat your man twice in the finals. Christophe seems tired. He gets to the point. In the very first seconds of the match, he reaches around his opponent's back, grabs his belt, and pops him off the ground. As the other man goes into orbit, Christophe jumps. The two men spin as one, hanging forever in the air, then dropping as if an afterthought, landing with a sodden crunch as the opponent's back hits the mat. Christophe rides him down like he's falling into an easy chair, his mind already moving on to the next match.

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Michael Kiefer