Polini VS Iakimenko

Many of you know who Ivan Iakimenko is. A young footbag player with loads of potential, a top-notch footbag stitcher, a talented footbag film editor, an inventor/innovator, etc… The dude is a saint in this community, from going to tournaments with an injury, unable to play, but filming the entire jam so others can enjoy it, to supplying pristine bags to so many players around the world. I had the privilege of being his room mate 2 years ago and I got to see a little deeper into what makes this awesome kid tick. I had a little chat-style interview with him so you can also get to know him better and take a trip into Ivan’s head for a bit. I hope you enjoy.

– Nick Polini

Hey, Ivan!

hi Nick!

How are you doing this fine evening?

I’m doing quite well, thank you!

Splendid! Let’s get this show on the road! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure! I was born in St Petersburg Russia and moved to the states when I was 2. I played hacky sack in high school and grabbed my first pair of lavers without knowing about footbag. I am currently studying engineering at Penn State, which is where I met Nick Polini, who showed me what footbag was. Right now I’m still recovering from my Achilles injury, but I have been enjoying spending the time editing footage and making footbags.

My name is Nick Polini, too! Small world.. Huge bummer about the Achilles injury. How much longer until you can play footbag again?

I should be back around mid December if things go well. Btw, Nick is a pretty weird guy. Just putting that out there

Well, that’s not too far off. Must be nice to see a light at the end of the tunnel finally. How long were you out for and if you don’t mind sharing, how did you get injured?

I was playing Net in the doubles semifinals at the PA Net championships (first time playing) and I tore it. I haven’t been counting how long I’ve been out, but I think it’s been about 4 months now?

Oi. It can be tough not being able to do one of your favorite activities. But you seem to have been very positive about the whole thing. What kind of stuff have you been doing in the meantime?

Well, I’ve been spending a lot of time stitching bags for people. Since I like to make stuff in general, stitching is a nice relaxing activity that is footbag related, gets me a little bit of money, and lets me create cool things with my hands. I’ve also been going through a good bit of footage that I had stockpiled on my hard drive and putting out some videos. I’m slowly trying to improve the quality of my work and really enjoy learning new techniques in video production. Right now I’m working on an ECFC video, as well as a few other projects that people have supplied footage for.

In non-footbag related activities, I really enjoy biking and have started to hike a bit. I also like to make a wide variety of things with my hands. I’ve carved sticks, drawn pictures, and am currently working on building a small town on a model train layout on campus.

WOW! Sounds like you’ve been absolutely crushing it with other things! I should probably just state that you really do make some of the best bags in the world. Right up on the same pedestal with Marco, Bear, and Hania. I actually used one of your bags today in my session. I’ll also say that I taught Ivan to stitch footbags, back when we were room mates, and his first bag was visibly so much better than my 80something’th bag. I could tell he had an immediate knack for it. And your videos… words can’t describe them well enough so others can understand how great they really are… you just have to watch them for yourself, people. Your coverage of River Rock Jam ’13 in Richmond, VA was just incredible. Glad you’re able to hike and bike again. That’s gotta be a good sign. I know lots of people are excited for your return to footbag. You even had a tribute video made for you to assist you in a healthy recovery. What was your initial reaction to that?

Thanks for the compliments! When that video went live, I was really surprised. I didn’t expect so many people, even players who I had never met to take the time to put something together for me. It was really humbling and it was a great lift at the time. I still enjoy watching that video every now and then – it is awesome to be a part of a community that close knit.

Absolutely agree with you on the tight knit community. You even went to East Coast Footbag Championships and filmed the entire thing from start to finish, basically! That was seriously cool of you to do. What was your personal favorite highlight of that jam?

Hmm, that’s a tough question. I think my favorite aspect was seeing everyone again and meeting the Cali crew for the first time. I’m usually too busy shredding or filming at tournaments and this time I managed to hang out with some people, at least for a little bit. Let’s be honest, that was the main reason I went, not to film or sell bags, although it’s cool that I got to do both.

Yeah, you Penn Staters haven’t really been able to meet anyone from the West Coast or other distant lands. Must have been pretty cool. Very sick that the Cali guys came out. I knew Bear from a previous jam, but it was cool to finally meet Derek. Oh wait, unlike the other PSU kickers, you did meet plenty of non-eastcoast players at Worlds. What was that experience like for you?

Worlds was an eye opener for sure. First of all, I had never been to a week long event, and even though everyone there kept saying that “attendance is down, ect” it was the biggest footbag competition I had ever been to. It changed my perception of footbag in about 2 minutes. First off, this was my first time seeing players like Honza, Aleksi and Felix live. One of my first circles was with Ken and Aleksi and man oh man, I couldn’t do a single clipper. It was unreal. That event inspired me to kick my butt into high gear to get better and was the driving force behind my improvements for the better part of last year. At the same time it was really sweet to see how approachable everyone was, even if I wasn’t confident enough to approach them. On the first night, I was playing Cards against humanity with Evan, Ken, Aleksi, Chris, and a whole bunch of awesome people I had literally just met an hour or two ago. These were people who I had spent hours watching videos of, studying how they did atomics or how they timed their double downs, and here we were drinking and BSing in a university dorm in Montreal. The amount of great tips I got there was staggering as well – having been in relative isolation in State College, it was amazing to have people like Ianek and Evan help me with butterflies and clipper form. Lastly, I also realized that I was worth more to the community as someone who filmed the competition rather than a competitor and that has been the inspiration that drives me to get better with video production to this day. Granted, I still want to get good at playing.

Yeah man, I remember how quick those Worlds ’13 videos went up on youtube. Of course, I did get a behind-the-scenes look at you actually uploading them, since we were housemates for Worlds. But I think that was probably the quickest any Worlds (or any jam) footage has ever gone public. Very helpful. I feel like it made non-attenders feel like they were almost at Worlds that year, since the footage was only delayed by a few hours sometimes. It’s relieving to hear you say that you do want to get back into it and start getting good again. Let’s get into some real footbaggy talk, now that we covered some of the background stuff. What trick/component do you look foreword to coming back to the most?

I’ve been thinking about plasma a lot, mostly because I enjoy both components a lot. Right before I got injured I worked a lot on both parts and think I should be able to get back on track to making that trick as easy as a ripwalk or something.

Plasma is so sick. I remember you getting close to Quantum ss Double Down before your injury. I could see both being easy tricks for you soon enough. What are your top 5 favorite tricks?

Are these tricks I can do, or just in general?

In general…Who’s interviewing who? ๐Ÿ˜›

Lets, see – I’m a fan of blizzard and blurriest, and I’ve been wanting to hit full symp toe blurrier for a bit now. I also enjoy Scorps Tail and Mullet

Quite a list. How about your top 5 favorite playas?

That list changes quite often. These are not in any specific order: Dave, Evan, Pipebomb, Aleksi, Chris (Chinsen). If you ask me this in a week, I will probably give you a different list, depending on the videos I have been watching.

Awesome list. All worthy of a top 5. What’s your take on the current Laver extinction/shred shoe crisis?

oof. That’s a loaded question. I think it’s a shame they aren’t up to par anymore, but it was going to happen eventually. I really hope this drives the community to figure out a solution, but in the mean time we just have to make do with what we have at hand, even it if means branching out and using whatever shoes we have on hand – modded running shoes, older tennis shoes, random stuff kinda like what the net guys do. I think it’s a cool challenge to find a suitable shoe, but it’s also an annoying situation when a beginner asks about shoes. At the moment, I’m just working on resoling old lavers to give them more use

Yes, the resoling jobs you do on Lavers are quite nice. I might need to talk to you about that sometime soon. Please pick up a footbag from your desk, throw it behind you, and let us know what it lands on?

Well, I’m at my parents house right now so I don’t actually have any bags on me desk *looks around in embarrassment* I’ve got a small plastic bag of lead shot I can toss.
And it hit the most expensive thing in the room.

When your parents ask why their expensive thing is broken, will you tell your parents that Nick had nothing to do with this?

I nailed the quadcopter sitting in the corner of my room. It’s fine, but I haven’t flown it in over a year so this might be a sign that I should get it back in the air and filming footbag stuff… My parents don’t care ๐Ÿ™‚

I think we always talked about it, but not sure if it’s been done by you yet… Have you filmed footbag from bird’s-eye-view with the quadcopter yet?

Yes – I have some footage of a person dropping a bag a lot at old Main. I’ve also done some more non-footbag flying to hone my skills. It’s still a bit nerve racking flying around people to be honest. Plus current legislation is a bit prohibitive and I’m waiting for the FAA to give it’s ruling on personal SUAVs – until that happens, most places ban me from flying with a camera on board.
spoiler alert – there may or may not be aerial footage for the Jamps trailer I’m starting to plan out

We should just tell the FAA to go to bed and let us fly our robotic helicopters in peace. I do hope they end up allowing you to fly and film soon. I’m stoked for Jamps! Readers, If you’re not stoked for Jamps, like I am, then you are wrong. Speaking of helicopters, what are some of your biggest dream tricks in footbag?

Nice segway.

Mall cops have nicer Segways

Mall cops suck because they kick you out for playing “hacky sack and being dangerous” Drew and Ryan can back me up. But yeah, dream tricks. I would like to eventually hit alpine fusion rake when I get good… I just think it would look super sick. I would also like to get fairy gyro symple dyno.ย Both sides, obviously.
At this point, I would give a lot just to hit a decent butterfly though.

Wow. I have never even thought of those combinations of components before. Very interesting. So what’s good with the PSU crew this year?

PSU is doing well – we have a bit of an off year in terms of membership – we have a few new members but they are progressing slower than I am used to. However, it’s just as fun when they show up to kick and you can see the dedication and enjoyment which is the important thing. The established members are getting better very quickly and that is encouraging. We are planning a fun jam for Halloween and have set the dates for PSU Jamps V.

That will be a fun tourney April 4-5th with a shorter competition schedule than last year, allowing more time for fun shred, party shenanigans and hiking/geocaching.

Awesome! Readers, you heard the man.. I would adjust your schedules accordingly. We had 40+ shredders/shreditas at Jamps IV last year. It was HUGE. This year will surely be just as much fun, if not.. dare I say.. MORE? Awesome to hear that the club is still illin’ it. What are a few goals you have for footbag?

Personally, I’d like to get back to shredding and be doing basic 2 adds by the time the year ends. After that, I just want to have fun – often that means drilling to get better, but I also aim to step back and see if I’m having fun. Sometimes we get lost in our training and ambitions and the game loses a lot of its appeal. In terms of stitching, I would like to make a few non standard patterns, keep making bags that people enjoy, and make some more cool 92 panel patterns. For video editing, my goal is to have a video for the christmas calendar, and maybe a few for the dead weeks that follow it. I want to keep experimenting with different angles and editing processes to make my videos more entertaining for both the general public and footbaggers alike. Overall, I just want to have fun and kick with all of the cool people I have met in the past three years. I don’t really care about competing.

Great goals. I wish you the best of luck in accomplishing all of them. I’m looking forward to shredding with you again. It’s been too long, man. Anyway, looks like the interview is just about over. Do you have any final words/things to say/thanks you’s/etc…?

Yeah, I suppose I’ll say a big thanks to everyone who has messaged me and talked, whether it be footbag, life or random stuff. Thank you Nick and Nate for getting me started in footbag and introducing me to this awesome community. Lastly, I would like to say thank you to Jay and Mads for making sweet edits – you guys do fantastic work that becomes the face of the sport whenever I have to explain it to others. Also, big thanks to everyone who does the little things for the sport – without your efforts, the sport wouldn’t be where it is today. Peace out shredders, hopefully I get to meet and kick with everyone of you at some point.

Ivan, my dude, it’s been a total pleasure staying up past my bed time and conducting this interview with you. I really enjoyed it. Thanks so much for your time. We both deserve some ice cream now.

Yes. I’ll go get some. Thanks for doing this, it’s an honor to be on BSOS.

You’re beyond worthy of it, buddy.

Ivan on YouTube and Modified

Written by Nick Polini
Picture by Asmus Helms

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