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Arm Wrestling

Current Australian national champion in the 70kg Division

When was the first time you arm wrestled?
The first time I can remember is against my brother when I was 11 years old. We got on the floor and we couldn’t beat one another, so we just called it a draw.
How did you get involved in it competitively?
When I was in Year 10 or 11, although I was pretty average at most sports, I found I could beat about 80 per cent of the guys I arm wrestled. I was drawn to it after that, so I started researching it on the Internet. I found out it was a professional sport, so I began training for it. By the time Year 12 came around I had a bit of a reputation as “The Arm Wrestler” – we’d go to parties or a pub and I’d beat virtually everyone.
After high school I stopped training for it, but in 2011 I saw there was an Australian competition. I came up against this Latvian arm wrestler named Martins Lorencis, who was a six-time Latvian champion, and he absolutely destroyed me – I had no idea what happened! That was a big eye-opener. It all went from there. I was very surprised, but that was also the first time I’d arm wrestled a pro, and the technique, speed, and intensity caught me off guard.
Please list your achievements.
>2012: I went to Brazil for the World Arm Wrestling Championships. I was placed 12th out of 24.
>I’m the current Australian national champion in the 70kg Division.
>I was invited to Malaysia for some supermatches [see sidebar on p.62 for definition] and I beat the best of Singapore in the Under 80kg Division.
>I’m an 11-time state champion, ranging across different states and weight divisions.
What’s it like going up against the world’s elite?
I was fortunate to learn from some really passionate and enthusiastic guys. I got tips from the women as well! I didn’t compete against any of the women but I spoke to guys who have trained with both me and Sarah Bäckman, the 70kg world champion, who’s a Swedish girl, and they said it’s possible she could beat me.
What are the qualities of a good arm wrestler?
Speed: You’ve got to be really quick.
Endurance: The ability to hang in there for a long time and not get fatigued is critical, especially in the supermatch or tournament formats.
Experience: Knowing what to do, or what not to do, in certain situations against particular opponents.
Focus: A positive mindset. You need to be confident. If you get scared or intimidated by your opponent then you aren’t gonna perform 100 per cent.
Strength: Your strength has to be in the correct areas. Everyone thinks it’s about big biceps but it actually goes the other way – from the fingers back.
Which part of the arm most comes into play?
People might generally go, “He has massive biceps, so he’s gonna win.” While biceps are important, the first point of contact in an arm wrestle is the hand. If you can control someone’s hand, a lot of the time you can control the match and beat the guy. In order of importance: fingers, hand, wrist, forearm, biceps, lats, triceps.
How hard is it to compete with your non-dominant arm?
Initially it is hard. Most arm wrestlers do both categories but prefer one arm over the other. I train my left all the time, so even though I don’t eat food with it or use it for everyday stuff, I can compete with it.
What’s the format of a tournament?
All Aussie state-level tournaments are broken into weight categories: Under 80kg, Under 95kg, 95kg+. For each of those, there is a left and a right arm category. As far as the format goes, it’s double-elimination, so you’re out of the comp if you lose twice. The order of the day is in sequence of weight class.
How does reffing work?
The competitors take their sides, the ref says, “Take your grip”, and the opponents have 30 seconds to do so. A fair grip means wrists must be straight, arms must be central to the table on both axes, and knuckles must be visible. If that doesn’t happen within 30 seconds, it goes to a referee’s grip – there are two refs, and they’ll set the opponents’ hands. If that doesn’t work, that’ll result in a foul. Even if you get an inch higher than an opponent, it’s a huge advantage. A ‘slip’ is where the grip slips and the opponents’ hands come apart. This could be either intentional or unintentional. The referee will normally apply straps in that case. Once the match has started, the big thing refs look out for is elbow fouls. There are pads on the table – if the elbow is lifted off the pad, that’s a foul; if the elbow slips off the side, that’s also a foul. If an arm looks to be in a dangerous position, they’ll issue a warning, but if the person persists with that position, a foul will be called. If you get two fouls, you lose the match. Finally, they’ll declare a win once an opponent’s wrist goes below the opposing pad.
Is there trash talk?
Everyone goes about it in different ways. I usually go in there looking like I want to kill somebody. I don’t get verbal at all. I just listen to music – uplifting trance, high-speed techno – beforehand to get in The Zone. Many guys will look at the ceiling, at their hand, or at the ref beforehand. On the flip side, I’ve seen both opponents rip their shirts off pre-match, bang the tables, yell taunts, or just try to stare you down. I always focus on my hand, so that doesn’t work on me. Guys have been known to jump on the table after winning, too.
What goes through your head during a match?
Well, if you flash pin [definition on p.62] someone, you don’t even have time to think. I had a supermatch up in Brisbane that was probably the toughest battle I’ve been through. I won it 6-0 but none of the matches lasted fewer than 10 seconds. Between rounds you’re thinking about technique, like angles and body position, and, if you’re experienced, you’ll usually choose the best option.

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Masha Lund

Renee Somerfield Competition