/ 2 July 2024

Muscles, momentum as national arm-wrestling champs dominate Klein Parys vineyards

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Sean Christie (left) and James Human competed in the 100kg masters men left-handed division of the National Arm-wrestling Championships in Paarl at the weekend. (All photos by Ashraf Hendricks)

Over 120 competitors from across the country flexed their biceps at the weekend to compete in the National Arm-wrestling Championships at Klein Parys Vineyards in Paarl.

A loud and boisterous audience cheered on competitors at the championships, hosted by South African Armwrestling Federation (SAAF) on Friday and Saturday.

“You have to be focused and be in that mindset that you’re going to win,” says Rafeeq Joseph, who co-founded the Cape Viperz, based in Heideveld, one of the few arm-wrestling clubs in the Western Cape.

This was the Federation’s biggest championship in its 22-years of existence. Arm-wrestling clubs have been popping up across the Western Cape since 2022.

Following a few intense rounds of arm-wrestling on Friday, Joseph celebrated winning the 75kg left-arm division of the tournament. “This is my biggest and proudest moment in the sport,” he said.

When he was starting out in the sport, he broke his arm.

“After I broke my arm, I wanted to prove to myself that I can be a champion,” he said.

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The national event was hosted by the South African Armwrestling Federation (SAAF) at the Klein Parys Vineyards in Paarl. Pictured is Rafeeq Joseph (right) of the Cape Viperz and Louis de Klerk of WellneZone Arm-wrestling, who competed in the 75kg senior men’s (left arm) finals. Joseph won this match.

Sean Christie, a SAAF organiser and competitor, said arm-wrestling as a sport has been established in the Highveld, Gauteng, for two decades. “The Cape is catching up quickly,” he said.

He described arm-wrestling as a “passion sport”. “You’ve got the son, daughter, mum, and dad in some cases all competing,” he said.

Christie joked that many older arm-wrestlers still reference the 1987 “cult classic” movie Over The Top, starring Sylvester Stallone as an arm-wrestling trucker. But the “rough, tough, macho” image of the sport is changing quickly as more youngsters join.

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Natashja Meintjies wrestles Nataly Barbosa (left), who won the senior 80kg ladies left-handed division.

A handful of women also competed at the weekend. Nataly Barbosa won the senior 80kg ladies left-handed division. She is also a record-breaking powerlifter and a coach.

She said she will continue with the sport and “try to get more women into it”. The sport is beginning to attract more female competitors, Christie said.

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Over 120 competitors took part in the two-day tournament.

This article was first published by GroundUp.