7 October 2022

Canberra's arm wrestlers roll up their sleeves for first official championship (and you're welcome to join)

| James Coleman
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You can almost hear the grunts. Photo: Canberra Armwrestling Club.

Bored of the basics and looking to expand your sporting repertoire?

Oscar Curtis was too, and now he’s the president of the Canberra Armwrestling Club. And on Sunday (9 October), members will gather at the Hotel Queanbeyan for the first ACT Armwrestling Championship.

Men aged from 17 to 47 will bear arms over a table and try to wrestle the other’s hand down. Lose twice and you’re out. Still going come evening and you’re officially Canberra’s best.

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“It’s a fantastic spectator sport, so anyone who comes along will have a great time watching it, that’s for sure.”

Fancy a go yourself? Oscar says members of the public are welcome to compete.

“If you’re brand new to it, we’ll show you the best techniques and how to stay safe.”

So how has a simple show of strength at the family dinner turned into a full-on sport, with championships, spectators and $5 schooners?


Members of the Canberra Armwrestling Club number about 15 (Oscar Curtis second from the left). Photo: Canberra Armwrestling Club.

Oscar was born in Sydney but grew up in Canberra from the tender age of two.

“I’ve been into sport my whole life, soccer, rugby, and I even trained in athletics with the hammer throw,” he says.

But when he left high school, he found himself lost for what sporting path to take. It was then he came across arm wrestling videos on YouTube. From there, he discovered Sydney had its own club, made up of locals who gathered every so often for a social spot of arm wrestling. He decided to drive up there and give it a go.

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“My first arm wrestle was at the NSW State Championships with a former Australian champion – he had arms as big as your legs.”

Oscar left defeated but hooked. In October 2020, he and another local, Hans Tapsell, set up the Canberra Armwrestling Club with help from the Sydney club and Australian Armwrestling Foundation.

“I just kind of fell in love with it – it’s so much fun with a great community around it,” Oscar says.

The club holds regular training events on Friday evenings. Photo: Canberra Armwrestling Club.

Many of the initial inspirational YouTube videos originated from America and Europe where the sport is already well established. Oscar says it’s only really come across to Australia in the past 10 years.

“It’s obviously still very new, so it doesn’t hold a candle to rugby or AFL, but it’s growing strongly.”

The 15-odd members come for their own reasons, but at the heart of it is a desire for social interaction with added health benefits, and maybe a schooner or two as well.

“It’s a sport you have to do with other people, so naturally, it’s a social sport,” Oscar says.

“And as a byproduct, you get a bit stronger and fitter.”

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The good news, if you think you’re too old for other sports, is that you might be about to peak in arm wrestling, which Oscar says is around the mid-40s.

“If you think about arm wrestling in terms of upper body and arm strength, you actually naturally peak between the ages of 40 and 47.”

As for technique, it varies from person to person, but having experience on the table and knowing what to do with your hand is “just as good as getting stronger.”

During the day, Oscar is an aluminium welder and metal worker, and he is studying for the last month of his nursing degree. But the club fits around a 9 to 5 schedule, with regular training events on Friday evenings.

Arm-wrestling. Photo: Canberra Arm Wrestling Club.

He thought now was the right time the ACT to step up and held its own championship. All of their members, plus others from the clubs in Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong, Melbourne and even Brisbane, will literally wrestle for the title. And provided your hands are touching, anything goes.

“There will be elbow pads, and other pads that you have to get your opponent’s hands to touch to win the round. But once you’re set up and your hands touch, anything goes really.”

The plan is for the championship to return every year.

“We’d love for this to be a staple of the community,” Oscar says.

The ACT Armwrestling Championship 2022 will be held at Hotel Queanbeyan on Crawford Street on Sunday, 9 October. Weigh-in starts at 10 am, with the competition beginning at 11 am. It will run all day until 5 pm to 6 pm. The main bar will sell $5 schooners throughout the competition. Register online.

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