Airdrie arm wrestlers show strength at Lethbridge tournament

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The weather might be getting colder, but for members of the Airdrie Arm Wrestling Club (AAWC), the competition season is just starting to heat up.

The AAWC’s pullers enjoyed a successful outing Sept. 8 at the Battlezone 15 “Battle over the Bridge” arm-wrestling tournament in Lethbridge. Four AAWC pullers made the trip south, with all four bringing home hardware.

Dale Kotyk competed in three weight classes at the Lethbridge tournament, which included pullers from British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Kotyk took first place in the men’s amateur right arm competition (176–200-pounds), first in the 45-plus men’s category (under-200-pounds) and second in the masters’ men’s class (over-200-pounds).

Arm wrestlers don’t just train their muscles, but spend significant time working on their technique in order to beat their opponent.

Stacey Foster also pulled in multiple classes for the AAWC. After winning in the left arm category and finishing second in the right arm category in the women’s pro under-150-pound class, she opted to compete in the amateur men’s under-150-pound class and finished with the bronze in both left and right arms.

Father-and-daughter duo Glenn and Bella Weber made the podium in their respective categories, as well. Fourteen-year-old Bella finished second in her age group, while Glenn took home bronze in the 201–225-pound men’s amateur class.

Bella, who has been pulling for just more than a year, said it was a close match-up between her and her competitor, who significantly outweighed her.

“We were putting up a fight for a while, and then I lost, but that’s OK,” she said.

Ramping up

After training once per week throughout the summer, the AAWC will increase its training schedule to meet twice a week, according to club founder Stew Foster.

The club’s pullers will meet in the Fosters’ basement in Airdrie on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m. A welder by trade, Foster has set up an arm-wrestling gym in his basement, complete with three regulation tables.

According to Foster – a multiple-time world and Canadian national arm-wrestling champion – the AAWC has increased in popularity since forming in 2015. He said the club now boasts around 18 members, with two-thirds showing up to each practice.

“Our club has grown exponentially, to the point where we’re running out of room in our basement,” said Foster, who has been pulling for 39 years and is the president of the Alberta Arm Sport Association.

Dale Kotyk, right, is one AAWC member with high aspirations. He used to pull competitively in his teens and 20s, but took a long hiatus after starting a family. He’s now training again competitively in the hopes of competing for a world championship.

One AAWC member who hopes to follow in Foster’s footsteps and win a world championship is Kotyk. The 45-year-old pulled competitively throughout his teens and twenties, even winning a national championship and competing at the world championships.

Kotyk said he had given up the sport after having kids, but decided to get back into it last year.

“I have unfinished business,” he said. “I never fully reached my potential when I was younger and now that my kids are older and things have changed in my life, I want to pursue this and reach my goal.”

Having discovered competitive arm-wrestling as a teenager, Kotyk said there are many reasons for newcomers to take up the sport.

“It gives you a feeling of empowerment,” he said. “You can let go of your everyday crap. Once you’re at that table, you can let out those frustrations in a healthy way.”

Kotyk said the sense of community is another factor – particularly with the AAWC.

“It’s a great family,” he said. “All the competitors, even though we’ll compete against each other and there’s a rivalry, away from that, everyone is close and helping each other along the way.

“Every time you get stronger, it’s a wonderful feeling.”

Foster said he is not sure when the AWCC’s next tournament will be, but noted there are roughly 15 arm-wrestling clubs throughout Alberta, and said the clubs take turns organizing and hosting events throughout the year.

Airdrie is a potential host for the 2019 provincial championships next spring, Foster added – so the AAWC’s pullers all have something to train for.

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