BY BILL PHILLIPS
It’s an explosion of energy and power.
That’s the only way to explain it. We’ve probably all seen armwrestling on television. Or seen pictures of the competition. But pictures or video don’t do justice to being a couple of feet away from a couple of the country’s best armwrestlers as they train, which involves full-on armwrestling.
There is calm as the two combatants gets ready. Then there is an explosion of strength that involves every bit of strength and energy the two armwrestlers have. To the unexperienced observer, it seems like something is going to break and sometimes it does. Bones have been broken during armwrestling competitions. That usually happens when you don’t properly warm up.
For Jacob Lea, warming up involves pulling lots of weights and … a few one-arm chin-ups.
The warm-ups and the training paid off as Lea won both the right-hand and left-hand titles in the 143-pound weight class at the Battle Zone Alberta championships.
“I had two super-matches against Alex Stenru and Matt Smith, both best out of five and I came back on top,” said Lea.
Lea has been around the sport for a number of years now, even though he is just 19 years old. When he was 14 years old he showed an interest and his mother searched the internet for a local coach. She found Dan Gallo and asked him to help train her son. She dropped him off at Gallo’s doorstep four years ago and since then Lea and Gallo have become friends and training partners … with a training regimen that now hits six days a week.
“He started showing me the ropes and I just kept coming back,” Lea says.
Three days a week, the training focuses more on bodybuilding and the other three days the training focuses on armwrestling, which focuses on hands, wrists, and forearms. They take Sunda off. Lea adds the sport just seemed to be a fit for him.
“It just feels natural,” Lea says of his affinity for armwrestling. “I’ve been through a lot of sports in my life and this is the only one that stuck hard. I’m going to be doing this for a long time yet.”
While Gallo, who is a 19-time provincial champion, certainly has been a mentor for Lea, the two consider each other more as teammates.
“He pushes himself as hard as he can,” Gallo says. “To see that kind of determination, especially for someone who is that young, you don’t see that very often.”
And that helps Gallo prepare for the provincial, national, and possibly world championships next year.
“It means I have to push myself harder so he doesn’t beat me,” says Gallo, who competes in the 175-pound class. “Realistically, that’s how it is. He works out hard, if I don’t push myself as hard, things change. He brings a lot of energy.”
Lea has joined the growing list of local athletes who have been sponsored by the Brink Group of Companies.
“It’s amazing how much power goes into it, and the technique,” says John Brink. “Obviously these guys are on a national and world level. We’re very proud to be part of the premier armwrestlers in the province.”
While not an armwrestler himself, Brink has witnessed the sport for a great number of years. In the early 1980s when he was operating a sawmill in the Bowron area, armwrestling was a big part of downtime at the camp.
“In the sawmills then, there was a lot of physical work involved,” he said. “You had to be in very good shape. We had a camp of about 125 people and at night and in the evening when there wasn’t much going on, one of the pastimes was armwrestling.”
Lea says being added to Team Brink, which involves a $500 sponsorship, is a game-changer.
“It’s a little bit of a struggle getting money for supplements because I’m still going through school,” he says. “It’s definitely going to help out with the tournaments. Having someone back us up is a good feeling.”