Canadian medalist arm wrestler Chris Beauchemin approaches life the same way he does his sport – no matter what, you keep battling.
At 43 he’s recovered from a severe head injury that left him unsteady on his feet and blind in one eye; and he’s rebounding from the sudden loss of his job; and from the equally sudden loss of the sponsorship he needs to get to the next level in his sport – the World Arm Wrestling Championships in Indonesia this September.
Despite all that, he’s raring to go.
Beauchemin squared off to win a men’s silver with his right arm, and a bronze with his left in the Open Class of the Canadian Arm Wrestling Championships in Vancouver over the Victoria Day long weekend. That was a major step in his journey.
“They had all the best from across the country there,” he said. To compete Beauchemin first had to place at the provincials; now that he’s placed in the nationals, he’s set his sights even higher; “if you placed at the nationals you make it to the Worlds,” he said.
Well, you qualify. Making it there is another matter. “If I can get sponsoring to pay for the trip and make it to Indonesia, I’m in. Both arms I get to compete; it’s getting there that’s tough.”
To the uninitiated arm wrestling looks like a pretty straight-forward event. Two guys, or gals, with arms as thick as Douglas firs, face off across a square table, brace their elbows against the chocks, then go at it like mighty hulks.
Beauchemin will tell you it’s not quite as simple as it looks. After his days as a football player were ended by ‘smashed up’ knees, he was introduced to the sport by one of the pros, Anthony Dall’Antonia, “the 18 time Canadian Champion.”
The first thing Beauchemin learned about arm wrestling was how much he had to learn. “I’ve arm wrestled all my life, but never at this level,” he said. “These guys at the Vancouver club were amazing. There were hundreds of techniques.
“So I started learning the techniques and training and got good at it.”
Staying good means training every day. “The battle starts in your hand, in your grip, to your wrist, to your arm, to your body movement, to your elbow placement.” A lot’s going on at the table during competition, which only an enthusiast could appreciate: strategies like hook and drag, top roll, and many others are applied to beat the other guy.
It’s not just about brute strength. “You need strength to impose your will,” Beauchemin explained. “But if you don’t have the tools, you’ve got nothing to impose.”
Willing yourself 12,000 km from the West Coast of British Columbia to Indonesia is another matter, and Beauchemin isn’t sure he’s got the techniques down for that part of the game. But he’s working at it.
If you want to take a crack at arm wrestling yourself, and grip hands with a champ, you can head on down to Transfer Beach park most Sundays and try your strength and skill.
“I don’t’ charge them,” Beauchemin said of his weekend opponents. “I teach them about arm wrestling and let them have a go at me.” All he asks is that people bring non-perishable donations for the Ladysmith Food Bank or second-hand shoes for the Salvation Army.
Beauchemin is hoping to get a club together in the Ladysmith area.
As for the knocks he’s taken, especially losing his sponsorship for the Indonesia run, Beauchemin is philosophical. “I just got top-rolled,” he said. So you look for a technique to counter, and get ready to go again.