Nationals 2014 - The AftermathArticle by Jason Bishara
15th of November, 2014, Gold Coast. On the grounds of Conrad Jupiters, just outside its main building, an assortment of strange noises can be heard coming from one of the large marquees. From its open doors waft the strong smell of deep heat, chalk, and sweat.
Inside, a young man in a yellow shirt paces back and forth as music blasts from the headphones embedded in his ears. His face is a canvas of crazed determination. He ascends the short set of stairs to the main stage where he takes his position at one edge of the table, his opponent stands on the other. A large crowd of cheering spectators watch from below the stage, many of them patiently waiting for their own names to be called to the stage. Some are enormous, with forearms as thick as telegraph poles and hands the size of leather catchers mitts. Others are smaller and wiry, with great bushy beards or seedy red moustaches. The atmosphere is electric, and a charge of nervous energy courses through the air and through the veins of those around. Some have trained all year for this moment, and others have travelled from great distances. Most have done both. No matter their origins, one thing is certain. No one wants to lose.
The young man in yellow is completely focused. From atop the stage he grips his opponents hand with all his might. His body, arched and rigid, heaves with short tempered breaths as he waits for the call.
In a flash he buries his opponents hand into the pad, subsequently earning himself a place in the finals.
What is this madness you ask? What kind of an occasion could bring such a motley crew of individuals together to shake the very foundations of Conrad Jupiters? The Australian Armwrestling Federation held its third annual national armwrestling competition over the weekend, and it was the biggest baddest thing that has ever happened in Australian sport history.
Alright, maybe that’s a big call. But it was amazing, and keeping to its word, the AAF managed to put together an event that superseded its predecessors in every way imaginable. The comp was filled with upsets, blood, tears, rivalries, cake, and of course the newly crowned champions, who now have the bragging rights to call themselves the best armwrestlers in the country.
Trying to fit all of the events of the 9 hour marathon of a day into one brief write up is a little like trying to squeeze big Doug Fatafehi into Jamie Carle’s shorts. But thankfully the AAF have one hell of a handsome writer who’s up to the task. So without further ado, here is how it went down.
After a long day of preliminaries, with so many awesome matches that can’t possibly fit into this write up (you’re going to want to see the video), evening descended on the Gold Coast, and the stage was set for what would ultimately be a rollercoaster of finals.
Kicking things off in the under 70kg right handed class, Jesse Johnson (the young man in yellow) continued to show his dominance of the lightweight division by taking the right hand title with a comfortable win over David Deon. Anyone who has ever seen Jesse compete knows his intensity is one of the true highlights of Australian armwrestling. Doctors were on standby just in case he had a brain aneurysm or broke someone’s arm, but thankfully neither occurred.
In the under 80kg, the two favourites, Grant Tolentino and Sam Saffuri, predictably found their way to the grand final for both the left and right hand. Grant, hot favourite and renowned for holding his opponent mid table and smiling to the crowd before putting them away (along with their dignity), came face to face with a determined Saffuri who didn’t give Grant any opportunities to smile. Unfortunately for Sam, he fouled out in what was otherwise looking like a great left handed finals match, and Grant took the left handed division. However, it was on the right hand Saffuri sought his revenge, and caused one of the biggest upsets of the night by taking Grants wrist early and driving hard to the pad. When asked how it felt to be national champion, Sam simply replied, in his thick Israeli accent, “It feels good to be home.”
"It feels good to be home."- Sam Saffuri
A notable mention also has to be given to Ryan (Blue) Bowen, who made Grant work his ass of for his place in the right hand grand final, and almost came away with what would have been the greatest upset of the night.
In the under 90’s, arguably the most stacked division, it looked to be anyone’s game of the top four finalists. Phil (el-presidente) Rasmussen looked to be in the best shape of his career. Whispers have spread around the camp that leading up this competition Phil had been training with a mysterious arm wrestling genius. Well whoever he is (and he’s probably handsome), he deserves his own medal for whipping this old horse into shape, because honestly, the man was phenomenal. Phil had to work for his place in the left hand grand final, powering from the B side through arch rival Jamie Carle and Ryan (the big slug) Phillips with some impressive explosive power. But the left was all the Danny Tesch show. Phil started with an impressive hit, but Danny's ability to hold on and come back from the most insane positions allowed him to turn things around and earn himself his first national title. Not bad for a guy who gets beaten by old ladies at table tennis.
The right hand however told a different story. Although it was the same four faces, it was Jamie Carle’s turn to dominate the field. In the grand final he came face to face with a pony tailed Ryan Phillips, one of the great enigmas of the armwrestling world, someone who tends to just appear at random, pull a bunch of guys, armwrestle, then disappear off the radar, only to show up at a nationals event and nearly take the title. But all the credit goes to Jamie, who had no easy draw, having to beat both Phil and Danny, and then finally Ryan to take the title. In doing so, Jamie etches his name into Australian armwrestling history as the first man to win three national titles in a row. A true legend of the sport and an individual certainly worthy of the title.
As for the heavy weights, it was an easy day at the office for Adam Laura who proved too strong for anyone in the under 100kgs, taking both the left and right hand titles convincingly, and likewise, big Doug Fatafehi dominated the over 100kg division, taking out both hands respectively, but not without a fight. Big credit to Ryan (the milkman) Scott for an impressive first win over Doug in the first grand final match. Ryan’s huge hit on Doug managed to send the crowd into chaos. Unfortunately for Ryan, Doug proved too strong in the straps and Doug continues his dominance of the heavyweights.
Overall it was an incredible event. By far the most exciting and intense so far, and it’s always nice to see the dedication and hard work that goes into these events pay off. The traction that this sport is gaining is nothing short of incredible, and we can only wait and imagine what’s in store for 2015.