Not your average arm-wrestler

(Photo: Alexandra Cooke)

A slender woman standing at five foot two, Melissa Louvelle isn’t the first one who comes to mind when thinking about arm-wrestling. But the 20-year-old Saint Mary’s University commerce student from Porter’s Lake, N.S. defied stereotypes at her first national arm-wrestling championship in May.

The competition was held in Charlottetown, P.E.I., and Louvelle competed in the 60 kg and under weight class. She came in first place with her left arm, and second with her right.

“I get a lot of ‘you don’t look like an arm-wrestler,’” she says. “But you don’t have to look like one.”

She says that lots of muscles doesn’t have much of an effect – the outcome of a game often depends on aspects such as wrist strength and grip.

Louvelle has perfected a few techniques of her own – keep the wrist elevated and using either side or back pressure. She describes arm-wrestling as a very technical sport.
“It doesn’t matter how much weight you can lift. It’s all about practice and learning the technical aspect.”

Louvelle has been interested in arm-wrestling since she was a young girl – her father was an arm-wrestler himself. But she’s only been involved with it for less than a year.
She’s been participating in other sports since she was five, and has been a gymnast for 11 years.

However, her biggest supporter when she started out was Randy Bayers, her boyfriend and fellow arm-wrestler. He participated in the national competition as well, and he got third place for both arms in the 86 kg weight class.

“It doesn’t come easy. There’s always something to beat and always something you can improve on. You can’t be perfect,” Louvelle says.

Her favourite part about the sport is the team aspect, despite it being a one-person sport. She’s been given advice from her opponents, and described hanging out with her rivals and getting to know them after competitions.

“For people who are in it, it’s their life. People who don’t do it don’t know,” she says. “It’s an extremely awesome, supportive sport. Even if you’re against someone, they’ll still give you tips.”

For now, arm-wrestling as a sport isn’t getting as much attention as Louvelle would like. She said that most people know it as an activity people do in bars or at parties.
There’s also a lack of women who compete in the sport. But it’s now gaining more publicity from competitions, and Louvelle hopes that more people will be supporting and will start participating.

For those interested in arm-wrestling, her advice is simple – just give it a try.
“Don’t be scared to try it! When I first started out, I was terrified. But as soon as you go up, you’ll fall in love.”

Louvelle is looking forward to the world competition in September, which is being held in Lithuania.