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Culture

Venting Aggression with Arm-Wrestling

Petra Spatz looks like she couldn't hurt a fly. But appearances can be deceiving, because in fact, she's a three-time arm-wrestling world champion. DW's Marcus Bösch went to see if she's as tough as she looks.

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You wouldn't want to get into a fight with Petra Spatz

As she invited me into her salmon-pink home in a Hanau suburb for coffee and cake, Petra explained a few tricks of the trade. "All you need to arm wrestle is a 1,04 meter-high table with handles and elbow pads," she said. "And, of course, an absolute determination to succeed."

Throwing back her mane of blonde hair as she settled into a sofa, the trained nurse and mother of two explained what makes her tick. "When I start arm-wrestling, everything recedes," she said. "Everyday life, the children, the housework, it's all gone. I see nothing, I hear nothing. My entire physical strength resides in my arms," she said, and poured the coffee.

Balancing responsibilities

It's not always easy to fit in her two-to-three-hour training sessions six times a week, especially given that she's also on the board of the "Over-the-Top" arm-wrestling club and works as a trainer with the junior team. "It's what I do," she said. "But then I go off to a tournament and I'm Petra Spatz, the world champion."

I still can't quite reconcile the affable woman in front of me with the invincible iron lady who takes no prisoners when it comes to arm-wrestling. Petra gives me a hand by removing her glasses, disappearing briefly into the bedroom and returning in full fighting regalia. Her white polo shirt, embroidered with the German flag, barely disguises her rippling muscles.

She takes me on a tour of her basement, which she's converted into a training area. Flanked by a laundry room and a pantry, it's home to two tables, a purple home-trainer and a huge ghetto-blaster, with an array of certificates, posters and medals attesting to her 17-year-career adorning the walls.

The showdown

Petra Spatz, Weltmeisterin im Armwrestling

"We wrestle standing up," she explained. "It's far more dynamic that way when you're using your arm muscles. Rest your elbow on the table, put your shoulders back and take hold of the table grip with your free hand."

Petra took up position opposite me and got into place. The hand that took hold of mine felt small and far from vice-like, but I soon realized I'd underestimated my opponent.

Her arm was made of steel, and I soon proved completely and utterly incapable of shifting it so much as an inch. After twenty exhausting seconds of gridlock, Petra smiled, took a deep breath and slammed my arm unceremoniously down on the table. I'd lost.

"It's great for venting pent-up aggression, isn't it?" she said, looking as though she'd barely broken a sweat. Her talent also helps her win world championship titles -- and probably also comes in handy for controlling her kids.

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