German arm wrestling tournament draws 100 competitors | News | DW | 07.04.2018
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German arm wrestling tournament draws 100 competitors

Germany is holding an annual competition to find the best arm wrestler in the country. The sport was popularized among the German public by a 1987 movie, "Over the Top," starring Sylvester Stallone.

A hundred athletes gathered in the small municipality of Rodenbach, west of Frankfurt, on Saturday for the German Arm Wrestling Championship.

 For the event, competitors are categorized by weight, age and gender and divided according to whether they are left- or right-handed. Those under the age of 21 are allowed to compete but require signed parental permission to participate. 

The intense one-to-one matchups take place on a small table. Competitors perform standing, with hands grasped together, under the supervision and direction of referees. Their goal is to force the back of their challenger's hand to touch the opposite side of the table.

Read more: German chess wunderkind Vincent Keymer, 13, wins Europe's GRENKE Open tournament

The Hollywood connection

The development of competitive arm wrestling in Germany has its roots in the popularity of the American film "Over the Top," featuring Sylvester Stallone.

The sports drama tells the story of Lincoln Hawk, an American trucker, who competes in the World Armwrestling Championship in Las Vegas in the hope of rebuilding his life and winning back his son. The classic underdog story took much of its footage from the real "Over the Top" World Armwrestling Championship of 1986.

Over the Top movie billboard (picture-alliance/Mary Evans Picture Library)

The movie gave the sport a boost

One of the biggest teams at the German championships on Saturday is, in fact, called the "Over the Top" Arm Wrestling Club. Based in Hanau, near Rodenbach, the team is hosting the tournament and hoping to defend its title, having won the team standings last year.

The "Over the Top" team has brought along one of its best performers, Katrin Mook, a 21-time German champion who last year became a double world champion, winning with both the right and left arm in Las Vegas.

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The very first arm wrestling tournament in Germany took place in the southern city of Munich in 1985. Five men and two women qualified to attend the legendary 1986 World Championship in Las Vegas. Today, there are arm wrestling teams in all 16 Germany states, and athletes can compete year round in a number of regional, national and international tournaments.

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