As It Happens

Meet the Canadian arm wrestler carrying on her parents' and grandmother's legacy

Alma Keuhl, 22, comes from a long line of arm wrestling champs — and now she's heading to the world championships in Turkey.

'Arm wrestling is just my life — it's a part of me and it's in my blood,' says Alma Keuhl

Alma Keuhl, 22, is heading to the arm wrestling world championship this month. (http://almakeuhl.com)

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Alma Keuhl, 22, is a Canadian arm wrestling champion like her parents and grandmother before her.

The Rankin, Ont., woman is ranked as Canada's second best female arm wrestler in her weight class for her right arm and third for her left. 

And now, she's heading to the world championships in Turkey to compete for Canada.

Keuhl spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about why carrying on her family's legacy gives her strength and confidence. 

Here is part of their conversation. 

So obviously it comes in the family and you inherit it — but when did you first get interested in competition in arm wrestling?

About 15 years old, actually.

What's the story? How did that come about?

[Professional arm wrestler] Alan ["The Hitman" Ford] was doing a fundraiser for himself and he said, "I will give off a camera, who ever can beat me."

So we went in, and my dad won the camera. And they offered my parents to go and train with them.

They didn't really know much about myself, but I wanted to give it a shot. So my dad got me to the practice and they saw a lot of potential in me.

They were, like, you know, at 15 years old, and you're pulling this much? You've got to continue with this.

Want to win an arm wrestling competition? Here's how

Ottawa

3 years ago
2:28
Arnprior arm wrestler Alma Keuhl explains some arm wrestling strategies as she trains for the world championships. 2:28

What did you think when they told you that?

It really was something huge for me. I never really had something as big as this, for someone to actually take initiative in me. It was a light in the dark hole, basically. 

Why was the hole dark?

Growing up, I really hated my arms. ... Like, they were big, big arms. And I never really liked it because, you know, dresses didn't fit right, shirts didn't look good. I was an overall big kid and I just absolutely hated my arms

But then when they said, "Look at the size of your arms, you're gonna be amazing," I actually got a confidence boost to continue.

What's the toughest part of it? When you're doing arm wrestling competitively, what do you have to do in order to do it well? What makes a champ?

What really helps me is if I have the mental power. I have huge anxiety. When I go up I'm like, "Oh God." I'm nervous just as much as the next person.

But if you have your head in the game, you go a lot further.

Your strength, yeah, it puts a factor in it. Yes, your technique does too. But as long as you have your ... mental power behind you, that makes you unstoppable. 

22-year-old Alma Keuhl is headed to Turkey this month to compete in the world arm wrestling championships. (Yael Berger/CBC)

You have to stay very focused then. And what are you focusing on? Are you looking into the eyes of the person you're against? What are you doing?

Mentally, I'm focusing on the prize basically. Eyes on the medal.

I'm a very kind-hearted person, I find. I'm bubbly, happy-go-lucky. But when I go on that table, I turn into someone different that you never want to see — like a big bear.

Do you scare them, your opponents?

I've been told that I do scare my opponents. [Giggles]

I yell. I really do yell.

Are you doing that before, during and after? Or is that just your victory cry?

During. It's like a battle cry.

Can you see them just shake?

Oh, sometimes I feel their arm kind of lessen up and they just kind of give you a really weird look.

And that's sometimes why I win, because I scare my opponent and I think that's what makes me a little different.

How has this changed you, this sport?

It has changed me in a lot of ways. It got me out of depression. 

Arm wrestling is not just a sport for me. It's not just a hobby for me. This is something that, you know, I need. It gives me a confidence. It empowers me.

I can't describe it, to be honest. Arm wrestling is just my life. It's a part of me and it's in my blood.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Samantha Lui. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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