Opposite the giant screen of the Novick stadium in Dieppe (Seine-Maritime) this is the crowd of the big days. In the ring, a simple table dedicated to arm wrestling awaits the finalists of the first day of the World Championships in the discipline organized by the IFA (International Federation of Armwrestling). The sound system connects the classics of hard rock as the collisions follow each other. All around, coaches and friends have to shout their final instructions to be heard.
Often short, but always very intense, the duels follow each other under the watchful eye of two referees who are easily spotted in their striped jerseys. The winner then goes up, right next to the podium, to collect his medal and his title to the sound of his national anthem. Often with a lot of emotion.
On this last Tuesday of September, it’s the youngest and oldest competing in a myriad of categories. The strongest are expected from this Thursday. A real event for the corsair city where almost 500 competitors will fight until Sunday 2 October. And despite the Russian-Ukrainian conflict – two of the best nations in the world – 28 delegations made the trip from Poland, Finland, Georgia, Sweden, Japan and even the United States.
“Every time we meet wonderful people”
“Last year was in Orlando, Florida. And there, it is in Dieppe…”, smiles Didier Rolland-Plusquellec, co-organizer of this extraordinary meeting which, however, does not have the support of the officials of the French showdown connected to the federation of violent sports. A setback that does not dampen his enthusiasm. “The important thing is to have managed to set up this competition with the support of Stéphane Novick, the boss of the place”, continues the steady fellow.
For his part, the entrepreneur from Dieppe is happy to see the atmosphere in his company, which already hosted the French “Strongman” championships at the beginning of the summer. Is Dieppe on its way to becoming the muscle capital of France? “At first it was meetings that drove me to get involved. And then from event to event there is something that starts to take hold and that matches well with the spirit of the bar. So we will continue”.
To see how the competitors from all countries chain selfies in a friendly atmosphere, we are also far from the clichés of the genre. “Every time we meet great people,” said Tony Hope, an American ferist competing in the disabled category. “I lost an arm at the age of two in an accident”. This does not prevent him from maintaining an impressive left arm with which he won numerous national titles for four years. “I had a complicated life. I touched a lot of drugs and I got out of it thanks to sports,” says the man from Montana, with a smile on his face. “But today I am clean and delighted to leave my country for the first time by coming to Dieppe.”