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World Arm Wrestling Championships: Dean Bolt wins heavyweight title

The heavyweight title at the World Arm Wrestling Championships has been picked up by a Welshman for the first time.

Dean Bolt, who specialises in strength sports, won in his category in Dieppe, France, on Wednesday. Mr Bolt said: "The stars aligned nicely if I'm being honest. I was hoping to get in the top six, that was my plan."

The 45-year-old from Caerphilly already holds the British title and now hopes to gain a hat-trick by winning the European championships in May. This year's world championships saw around 350 arm wrestlers from about 30 countries taking part.

As the event is for amateurs, no prize money is awarded so Mr Bolt was sponsored by a local business.

The competition has two sections: one for those who have not yet lost a match, and another for those who have lost a single match. If someone loses twice they are knocked out of the competition. "If you get into the final with a loss and I haven't lost, I have to beat to you once and you have to beat me twice. "So I went through on the A side with six rounds and the longest match I had was three seconds.

Bolt won in the heavyweight category and is Wales' first pro super-heavyweight arm-wrestling champion

"I was lucky enough to have all my matches being really quick - I probably pulled for 12 seconds in total to get to the final so I wasn't tired," said Mr Bolt.

Dean competed in the left-arm 105kg+ category, which equates to heavyweight players.

Dean had six rounds and pulled for about 12 seconds in total

'Not just for fat men'

Dean started training five years ago after success in other strength sports, including being named the UK Highland Games Champion and Wales' Strongest Man.

"The training was difficult because you tend to train between seven and 14 times a week," he explained. "You're not building your muscle up, you're trying to strengthen your tendons and your joints so you can train more often."

Although the sport is linked with drinking culture, prowess and strength - remember Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark - competition level differs with strict rules such as table size and where the opponent's knuckles can fall on the cushioned mat.

"People think it's fat men sat in pubs, arm wrestling very badly," he joked. "It's a hyper competitive sport - there are elite athletes there. You have a standard arm wrestling table.

"My partner is the head referee for GB - the first female head referee in GB as well... so in every competition you need at least eight referees.

"The rule book is 30 pages long. It's not just holding hands."

Training also involves commitment and resilience. "It's all about from your wrist to your fingertips. Your arm size doesn't matter, your body weight doesn't matter.

"It's from your wrist to your fingertip - that's what matters. "They've got to really enjoy pain because the first two or three years you're in a lot of pain all the time because it's when your bones are calcifying and hardening up and you spend a lot of sleepless nights holding your arm." Since lockdown the sport has grown in popularity with more competitors trying their hand - or arm, as it were.

"Before the lockdown the British Championships had, in all weight classes, about 28 people.

"So it was really dying and with lockdown, people seemed to search YouTube, it started to grow and our last national competition had 112 people in it.

"It is starting to explode but it's mostly online."

After arriving home on Saturday from France, Mr Bolt is preparing for next year's competition with support from his trainer, UK champion Paul Maiden, and is keen for more people to enjoy the sport.

He also hopes to set up a UK juniors championships for 13 to 18 year olds and raise awareness of the sport through his Arm Gods campaign.

"It's the closest thing you have to a fight without being punched in the face," said Dean.

"It's the strangest thing, you have two people and the referees will be trying to control them, they'll be effing and jeffing and trying to rip each other's arms off and as soon as the match is over they're hugging and kissing.

"It isn't a sport for ladies and gentlemen, but on the table it's like mixed martial arts, just very small.

"Anyone who comes, they really enjoy it."

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