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2021 August - Odd-Ball Grip Sport Challenge - Eric Roussin

Eric Roussin

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On Saturday, August 28th I hosted the Odd-Ball Grip Sport Challenge in Ottawa, Canada. My idea for the contest was to exclusively feature events that are seldom contested. The line-up I went with included the GlobTop (World of Grip), the Stacker (IronMind), the Double Shallow Inch Pinch (Arm Assassin), and the Handshake (World of Grip). There was also a 25-item medley which included -- you guessed it -- a variety of oddball lifts and feats.

I liked my chances of attracting a good-sized group of competitors, as Ontario was starting to open up earlier this summer, with gathering size restrictions being lifted. I figured a lot of people would be itching to compete again. I ended up with 12 competitors, which is pretty much the perfect size for my usual venue (my basement gym). But the surprise was the mix of competitors. Many of the usual competitors who had planned on attending (Yves Gravelle, Dan Fleming, Natasha Batt, Adam Chappell, Keith Steffensen, etc.) didn't end up making it out. This was a bit disappointing, but luckily in their place a half-dozen first-time competitors showed up.

Most unexpected was that Justin Major came to compete. I knew he would be accompanying his girlfriend Joliane to the contest, but I really didn't think he would jump in as well. For those of you who don't know, Justin suffered a seizure last fall which led to the identification of a brain tumor. Within a couple of days he had brain surgery, which left him unable to walk (initially) and with significant loss of motor control to his left side. It's been a long process, but he's made continual improvements. This said, I certainly didn't think he was ready to compete in grip sport. Turns out I was wrong...

The GlobTop was the first event. Obviously, the event, which consists of grabbing the top half of a 5" sphere using a hub style grip, favors larger handed competitors. I think hand span is more important than hand length. My hand span isn't the greatest, and I do not consider the GlobTop to be one of my better lifts. However, I still expected to be able to lift at least 30 lbs. So I was very happy to lift a hair under 34. Alain Goyer, who was in the lightweight class, lifted the same amount as me. I was impressed, considering he had never touched the device and this was his first contest. I knew he was strong -- he's an accomplished armwrestler -- but still I wasn't expecting such a performance. All of a sudden my day was made more interesting, as I knew he would be chasing me. (With Yves and Dan absent, I figured I would have a much easier day). But Justin stole the show in this event, lifting more than 42 lbs!

Next up was the Stacker. The way I chose to run this event was to set the Stacker on the edge of an arwmrestling table and have competitors grip it in a way that their forearm was parallel to the floor and their wrist was straight. The lift (just two inches onto a phonebook) needed to be done keeping the wrist straight and without tilt. This was a bit tough to judge because some competitors seemed to have a lot of difficulty even just gripping the Stacker while maintaining a straight wrist. I expected to be one of the front-runners in the event. I thought I would be able to lift 43 to 45 lbs, but I could only muster 39 lbs in the contest. But once again, Justin amazed with a strict lift of 49 lbs! I really think he's approaching the strength required to do a strict 45-lb plate curl. He also has a very long hand, which will help considerably in this endeavor.

A lot of competitors did well with the Double Shallow Inch Pinch. I expected to lift about 90 lbs, but I was able to lift considerably more. My top lift was just under 105 lbs. This being a two-handed lift caused some problems for Justin. His left hand eventually limited him to a lift of 81 lbs. Normally, he and I would have battled out for the top spot in this key pinch lift. First-time competitor Luigi Costanzo had the second best lift, with 91 lbs.

The fourth event was the Handshake, which is a vertical-style lift. I don't find the Handshake to be particularly comfortable, and based on my lifts in training I expected to lift about 190 lbs. Alain and Justin were having a great day on this event, which I think motivated me to dig down and lift more weight than I had ever done previously with the device. All three of us lifted more than 200 lbs, and I eventually topped out at 228 -- just enough for the win.

By this time the event was running a bit behind schedule, and Justin had to leave. Though I'm sure he would have liked to compete in the medley, he realized that he would have been limited in his ability to move quickly between events and the few two-handed events would have been a challenge. 

With the mix of competitors changing significantly in the days leading up to the context, which fewer experienced gripsters and more newbies, the medley I had put together ended up being just a bit too hard for the group. Most competitors completed less than 10 of the 25 feats. Alain managed 16, but realized afterwards that he probably could have gotten about 19 or so (he stayed away from some feats during his allotted time, assuming they were harder than they were in reality). I completed all 25 with time to spare. There was a handful of challenges that I wasn't sure I'd be able to do, but I just felt great once I got going.

In the end, I won the contest, but I realized that if Justin is already this strong now, I won't have much chance against him when he's fully recovered. His scoring advantage was big enough following the fourth event that he was able to secure second place overall, even without doing the medley (I used reverse strongman scoring). His performance was truly inspirational!

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