“I’ve been arm wrestling competitively for the past 9 years. I started competing just before I took my O-level exams at 16, but I first picked up the sport when I was about 12 or 13.
What I enjoyed most about arm wrestling was how it allowed me to freely express myself. In secondary school, there are all these people and figures of authority who want to control you, but you’re a bit rebellious so you only do the things that you like to do.
Back then, I would arm wrestle with guys from other schools. For example, if I heard there’s a good arm wrestler from Whitley Secondary School or Maris Stella High School, I’d reach out and challenge them. So you could say I started an informal inter-school competition.
I then went on to research on how professionals did it. I just thought it was so interesting. Fortunately, the Internet was already around at that point of time, so I was able to learn new techniques and skills through YouTube. I quickly grew even more interested in the sport.
That’s when I decided to compete. I was 16 and feeling confident and strong from the gym training that I was doing. I was also young, and I thought why not try this while I still have my youth? What did I have to lose? I wouldn’t know where this would take me until I tried.
So I went to Malaysia to participate in this very serious competition where all the seasoned veterans competed. I got knocked out in the quarter finals, but I enjoyed the experience. It definitely got the ball rolling for me, and I went on to take part in more competitions after that.
I had already set my mind to pursue arm wrestling at a high level then. I didn’t want to be mediocre. I used to play football for the school team, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to play in the big leagues down the road because the structure simply isn’t there in Singapore.
I believe it’s important for people to find something that they not only enjoy but are good at. So, I decided to pursue another sport which was more genetically-attuned to me, and for me, that’s arm wrestling.
One of my most enriching and enlightening competition experiences has to be winning Premier 101 in 2017. It’s held in Sarawak and funded by the state government, and the best arm wrestlers from around the world flew down to Malaysia to participate in it.
I didn’t have much time to train because I was in the army then, and I had to go up against this super strong guy called Joffey jolly who’s a world class Asian champion at 60kg. No one was expecting me to win, so it was very memorable for me when I did.
Right now, my goal is to boost the popularity of arm wrestling in Singapore and make it a legitimate professional sport. After my first competition at 16, I was contacted by this arm wrestling enthusiast who wanted to build the sport together with me.
He bought an arm wrestling table for me, and thanks to his investment, I’d have friends and outsiders who were interested in the sport come over to my place to train. There are days where I’d have about 15 people at the balcony of my house and it was very noisy.
Eventually, my mum and I went to the MP to try and secure a place, and we were allowed to organise trainings at Yishun East RC. Just last year, however, the owner of a pub who’s interested in arm wrestling invited us down to hold trainings there.
Ever since I started an arm wrestling committee in my poly days, I would say that the arm wrestling movement has grown steadily in the past seven years. I decided to create some kind of infrastructure so that more people will recognise us as a legit society in Singapore.
I became the president of the committee, and I also appointed a finance person. We’re not getting any funding or sponsorships currently, and I believe that kind of support is very important for a niche sport like ours, so we need a finance system to help sustain us as a club.
Right now, we have about 28 people in the club. Our youngest member is 15, oldest is 48, and the rest of them are mostly in their twenties. Regardless of race, age, religion or size, I believe this sport is for everyone.
Perhaps not all of them will want to compete seriously or get to do it at the highest level. Some of them have families to take care of, and others want to focus on their work, which is of course very important. I completely understand. You need money and a job to survive.
I have to work as a personal trainer too on the side, but I also put everything that I have into this sport. I want to showcase Singapore on the arm wrestling world map, and to reach number one, I have to put in the work and compete in as many competitions while I still can.
It’s my way of proving to myself and the people around me that we can actually do what we want to do. I realised that in Singapore, we’re a bit more reserved, scared and cautious to do things.
If you’re passionate about something, have a concrete plan, be consistent and be courageous enough to just dive into it.” – Valen Low, 25
Interview by: Arman Shah