Gisborne armwrestlers in medals at nationals

LOCKED AND LOADED: Gizzy Lock N Drop Armwrestling Club members (from left) Darlene Hohipa, John Leach, Tracy Barbarich, Ruka Barbarich, Ngari Barbarich and Clarissa Poi are buzzing over club members' performances at the national championships and the prospect of their own competition at the Jolly Stockman Hotel on September 2. Picture by Paul Rickard

GISBORNE armwrestler John Leach has gone from gut-wrenching disappointment to championship joy in the space of a year.

He blew out his right shoulder in his first match at the national championships in Auckland in June last year, ruining his hopes of a right-arm gold. He earned two left-arm bronze medals but tore his biceps muscle in the process.

On Saturday, Leach put the relative disappointment of last year’s campaign behind him by winning the left-arm national championship in the 90-kilogram-to-100kg weight division, the biggest in the competition. It was a division up from the level at which he competed last year.

The success was all the sweeter because the 36-year-old fieldworker was able to share the medal-winning feeling with three other members of the Gizzy Lock N Drop Armwrestling Club.

Ngari Barbarich won the open women’s right-arm category and was second in the open women’s left-arm competition.

Her younger sister Tracy won open women’s left-arm gold and right-arm silver. Darlene Hohipa, Leach’s partner, won bronze in both the left- and right-arm categories.

Now they and their clubmates are looking forward to holding their own competition at the Jolly Stockman Hotel on Saturday, September 2.

“Heaps of people are coming, from Auckland, Rotorua, Tauranga,” Leach said. “When you travel to all the competitions, you meet a lot of armwrestlers.”

Leach said the Gizzy Lock N Drop club had been going about two years.

“Me, my partner and a mate (Norman Reihana) kicked it off. We just wanted our own armwrestling club in Gisborne. We saw a New Zealand Armwrestling clip on the internet and entered a competition in Auckland. I came third in the right-arm and from there I’ve been going to every competition . . . five or six tournaments a year.”

Now the club has seven members.

Leach says injuries happen but you can learn ways to compete more safely.

That is part of what the club is about — teaching people new to the sport how to armwrestle as safely as possible.

His own injury last year, for example, was partly the result of his sitting in the wrong position.

He had an operation on his right shoulder in December. He spent eight months nursing it back to armwrestling health and competed in the right-arm contest on Saturday, finishing “fifth or sixth”.

His left-arm gold medal was the result of two months of hard training . . . a lot of weight work, wrist curls and hammer curls especially.

“I love everything about armwrestling,” Leach said. “I’ve been doing it since I was 15. I took it up competitively in 2014 and I’ve never looked back.”

Hohipa likes the atmosphere of the competitions and seeing how far she can push herself. Training exercises for women are the same as for men.

Ngari Barbarich said her family had done armwrestling over the years . . . everyone could do it.

Tracy Barbarich said a friend got her into the sport. She enjoyed it and kept at it.

Ruka Barbarich helps out with the tables. They are all made to spec and come with hand grips and pin pads — when the back of your hand hits the pin pad, you’ve lost.

Leach says competitions are usually held in pubs.

The national champs were at The Flying Moa restaurant and bar in Mt Wellington. But they are also held at fitness expos and events like Big Boys Toys.

He is confident the sport will gain momentum in New Zealand.

“In Australia, the US and Europe, armwrestling is huge,” he said.

“In New Zealand, it’s growing.”

GISBORNE armwrestler John Leach has gone from gut-wrenching disappointment to championship joy in the space of a year.

He blew out his right shoulder in his first match at the national championships in Auckland in June last year, ruining his hopes of a right-arm gold. He earned two left-arm bronze medals but tore his biceps muscle in the process.

On Saturday, Leach put the relative disappointment of last year’s campaign behind him by winning the left-arm national championship in the 90-kilogram-to-100kg weight division, the biggest in the competition. It was a division up from the level at which he competed last year.

The success was all the sweeter because the 36-year-old fieldworker was able to share the medal-winning feeling with three other members of the Gizzy Lock N Drop Armwrestling Club.

Ngari Barbarich won the open women’s right-arm category and was second in the open women’s left-arm competition.

Her younger sister Tracy won open women’s left-arm gold and right-arm silver. Darlene Hohipa, Leach’s partner, won bronze in both the left- and right-arm categories.

Now they and their clubmates are looking forward to holding their own competition at the Jolly Stockman Hotel on Saturday, September 2.

“Heaps of people are coming, from Auckland, Rotorua, Tauranga,” Leach said. “When you travel to all the competitions, you meet a lot of armwrestlers.”

Leach said the Gizzy Lock N Drop club had been going about two years.

“Me, my partner and a mate (Norman Reihana) kicked it off. We just wanted our own armwrestling club in Gisborne. We saw a New Zealand Armwrestling clip on the internet and entered a competition in Auckland. I came third in the right-arm and from there I’ve been going to every competition . . . five or six tournaments a year.”

Now the club has seven members.

Leach says injuries happen but you can learn ways to compete more safely.

That is part of what the club is about — teaching people new to the sport how to armwrestle as safely as possible.

His own injury last year, for example, was partly the result of his sitting in the wrong position.

He had an operation on his right shoulder in December. He spent eight months nursing it back to armwrestling health and competed in the right-arm contest on Saturday, finishing “fifth or sixth”.

His left-arm gold medal was the result of two months of hard training . . . a lot of weight work, wrist curls and hammer curls especially.

“I love everything about armwrestling,” Leach said. “I’ve been doing it since I was 15. I took it up competitively in 2014 and I’ve never looked back.”

Hohipa likes the atmosphere of the competitions and seeing how far she can push herself. Training exercises for women are the same as for men.

Ngari Barbarich said her family had done armwrestling over the years . . . everyone could do it.

Tracy Barbarich said a friend got her into the sport. She enjoyed it and kept at it.

Ruka Barbarich helps out with the tables. They are all made to spec and come with hand grips and pin pads — when the back of your hand hits the pin pad, you’ve lost.

Leach says competitions are usually held in pubs.

The national champs were at The Flying Moa restaurant and bar in Mt Wellington. But they are also held at fitness expos and events like Big Boys Toys.

He is confident the sport will gain momentum in New Zealand.

“In Australia, the US and Europe, armwrestling is huge,” he said.

“In New Zealand, it’s growing.”

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