Although local arm-wrestler Ben Soles was not able to take home a gold at the arm-wrestling world championships — which were held in Bulgaria between October 1 and 10 — he added another accolade to his already impressive resume.
Soles, who won a silver medal in 2008, earned another silver in the 90 kg grandmaster division of the 2016 championships, losing in his final match.
“I pulled against Poland, and we slipped out in the middle of the table which caused us to go into the straps,” Soles said of his shot at gold. “I think on another given day I might have won, it was really close, Poland maybe has a bit more experience in the straps, so I took a loss.”
Despite the loss, Soles was once again just thrilled to have the opportunity to travel and compete with the best of the world.
“It was phenomenal, there were, I think, 45 countries there, 1300+ competitors [and] Bulgaria was awesome,” he said of the event. “The executives there were saying that it was the toughest world competition they’ve seen to date
Having won silver before, in 2008, and also competed in 1993 and 2010, Soles went in with plenty of experience but was still impressed with the level of talent he faced.
“I wasn’t in awe because this was my fourth time there but it’s the world championships —the [competition] is smart [and] the Europeans and the Russians they get quite a bit of sponsorship from their government,” he said. “Their training levels are hard to match here because we’re mostly blue collar workers [and] over there it’s a little bigger so you’re going against stiff, well-trained competition.”
At the championships, Soles was also in a different weight class having dropped from the 100 kg class to 90 kg, a change that he found to be to his advantage.
“I’m 5’10” [and] I’m strong, but when you get in that 220lbs class you’re running into people that may be 6’2”, 6’3” [who are] lean [with] very long arms, which will give you trouble,” he explained. “When I dropped down I [started to] meet arms that were a little closer to my length.”
In order to be able to afford to travel for the championships, Soles raised money with an online ‘GoFundMe’ campaign, which he said worked out very well.
“[The money raised almost] covered my trip [although] I came up a little short,” he said with a chuckle. “It was a big help [though], I couldn’t have gone without it.”
After 25 years in the sport, Soles is still searching for a gold medal at the worlds, but he has not let it get him down.
“I was right in there, I’ve been second before and so I’m silver again, just that close to the gold,” he said. “[But] if you ever win [a single match] at the worlds you can count yourself lucky [because] you’re beating a whole country.”
Now that the competition is over, Soles is getting back to training and going to the gym, all with the goal of getting back to the next world championships in Budapest, Hungary in 2017.