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How the sport of arm wrestling saved a young Auckland man’s life

Grace Tinetali-Fiavaai, Te Rito Journalism cadet

Arm wrestling has helped to keep a young Auckland man on the straight path after years of struggling with drug additions.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Fred Lam Kam, 33, grew up in West Auckland and is now living in Otara, South Auckland, with his wife and young daughter.

For many years, he struggled with addictions throughout his young adult life, he says.

“In 2022, I hit rock bottom with drugs. I feel arm wrestling has given me a purpose and it’s helped keep me on the straight and narrow in terms of staying clean.”

Lam Kam started arm wrestling last year after watching videos of champion arm wrestler Devon Larratt on YouTube. It sparked his interest in the sport.

“I searched on Facebook for an arm wrestling club and found the Auckland Armbenders, who train every Thursday at Victoria Park,” he said.

“I have recently been training with another club in South Auckland called Freshmeat, who train at Bruce Pulman every Saturday.”

The young father is in his last year of studies at Manukau Institute of Technology, studying a Bachelor of Social Work, and helps his church’s youth by being a mentor.

“I am a youth leader at the Manukau Salvation Army Church and I’ve taken a few of my young kids to arm wrestling training - and they love it.”

Lam Kam’s first competition is tomorrow at the Meatstock festival, in Hamilton, where he will be competing in a right arm competition competing in the open class.

‘Arm wrestling isn’t just about strength’

“There will be some tough competition, but I want to see how I go and what to work on for the next up-and-coming competitions.

“Every time I see those kids, they want to arm wrestle me and it puts a smile on my face that it has impacted them positively.”

Arm wrestling has not been a smooth ride. At one point, he was losing to everyone and was on the verge of giving up.

“But our club’s top arm wrestler told me that the master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”

The NZ Arm Wrestling Federation was established in 2013 with the purpose of co-ordinating, promoting and administering arm wrestling as an official and recognised sport in New Zealand.

“Arm wrestling isn’t just about strength.

It’s about using your head and tactics as well as math to get the angles of your arms right.”

Lam Kam said Polynesian kids need more exposure to the sport.

It is something different from rugby or basketball and it’s fun, he said.

“Don’t be discouraged because you will lose to everyone on your first day. You have to leave your ego at the door.

“Arm wrestling needs more exposure here in New Zealand, especially in Auckland.

Imagine if all our young Polynesians were exposed to the sport.

“With our natural strength and talent, we could go very far. Not everyone in New Zealand is made for rugby, but there will be some who are made for arm wrestling.”

Hero Image: Fred Lam Kam is encouraging more young people to get into the sport of arm wrestling.

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