Arm-wrestling goes from college canteen tables to a league of its own
The Times of India Mumbai|January 17, 2021
The sport now has a competitive avatar, drawing both male and female athletes who let their forearms do the talking
Sharmila.Ganesan@timesgroup.com

Holding hands isn’t always a romantic gesture for this newly married couple from Assam. Each time 30-year-old software engineer Chetna Sharma and her fitness trainer husband Nayanjyoti Bora sit across a table and interlock their palms, they morph once again into student and coach, their relationship of 12 years. The one that made her sprout the kind of biceps that automatically enforce social distance in Guwahati’s shady pockets.

“Men don’t tease me anymore,” says Sharma, whose lightweight, make-up-wearing former self used to shudder while walking down the roadside-Romeo-lined markets such as Paltan Bazaar. “Now, I get a lot of respect,” says the chirpy, sportswear-preferring techie who is among a handful of women athletes in arm-wrestling, the earthy combat sport that has only recently been vaccinated with pro-kabaddi-like glamour, replete with celebrity status, uniformed female referees, sponsored flight tickets though not as much cash.

Welcome to Pro-Panja League, a professional arm wrestling league whose first tournament on February 29 last year in Delhi saw Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju and boxer Vijender Singh hold instead of shake hands as athletes from 15 states cussed, gripped and competed for the cameras. The winners of this event got Rs 15,000, Rs 10,000 and Rs 5,000 — humble sums but more than what they get in the amateur state and national tournaments held by the government in which champions get titles, medals, trophies, train tickets and other character-building experiences that makes them hold on dearly to their day jobs.

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