The introduction of the sport to the Soviet Union was yet another major step in the sport’s global expansion and is the focus of this story.
In late July 1988, Dr. James Stoxen, team physician for the American Armwrestling Association (AAA) and the American Powerlifting Federation, was in Russia serving as the USA team’s sports medicine representative at the first ever powerlifting competition between the US and the Soviet Union. While there, he met a Canadian sports exercise scientist by the name of Dr. Edmund Enos.
Dr. Enos was the Chairman of the Association for International Cultural Exchange Programs, a non-profit organization that specialized in coordinating such tours and events, and he was well connected with the USSR Ministry of Sport. Dr. Stoxen thought it would be amazing if he could help arrange a similar historic USA vs USSR armwrestling competition. Dr. Enos was unaware that armwrestling was an organized sport, but once he learned about the World Arm Wrestling Federation (WAWF), he agreed to initiate talks with the Ministry.
ollowing some negotiations, the Ministry consented to host the competition. A Canadian team would also be invited to compete. The details of the competition would be hashed out between Dr. Stoxen, Dr. Enos, and Dr. Vladamir Tchaikovsky, who was the president of the Bodybuilding and Powerlifitng Association of the USSR. (With armwrestling not yet existing in Russia, it was decided that it should initially fall under Dr. Tchaikovsky’s jurisdiction.)
To help the Soviets prepare, the WAWF supplied a professional video that had been made of the 1987 World Championships that were held in England. This became the Soviets’ primary source of information to analyze and determine how to train for the sport. An armwrestling table built to WAWF specifications was also donated, so that the hosts could learn how to build their own tables for the competition.
The event would be held the second week of August 1989 and was open to pullers of different levels of ability. In addition to the armwrestling competition, pullers would also get to enjoy an elaborate cultural and sightseeing program. A significant obstacle, however, was the cost. At $2,375 per person, it was not a trip that everyone could afford.
n addition to the competition itself, the North Americans would we conducting information sessions for the Soviets in which they would demonstrate armwrestling techniques and speak about how to train for the sport. The Soviets, on the other hand, would deliver lectures and practical sessions on their scientific approach to exercise and strength training.
New York’s Ray Darling and Florida’s Ray Taglione, both on the AAA Board of Directors, were selected to be the co-captains for Team USA and they became involved in helping arrange the armwrestling-related portions of the trip, while Dr. Stoxen continued to be the main contact for the tour itself.
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