Portage's own Ryan Espey is back in action tomorrow as he gears up for a pair of arm wrestling matches against some top-tier talent. The Super Heavyweight is heading off to Abbotsford, British Columbia for his first matches since April.
"I'm being brought out there to face, in a challenge match, a young and up-and-coming guy from the (United) States named Austin Jaggers with my left arm," Espey explains. "I was offered a right arm match because there were some guys flying over from Georgia that had to cancel on short notice. So, I'll be facing Curtis Cameron, who happens to also be the reigning Super Heavyweight Canadian Champion, which is interesting, because I injured myself pretty severely in my right arm about a year ago and was unable to compete in the national championships."
Espey believes this will be a great opportunity to get some redemption and become the unofficial national champion. The arm wrestler adds this will be his first time competing with his right arm since the injury, and he says it will be a good test to see where he's at.
"There was no surgery done because the surgery would've not been successful. So, it just had to heal on its own, and the body had to make adaptations internally on its own," Espey continues. "There are some little interesting spots that move differently than they used to but I've done a pretty good job of fortifying those, I think. It's been a long process, and this will be the first major test in over a year."
The 25-year veteran says it's not too often that he will compete with both arms at the same event.
"In a challenge match, typically, it's not the greatest idea. One side of the competition always has an impact on the other. In a tournament, it's not uncommon. In a challenge match scenario, it's not always the best idea. If I wasn't feeling pretty good and confident, I probably would've been a little more hesitant to do it but the opportunity presented itself, and it was just a little too good to say no to."
Espey is participating in the Total Armwrestling League tomorrow, which is a new Canadian arm wrestling league that has given athletes even more opportunities to compete.
"It's an opportunity for people at a high level to go around and get paid to be in these scenarios and rankings matches, instead of just the same old provincials, nationals, worlds circuit every year," says Espey. "It gives opportunities for guys to get showcased a little bit more and to build the sport up in Canada."
The league has only been around for a few years, with COVID-19 taking its toll on them for a few years. Espey says they're finally getting rolling once again and he notes it's great for the sport as a whole.
"It shows progress. Previously, there was not a lot of opportunity. You just kept amassing a trophy collection, and you had to travel great distances for competition. Clubs are getting bigger and bigger, and for the first time in Manitoba, we've got four active clubs within the province. It's nice to see."
With over two decades of experience under his belt, Espey outlines what still keeps him motivated.
"It's a combination of things like the belief that I can still be the best at it. The competition aspect, the comradery, and now the multi-generational aspect, too, with my daughter starting to be involved on a pretty good level."
No matter the outcome of his matches tomorrow, Espey says he will be continuing on his arm wrestling journey after this weekend.