Chilliwack’s Justin Hancock (left) with big-armed beast Ryan Espey from Manitoba, who won the 110 kilogram weight class in both arms. (Submitted photo)

Chilliwack’s Justin Hancock (left) with big-armed beast Ryan Espey from Manitoba, who won the 110 kilogram weight class in both arms. (Submitted photo)

Arm wrestler overcomes injury to win national bronze

Three time provincial weight class champ Justin Hancock went into nationals with an injured elbow.

Chilliwack’s Justin Hancock didn’t let pain stop him at last month’s Canadian Arm Wrestling Championships.

The 36-year-old battled through a painful elbow injury, muscling his way to a third place finish and doing far better than he thought he would with a wounded wing.

“From thinking at one point that I wasn’t even going to be able to compete to hearing my name called for a bronze medal, that was a great feeling,” he said.

Hancock tore the bicep tendon in his right arm last year. Surgery and recovery kept him out of the gym for several months.

When he returned to competition, he used his left arm. At a fundraiser tournament in Burnaby in April, Hancock injured that arm too.

There’s video of the match and you can actually hear it happen.

“I was arm wrestling a guy I know, and he hit and I kind of caught his hit and he went with a flop wrist press,” Hancock recalled, using some arm wrestling jargon. “When he did that, we both heard this ‘pop pop pop’ sound in my inner elbow.

“When I went to provincials one month later I was still feeling pain in the elbow and forearm. I had one match where I didn’t do much of anything. Any time he hit on my arm I felt this click, click, click in my forearm and I pulled out of the competition.”

Hancock, who trains with the Vancouver Arm Wrestling Club, got the injury checked out.

“There wasn’t any bruising and I still had movement, so my doctor said, ‘If it does persist or the pain gets worse we’ll send you in for an MRI,” he said. “Making it worse was definitely a concern and that’s why I pulled out of provincials.

“I wanted to make sure that if there was still time to heal that it would be healed by nationals.”

When nationals rolled around in mid-July, the three time B.C. champion wasn’t liking his chances.

“I figured I’d try anyways and see what happens,” he reasoned. “If I did feel any major pain I’d have to stop, or let myself get pinned.”

The event was held at West Edmonton Mall.

To compete in his desired weight class (100 kilogram), he had to lose four pounds in a hurry.

Any boxer or wrestler or mixed martial artist will tell you weight cuts aren’t easy, but Hancock dropped eight pounds (224 to 218), weighing in at 99kg.

Still plagued by uncertainty, he went into his first match.

He lost, and felt the familiar pain.

“I got put in a position where I was holding, and normally I’d have the strength to get more of an inside position and pull through,” he said. “But when I tried to do that, I could still feel the issue when he was hitting on my arm.

“But it wasn’t that bad, so I thought I’d keep going and I started winning some matches.”

While the same guy that beat him in the first match got him twice more, Hancock won four matches.

“But the way it was set up, I wasn’t sure what my placing was and I thought I was maybe fourth or fifth,” Hancock said. “When they were calling people up for the medals and they called my name for the bronze I was like, ‘Wow.’

“I was not expecting that.”

Hancock won bronze at the 2015 nationals, but this was a little more special because he had to fight through a whole lot more.

“Even within a matter of days before nationals, I was saying to my wife that I wasn’t sure I could compete,” he said. “I noticed at the gym doing certain exercises, I still felt a sharp pain when I went over a weight that I could normally do easily.

“On the first day in Edmonton, they started at 10 a.m. and I didn’t end up competing until 3 or 4 p.m., so I was sitting there waiting and watching most of the day with that concern.

“When I lost that first match I thought, ‘OK. This is how it’s going to go. I’m going to lose three matches and be out.’

“So when I got through all of the matches and I received that medal, that was a great feeling.”

One wonders how Hancock might have done with a healthy arm.

“It’s hard to say if I would have placed first or not, because the guy who did place first is quite good,” Hancock said. “But I would have liked my chances of finishing second a lot better.”

For full results from nationals, check cawf.ca/cawf-results

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