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  • Jodi Blake

Female Arm Wrestler Proves That Small Can Be Mighty

Two women arm wrestling at a competition
Court Farwell, left, competes at an arm-wrestling event.

When you first meet Court Farwell, a petite music teacher, you probably would not guess that she also competes in arm wrestling.

Court enjoys the juxtaposition between her career and her sport.

“It’s cool because no one ever assumes the music teacher is also an arm wrestler. Maybe the football coach, but not the music teacher.”

Court teaches instrumental music at a junior high and directs a high school jazz band. She says her students are always surprised when they learn she competes and usually wins her arm-wrestling contests.

But then, looks and stereotypes are usually deceiving.

Being Physically Strong and Competitive from the Beginning

Court grew up on a farm with her parents, a brother, and a sister. She was always competing with her brother about everything, especially anything physical. By fifth grade, she could do 11 chin-ups, which tied with the boys in her class.

She was always athletic, but participating in sports wasn’t really an option because of the long bus rides between school and the farm, the need to get home to help with chores, and then do homework. When she was a high school senior, Court finally had the chance to join the track team. Running the 4 x 400-meter relay was her favorite event. She was even elected MVP by the track team despite only being a member for one year.

“Chasing cows [on the farm] really helped,” Court joked, when remembering her track days.

When she wasn’t doing chores on the farm, Court also helped with the family’s construction business and often spent her college summers helping with house roofing jobs. Through lots of manual labor, Court developed a lot of upper body strength.

Her dad, Eric, was interested in arm wrestling, but he was too socially anxious to try competing. A couple years ago in the garage, Court recalled, she and her dad arm wrestled each other for fun – and Court won! She insists that he didn’t let her win. But that’s when Court started getting more interested in arm wrestling and how she could defeat opponents despite her smaller size.

Putting Her Talent on the Table

Before long, Court was ready to try competing. There was a June 2020 competition in O’Fallon, Mo. She told her dad she wanted to enter. “Let’s go and see what happens,” she said. Eric thought, “Please don’t let her break her arm.” Not only is Court his daughter, but she is also an employee.

Well, she won in both women’s weight classes. (You can arm wrestle in your own weight class and in any higher weight classes.)

Slideshow (click arrows to advance photos) / Photo 1: Super Match competition poster featuring Court Farwell against Sarah Collins McKinney. / Photo 2: Court setting up at the table for the Super Match competition.

In her competitions so far, she has never received lower than second place. She even won a super match against professional Sarah McKinney of Texas in October 2021, at the Fallen Heroes Arm Wrestling Tournament in Kansas City, Mo. (Check out the match video.)

“I’m either teaching a lesson or I’m receiving one [in a match].”

Arm wrestling competitions are popular in the US for both amateurs and professionals. Several organizations host events, and local teams bring competitors together to train together.

Court joined the Peoria-area River City Armwrestling team, which gets together on most Sundays for practice matches (also called “table time”) and “slow practice” to try out different techniques. She tries to join them at least once a month.

When Court first started to compete, Eric encouraged her to talk to others about tips, and she was surprised about how willing everyone is to share tips and techniques and take fellow competitors under their wings. Before long, they were telling her that she’s “a natural” at the sport.

Man and woman arm wrestling
Eric Farwell, coach and dad, practices arm-wrestling techniques with daughter Court.

Eric remains Court’s primary coach. He did a lot of online research into the sport and the various techniques from the beginning, which she has benefitted from. “For example,” Court said, “I do a tap roll move, which is more technical, than a hook move that curls your wrist like when you flex your bicep.”

They also focus on being smart and safe about the techniques she uses. Court and Eric also insist on healthy arm wrestling without the use of any drugs or supplements – even though the sport is not drug tested at this point.

As part of her training, Court does lots of chin-ups and pull-ups and uses pulleys during her workouts to maintain her upper body strength. Tendon strength is especially important as it’s a key component to success and even more than muscle strength – to control the amount of torque on the elbow.

Eric even built an arm-wrestling table as a wedding gift for her and wife Suzi. Now they can have coaching sessions in her garage. Right now, she’s working on standing up more than sitting to allow her body weight and leaning to pull the competitor towards her to pin the arm. They also use videos of her practices and competitions to critique how she did.

When she competes, Court likes to have her dad there. “He’s my guy in the corner. My dad is the one who knows the minute things because he studies so much,” she said.

Looking Ahead in the Sport

With a few competitions under her belt, Court is setting some goals. She wants to win against a rival competitor who is the only one, so far, she has not defeated, and she wants to compete at a World Armwrestling League professional event.

She also thinks her participation in the sport helps fight the stigma of women having muscles. “It can keep them from even trying,” Court said. She thinks it’s more important to empower women, especially in such a male-dominated sport.

“I’m going to have muscles, and I’m gonna rock it.”

Arm wrestling has taught Court a lot in her short three years with the sport. She says it is the kindest sport with how welcoming and encouraging everyone is. As for the competitive side of the sport, the adage “Never judge a book by its cover” applies – about her or her competitors. Finally, she realizes she likes being the underdog because no one expects her to win because of her size.

No doubt more people will be learning not to count out Court Farwell at the table.


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1 Comment

Apr 21, 2023

Wow! I didn't even know competitive arm wrestling was a thing. Way to go, Court!

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