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In Seach Of The Best Armwrestler; Senegal's New Sporting Obsession

posted 31 May 2013, 06:52 by Mpelembe   [ updated 31 May 2013, 06:53 ]

Arm wrestling is becoming a new trend in Dakar after a Senegalese tournament called "Jaay Doole", " or "Show your Strength" started going from neighbourhood to neighbourhood looking for the strongest man. Around 60 people take part in each neighbourhood competition, and winners get cash prizes. Some arm wrestlers are already becoming neighbourhood stars, known for their skill and strength.

 DAKARSENEGAL  (REUTERS) - Twice a month, the Jaay Doole tournament brings together dozens of Senegalese athletes, looking for a fight.

But this fight is a non-violent one - the Jaay Doole tournaments, which translated from Wolof means "Show your Strength", organised throughout Senegal's capitalDakar - are searching for the city's best armwrestler.

Every two weeks, the team behind the Jaay Doole sets up stage in a different neighbourhood, attracting men from all over the capital to compete.

The tournament is conducted in single-elimination fashion: arm wrestlers are pitted against each other and the winner advances to the next rounds.

Armwrestling is a relatively new sport in Senegal, but organisers of Jaay Doole say that it has increasingly become popular, pulling in large crowds.

"There are a lot of fans, I even have some. They encourage me. I like that," said competitor Alioune Diop, who won the very first Jaay Doole tournament earlier this year.

Some of the arm wrestlers, such as Diop, train four to five days a week and compete in almost each tournament, while others simply join in on the fun when the matches come to their neighbourhoods.

At a recent tournament in Dakar's Medina neighbourhood, fans stayed until almost midnight to cheer on their favorite competitors.

Although the most popular sport in Senegal is traditional form of wrestling, many feel that the sport is overcrowded, and many traditional wrestlers can go an entire year without competing.

Armwrestling can provide a new outlet for these talented athletes say organizers and fans.

"It allows the youth to get behind their wrestler, because here in almost every neighbourhood, there is a wrestlers who are often training, but who do not necessarily compete. So this allows the youth to root for these sports figures and to support them," said Emmanuel Goudiaby, who came out to watch the match in Medina.

As the games wrapped up, spectators looked on in suspense as Cheikh Sadibou Ba, who had won the most recent competition, squared off in the final round, which he went on to win.

Days after his victory, Ba is back in his neighbourhood, where he had placed the trophy on a stone pillar along the wall at the makeshift outdoor gym where he trains four days a week.

Ba only began arm wrestling this year but is convinced that the sport is worth some investment.

"I think that arm wrestling can become a popular sport, just like traditional wrestling, or even more so. But it needs the support of people in this country, it's possible. Because there are lot of young people here who practice weight lifting and everyone cannot turn to traditional wrestling," said Ba.

Ibrahima Ndiaye, promoter for Jaay Doole, said there are thousands of youth inDakar like Ba, working out in gyms each day but have nothing to do. He is looking for sponsors so he can increase the cash prizes and attract more contenders.

"I like this sport, because there is not any violence. It's a professional sport. You can come in your suit, you can come in anything to do this sport," he said.

Ndiaye says their ultimate goal is that the Senegalese Armwrestling Association can soon join the World Armwrestling Federation and athletes like Ba can compete in tournaments around the world.

Meanwhile, the Jaay Doole search continues for the city's best arm wrestler - they hope to crown a champion by October.