Bair father-daughter pair wins world arm-wrestling gold

David Peck
Few athletes can say they are world champions. Fewer still can boast having two family members with world titles.

The latter rare feat was performed by the father-daughter duo of Devin and Charlotte Bair, who brought home multiple medals, including golds, from the International Federation of Armwrestling World Championships held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, last week, September 27-30, as members of Team USA.

Devin qualified for the World Championships at the IFA Nationals in Joliet, Illinois, in April, but as the Nationals event was held in a casino, with people under the age of 21 not allowed in the facility, Charlotte was able to attend the World event based on her overall performances up to that point since she – and other youths – could not qualify at Nationals.

In Malaysia, Devin won the Men’s 78 Kilogram Lefthanded Masters Class and bronze in the 78 Kilo Righthanded Masters Class. He also competed in the 78 Kilo Seniors classes but didn’t win a medal.

“It was four days of pulling, so I pulled the other classes the next two days but didn’t compete well in them. I was too sore,” he said. “I was warned against it, but when you travel that far, why would you not compete more?”

Seniors would be considered the “regular class,” Devin said, and Masters is for competitors over 40. Devin is 41.

Charlotte, meanwhile, won gold in 52 Kilo U15 Class, both lefthanded and righthanded and later competed in the Open 52 Kilo Class, battling much older opponents, winning a silver medal righthanded and a bronze medal lefthanded.

It was “cool” for Charlotte, Devin said, because her four medals, plus his two, helped Team USA win the overall team competition, with total medals adding up like the Olympics.

It was an arduous tournament, Devin said, competing with the best of the best.

“I had 18 guys in my class. That makes for a long day of pulling,” he said.

Devin beat Yoichiro Urakami of Japan for his gold medal, with Pham Chi Dung of Vietnam taking the bronze. Righthanded, Urakami took the gold and Dimitrios Filikidis of Greece the silver, with Devin third.

The IFA Worlds will be held in Greece next year, Devin said.

In Charlotte’s class, most of the athletes in her class were from India, Devin said, noting it’s tough for parents from faraway places to travel to a competition, and India is in the region. India brought some 70 athletes to the competition among all classes, he added.

Asked the key to the Bair family’s success, Devin noted, “A lot of it is just training and, if you hadn’t ever been to a tournament and your first tournament is the Worlds, you’re going to struggle because it’s a big stage. It’s the small tournaments, the state tournaments, that get you prepared. I’ve competed in 27 states; Charlotte’s competed in seven states.”

He added that he has competed in six foreign countries, while last week was Charlotte’s first international trip.

Devin said winning the gold medal was rewarding.

“To me it’s a relief,” he said. “I’ve been chasing a gold medal for a long time. I’ve been arm-wrestling since 1999, and I’ve medaled in Japan and Canada but never got the gold. It’s rewarding. I put a lot of effort and (endured) a lot of pain. It’s been a whole career worth of arm-wresting. I started in ’99 and have been a top contender always.

“Arm-wrestling is a sport where, the older you get, the stronger you get up to a certain level, but it’s a reason to stay in shape and stay healthy and stay in that certain weight class.”

Charlotte is only 15 but has been arm-wrestling since 2017, Devin said, so she has more experience than most in her class.

“For a 15-year-old to have that many years of experience already, six years of tournaments and traveling, just gives her a lot of advantage,” Devin said, “that and having professional coaching and training, being able to have me train her and talk her through the matches. She’d get up on the world stage and be calm and collected. She knew exactly what she needed to do. The average 15-year-old is just starting, where she’s got six years doing it.

“Charlotte is never going to be some big, huge girl, so I think she could really dominate that 52 kilo class for a lot of years.”

A member of the Lovell High School wrestling team, Charlotte has found her armwrestling training to be a benefit, Devin said of the LHS sophomore.

“I think her arm-wrestling training definitely helps her wrestling because your back muscles and hands and wrists are trained to be stronger for when you grab hold of somebody and pull,” he said. “If you take an average girl her age or her size, her hands and wrists are way stronger. She has definitely built some strength.

“Even myself, I don’t look like some big, giant guy, but in arm-wrestling I’m very, very strong at what I do. It’s been a pleasure of a sport to be involved with. The family aspect of the sport is just incredible, even traveling with Team USA, the support you get from all your friends that you’ve been in the sport with and traveled with for years…It was pretty neat for her (Charlotte) to experience and meet all these people from different countries.”

Devin said he plans to continue to compete because he enjoys the travel and the friendships.

“I’m going to continue to do it. As long as I’m healthy enough to do it, I’m going to continue to compete and represent the U.S. internationally and hope that Charlotte wants to continue to do it with me.”

A reception was held for the two world champions Monday evening at the Bairs’ MJ Ballcourt on Shoshone Avenue in Lovell, with numerous friends and family members in attendance.