This 28-year-old founded Singapore’s arm wrestling scene
Today, Valen has over 11 years of competitive experience, with prestigious awards such as the Asian Arm Wrestling Championship title to his name.
In hopes to get fitter and stronger, a 13-year-old Valen Low began arm wrestling with some of his secondary school classmates and friends. Little did he know that in 15 years time, he would be at the forefront of the arm wrestling scene in Singapore.
It all began when Valen enrolled into his first arm wrestling competition in Malaysia when he was just 16 years old.
While it was undeniably a nerve-wracking experience for him, he managed to learn a lot from the competition, and even cites it as one the biggest stepping stones in his arm wrestling journey.
He says: “I realised that there is such a big scene in Malaysia for arm wrestling, with proper arm wrestling tables, referees and organising.
“It also gave me insight that there are people who are much stronger than me, and how I can train to beat them in the future.”
Since then, Valen’s passion towards the sport only continued to grow as he started taking part in more competitions.
Today, apart from working as a full time personal trainer, the 28-year-old also serves as the founder and President of Singapore Armwrestling, an organisation which he registered under the International Federation of Armwrestling and the Registry of Societies.
He shares: “I wanted to pull everyone together in Singapore so that we can have an organisation and a platform to compete. It can also raise more awareness about arm wrestling at the same time.”
Apart from hosting local competitions, such as the first ever arm wrestling national championships which took place last December, Valen also networks with other countries to build good relationships and seek overseas competition opportunities as the association’s President.
Valen’s success today also did not come easy.
As one of the first few Singaporeans to compete in arm wrestling at an international level, Valen did not have a coach to oversee his training and provide proper guidance.
On top of that there were also very few resources for him to refer to in order to learn more about the sport. As a result, he was mostly left to his own devices when he started out, which often led to injuries as he was constantly experimenting with different training methods.
However, it did not deter him from pursuing the sport at all.
He shares: “If it works for me, I’ll implement it into my training. If it doesn’t work and I get injured, then I take it as a learning point whereby it is something that I cannot do, but perhaps someone else can as each individual is different.
“From there, I take what is needed and throw away what is not to formulate the best thing for myself to compete for the sport at a high level.”
As a beginner, competition experience was also something that Valen actively seeked out to hone his skills. However, doing so did not come at a cheap price as the majority of the competitions were held overseas.
While competition entry fees are relatively affordable, costing between $50 and $100, the majority of the costs are usually incurred from flight and accommodation expenses. Based on his experience, travelling to countries such as Japan or Australia would cost around $1,000, whereas going to further countries such as the United States can cost up to $3,000 to $4,000.
Preparing for competitions is also no easy feat. As men’s competitions are often split up into various weight classes ranging from 57kg to 105kg, a lot of preparation that goes beyond physical training is required to meet the competition requirements.
Apart from doing strength and cardio training, Valen also has to constantly track his weight and food intake to prepare for the competition. To cut his weight and meet the competition’s requirements, he also employs certain processes to manipulate his sodium, carbohydrate and water intake.
Similar to many niche sports, arm wrestling also carries its own set of misconceptions.
In Valen’s opinion, one of the most common ones is that whoever is bigger in size will always win.
“It’s all in the hand, the forearm, and technique as well. A lot of small movements can contribute to how good you actually are on the arm wrestling table. If you are doing a different type of technique against me, I might have the advantage, whereas others might not.
“Strength gets more important when you are deeper into the sport and meet more experienced arm wrestlers who already know all the techniques. That is when strength will give you an advantage.”
Moving forward, Valen hopes to continue pursuing arm wrestling and eventually compete at the highest level of the sport in the World Championships. He aspires to one day reach the level where he can “match up to the Russians and Kazakhs”, who he considers as some of the best in the world.
Now with more overseas competition opportunities starting to emerge as more countries open up their borders, Valen’s trophy and medal collection will only continue to grow in his pursuit to being among the best arm wrestlers in the world.
With his extensive competitive experience and numerous medals to his name now, he only has one piece of advice to those who aspire to follow in his footsteps:
“It (competing) requires a lot of discipline. At the end of the day, if there is a goal you want to achieve, you have to take small steps to reach it.
“Along the way, you’ll find out that there will be deterrents. You have to find a way to either climb over it, go under it, or destroy the wall. Whatever you do, just go to the next one. As long as the end goal is in your mind, always try to push to reach it.”