There are many sports available for the youth of Eeyou Istchee. Hockey and basketball are the most popular, obviously, but John Bosum is trying to change that. And his 16-inch python-like arms are helping him along the way.

“I’ve been arm wrestling since I was 12,” said Bosum, 32, who is from Oujé-Bougoumou but has been living in Waskaganish with his girlfriend and two children for the last six years.

Bosum took part in the Provincial Arm Wrestling Championships in Quebec City on May 5 and loved every minute of it.

“It went really well,” he said. “It was the first time I pull with professionals like that. These guys are awesome. My dream is coming true right now.”

Bosum, who works as a translator for the traveling court, competed in the Super Heavyweight category and finished fourth out of five contestants. That’s pretty good considering the guys there are world-class “pullers.”

He made it to the championships when he was spotted by one of the organizers at a regional tourney in Amos. That, and the fact that they knew he trained with former world champion Ken Taylor, who is a big game guide in Waskaganish. It gave him extra street cred.

The difference between amateur and professional arm wrestling is the way you pull, Bosum told the Nation. “If you don’t have the proper technique you can break your arm, no matter how strong you are,” he said.

Bosum’s only win was more of a mental move than pure strength. “You have to set someone up so they think you’re going to be pulling one way and then switch when the ref says go. I beat the guy like that. He was setting himself up for a top roll and I got him with a hook.”

His journey to arm wrestling glory was a long, arduous one. He was a self-professed “drunk” and was going nowhere in life. “I was a real mess,” he said. “I was constantly drunk and high on cocaine. My plan was to drink myself to death.”

Until one day when things changed. “I was drunk one time in a bar and I said a little prayer. I said to God that if you really do care about me, send somebody to help me. That’s when I met my girlfriend and my prayer was answered. Today I have a real beautiful family.”

As a result of his strong showing against professional arm wrestlers in Quebec City, Bosum was invited to the Canadian Amateur Championships to wrestle as a pro. If he does well there, he’ll be invited to the World Amateur Championships in San Francisco.

“It’s not everybody that watches or plays baseball,” said Bosum, who used to play baseball to “fill in the gap,” but said he never enjoyed it like he does arm wrestling. “This would be a different sport (for those people).”

He credits Taylor for getting him to where he is today. “He’s a real good guy and without him these doors wouldn’t have opened for me. We used to sit there and watch arm wrestling on TV and he taught me a lot about technique.”

Strength, according to Bosum, is only 40 per cent of the equation. The other 60 per cent is technique. “Size doesn’t matter. I have close to 16-inch arms and I’ve taken down a guy with 20-inch arms. It’s not about how much you can lift or how strong you are.”

Bosum’s training regimen includes lifting a lot of weights, concentrating on hammer curls and similar exercises. He also arm wrestles once a week with his buddy Germain Capissisit.

He’s had to deal with negative comments since he took up the sport 20 years ago. His brother used to tell him that he would never make it. “I could have turned around and turned that into anger towards him but I didn’t. I took it as a challenge,” said Bosum.

“Whatever sport you like, prove that you can do it. If you have it in your heart, do it. Don’t worry about what others say. Believe in yourself.”

He is hoping to get funding so he can travel to more tournaments, which are held across the province every weekend.

Just before going to press, the Nation learned that Bosum finished third and fourth in right and left arm respectively at a tournament in North Bay.

Bosum’s inspiration to further his arm wrestling career came from his cousin, the late Maggie Capissisit-Lacroix. “She came by the house one day and wondered why I had a table to arm wrestle on, even though I never went to competitions. I thought about it and she was right. I dedicated this tournament to her. If it wasn’t for her encouragement, I wouldn’t have gone to Quebec.”

To get started in the world of arm wrestling or for any advice on the sport, call John Bosum at 819-895-2171.