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A world arm wrestling champion looks up to the government for an Arjuna award

Kavita Kanan Chandra| 08 Mar 2014, Vol 5 Issue 10

Kochi based Joby Mathew (37) is just 3 feet 5 inches in height, but he became the world arm wrestling champion in 2008 beating several able-bodied men taller than him.

He has also won several international titles in the dwarf and disabled categories. At last year’s World Dwarf Games he won five gold medals – in shot-put, badminton (both singles and doubles), javelin throw, and discus throw.

Joby has done India proud winning international championships in arm wrestling in both disabled and general categories

“I don’t feel I am a disabled person. I believe in my abilities,” says Joby, who is in great demand as a motivational speaker these days.

Sample his positive attitude to life when he talks about himself. “I look at my arms that are big and strong and focus on them,” says Joby, whose upper body is normal while his legs have stunted growth.

His condition is known as Bilateral Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency in medical terms. Despite his severe disability, Joby has achieved success. His arms wrestled for him to overcome the limitations that his legs imposed.

For a number of years since 1994 he has been the national arm wrestling champion in the disabled category.

In 2009 - the year after he became the world champion in the general category – he won the national title in the 52 kg general category as well.

Joby could not take part in the world championship last year, but had won the gold in disabled category and a silver medal in general category in the 2012 edition.

Whether he is winning or losing, Joby is not averse to competing with able-bodied participants in the general category.

“Any competition is tough. At world championships it is always tough, irrespective of the category, since you are competing with the best talent,” he says.

In 2008 he stunned many when he won the gold medal in the arm wrestling world championship in general category.

He proved that hard work, determination, conviction, and working on one’s strong points could dwarf all other perceived disadvantages associated with a physically challenged person like him.

But his success is as much about his rigorous training as his positive attitude.

Joby follows a strict exercise regimen to keep himself fit. He wakes up daily at 5 am and visits the gym where he spends an hour. Next, an hour of swimming and rock climbing for half an hour follows.

After having breakfast, he is off to office. Joby is an assistant manager at Bharat Petroleum, where he has been employed since 2008.

In the evenings he could be seen playing badminton at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium.

Born in Adukkom, near Poonjar in Kottayam it was the district sports meet at Kottayam in 1983 that changed Joby's life.

It was at this meet that his athletic career took off after he won gold medals in running and throw-ball in the disabled category.

But arm-wrestling has always been special to him.

Joby has no problem in competing in the general category with able-bodied men

Joby says it was the rejection he faced from his school mates who would not include him in their games due to his short stature that prompted him to try arm-wrestling.

In this game his short legs were no hindrance and he was able to beat his classmates hands down.

In no time he was hooked to the sport.

In 2005 he got an opportunity to represent India for the first time at the world arm wrestling championship in Japan in both general and disabled categories. He won three medals at the meet. He has not looked back since then.

Joby hopes that the Indian government would honor him with Arjuna Award for his achievements as an arm wrestler in the national and international arena.

According to Joby, winning medals is one aspect of his life, but more important for him is to inspire people and touch their lives.

He speaks in schools and colleges and other public functions motivating people to aspire and make the best of what they have.

“If you let your limitations take over your mind, they will destroy you,” he says.

From his own experiences Joby could inspire millions.

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