ABIGAIL Kee has a dream to become a world class puller (arm-wrestler) one day.
The 14-year-old from SMK Batu Lintang was a member of the Malaysian team taking part in the recent 40th World Arm-wrestling Championship in Antalya, Turkey from Oct 12 to 22.
Although she didn’t perform to her expectation, the experience of competing on the international stage did the young lass a world of good.
Like any teenager, Abigail loves to play, shop, make up, draw and watch movies.
But what sets her apart from most female teens her age is that she is a very strong girl and has made the grade as a state puller in the women’s heavyweight (80kg and above) category.
Abigail has taken part in and won many local and state-level arm-wrestling competitions.
In Aug this year, she was selected to take part in the National Meet. She placed third in the Women’s Right 80kg Event and also earned the distinction of being the country’s youngest exponent in the power sport.
The achievement gave her the ticket to the World Championship in Turkey.
Abigail has a love-hate relationship with arm-wrestling. Initially, she had no interest at all in the sport while studying at SMK Batu Lintang and was not coping too well with her studies.
But her father Stephen Kee encouraged her to take up arm-wrestling as he felt that it could be a good alternative for her if she did not score good grades in her PT3 or other exams.
Stephen is no stranger to the local, national and international arm-wrestling arenas, having participated in and organised several international arm-wrestling competitions in Kuching.
As Deputy President of the Sarawak Arm-wrestling Association (Sasa) as well as the Malaysia Arm Wrestling Association, he was instrumental in getting Canadian world champion Devon Larrat to make an appearance at the Premier 101 International Charity Arm-wrestling Championship early this year.
It’s his dream to see his daughter become a world puller. He used to bring Abigail to the gym for training when she was 11 years old. A year later, she started joining local competitions and won prizes.
At this year’s Premier 101 International Charity Arm-wrestling Championship, Abigail crossed arms with pullers from Chinese Taipei, Japan, China, Kuala Lumpur and Sabah and made it to the quarterfinals in her category.
Relating how she got into arm-wrestling, she said: “At first, I wasn’t interested. In school, the sport is not popular compared to badminton and basketball. But I told myself, maybe I should give it a go. It was just a fleeting thought. Then with encouragement from my dad, I finally decided to take up the sport.
“It was my dad’s wish that one day I could compete in a world meet and become a professional puller to bring glory to both the state and country.”
Abigail’s first day at the gym was a teary experience.
As she recalled, it was rather hard being the only ‘little girl’ surrounded by macho guys.
“At that time, I felt very angry with dad for asking me to do what I disliked. At times, I really couldn’t stand it and I hid myself in the toilet and cried.
“Also, when I was training, my friends used to ask me to go out with them but I always turned them down. I was quite upset when they said I didn’t want to go out with them,” she remembered.
After six months of intensive training, Abigail started to compete in both ‘big and small’ tournaments. She was only 12 when she participated in the Premier 101 Community Club International Arm-wrestling Championship.
“I thought I was strong but I found out at the championship there were even stronger opponents out there with better physiques and were very serious about the sport.
“That made me very nervous and feel I would lose to them. And I did lose to a puller from Sabah which made me very sad and disappointed,” Abigail said, adding that she wanted to quit after that but her father (and coach) managed to persuade her to continue.
To help her improve, Stephen specially flew in a coach and a qualified world referee, Goh Thian Weai, from Penang.
“It was very tough training under Goh but he never gave up on me and continued to encourage and motivate me to be a better puller. In fact, he tailored my training programme,” Abigail said.
There were days when she felt very tired and was told to rest but before long, the grind would start all over again.
After school, she would head straight to the gym for the daily two-hour training (7pm to 9pm), making the gym her second home.
She is happy that after taking up arm-wrestling, she has become more disciplined and focused in her studies and her grades have improved.
Abigail returned to competition in the Premier 101 International Arm-wrestling Championship in January and was pitted against top pullers from Chinese Taipei, Japan, China, Kuala Lumpur and Sabah in the Women’s Open category.
She won in the first but lost the second match. She began to lose hope, fearing she would lose again. However, a strong supporter of hers told her she had not completely lost after losing just one match.
A puller will be knocked out if he or she loses two consecutive bouts.
“I didn’t have enough confidence and made mistakes because I was nervous. But after my supporter’s advice and encouragement, I pulled myself together and soldier on,” she said.
That renewed oomph got her into the quarter-finals.
It was very good learning experience and exposure for her.
With the positives derived from that outing under her belt, Abigail went on to lift the women’s title in the Sarawak Arm-wrestling Championship, organised by Sasa, in June this year.
On her future plans, she said she didn’t want to get too far ahead of herself and would just follow the training programme drawn up by her father and coach.
“I’m hoping I can go far in arm-wrestling and one day compete in a world championship and even the Olympics. I’m still young and I believe there is a bright future for me in this sport.
Abigail looks up to Sarah Backman, a former eight-time world champion from Sweden.
“I hope one day I can emulate her. I admire her greatly for her seriousness, spirit and passion for sport,” she said.