Utah math teacher blazing trail as world arm wrestling champion

Mar 10, 2023, 1:48 PM

HERRIMAN, Utah — In the Jordan School District, there is a teacher who said after weightlifting for some time, she felt like she needed a competitive outlet. She decided to turn to a niche sport: arm wrestling.

Sarah LaFond said she’s always loved a good challenge.

“Most people’s first thing is, ‘Wait, really?’ They think I’m joking,’” said LaFond, a math teacher at Mountain Ridge High School.

KSL visited her classroom Friday, where a variety of arm-wrestling medals — silver, bronze, and gold — were on display.

The notorious school introductions, where everyone takes turns sharing a few fun facts about yourself, catch attention in her classroom when it is her turn to share.

“I arm wrestle,” LaFond said.

Her biggest win yet: the titleholder for this year’s female world championship in arm wrestling.

She said some competitors in that competition hailed from Sweden, Poland and Canada.

LaFond pulled up a video on her laptop Friday that captured the moment she became the female world arm wrestling champion.

“I didn’t think I had a chance to come back from that position, but I was gonna fight the whole time,” LaFond said.

In a sport that is male dominated, she is trailblazing a path for her and other women.

“When I was very young, I wanted to show I could do what the boys could do,” LaFond said. “Lots of women in our society and America don’t view strength as positive. We’re not encouraged to show strength emotionally, physically in any way.”

Through arm wrestling, she is redefining what strength means to her.

“I can go and be a competitor and be unapologetic. Be fierce. That’s huge for me.”

Back in the classroom, she has found arm wrestling and math really do go hand in hand.

“We train our minds to think, ‘I’m not good at this or I can’t do this.’ And so I try to ingrain in my students how critical work ethic is. Just trying to teach them that stick-to-it-iveness of you keep going after what you want, and if you work harder, you get better,'” LaFond said.

Her fellow teachers are also learning a thing or two when it comes to challenging her.

“I’ve beat a male coworker in the building who will remain nameless for his sake,” LaFond said.

The good sport he is — Nathan Lowe, an English teacher just down the hall — decided to come forward.

“The fact is, as soon as I lined up with our left arms, I was like, ‘I’m gonna lose!’” Lowe said.

For the record, though, Lowe said he has come away the champion at one point.

“I do want to say I beat her with my right arm!” he said.

All in good fun, the end result is inspiration, both for the school district and for LaFond’s students.

“It can be really inspiring. It shows determination,” LaFond said.

LaFond boils it all down to grit.

“You can work harder for longer. Even if someone else got you at the ready go, then you can win. So, it’s really just ‘Never give up’ for me,” LaFond said. “You don’t give up on your students. You don’t give up on your family. You don’t give up on your work and what you’re trying to purse.”

LaFond said she is also paving the way for her 5-year-old daughter, who wants to be just like mom, as she is taking up arm wrestling.

She said she would love to go back to the world championships, but doesn’t know if she’ll get there due to finances. In the meantime, she will continue training.

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Utah math teacher blazing trail as world arm wrestling champion