Thumbs up! Hong Kong hosts hundreds of competitors for World Thumb Wrestling Championships

Now a professional sport, the schoolyard pastime encourages local residents to pull their eyes and thumbs away from their smartphones and engage others

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 August, 2016, 4:38pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 August, 2016, 5:58pm

A different kind of sport has come to Hong Kong. One that you’re more likely to see down at your local tavern than at the Olympics. Professional thumb wrestling.

The three-week-long World Thumb Wrestling Championships, created in a UK pub in 2009, arrived in Hong Kong for the first time last month and has since attracted more than 200 local participants.

Organisers are hoping the event, which concludes on Friday, will encourage Hongkongers to pull their eyes and thumbs away from their smartphone screens and instead engage others.

Rex Tso to announce his next opponent as he vies for his 20th straight victory

“At its core, thumb wrestling is about people coming together,” Mark Wright, co-founder of the championships, said. “It is a game where you have to sit across from someone and actually talk to them.”

He said when kids who are largely addicted to their smartphone for games and entertainment try thumb wrestling for the first time they get “really excited and active”.

Thumb wrestling is good for enhancing one’s concentration and observation skills
Rex Tso, Hong Kong professional boxer

Wright founded the championships at his local pub in Suffolk, England, with just 30-odd people. The annual championship has since grown and has brought hundreds of international competitors to Hong Kong.

Wright decided to hold the annual competition in Asia this year to spread the message that anyone of any age can compete.

The game involves two people sitting opposite each other with their hands locked and thumbs up. The aim is to pin your opponent’s thumb down for at least 30 seconds.

While some might view the game as mere child’s play, at least one Hong Kong-based professional athlete asserts thumb wrestling holds hidden benefits.

“Thumb wrestling is good for enhancing one’s concentration and observation skills,” Rex Tso, an international boxing champion, said.

The championship was spread over three weekends. The semi-finals were held on August 6 and 7, and the finals this weekend.

Defending world champion Jack Paul Alastair Reynolds, in town for this weekend’s final, said he was shocked at how far the game had come.

“It’s pretty crazy how far and quickly this game has spread so far,” he said. “But it just goes to show that everyone can compete, from a super buff strongman to a small child.”