Clayton Faulconer is an arm-wrestling pro who was born and raised in Fernie. (Joshua Fischlin/The Free Press)

Clayton Faulconer is an arm-wrestling pro who was born and raised in Fernie. (Joshua Fischlin/The Free Press)

‘Gift from God’: Fernie-born arm-wrestling pro makes comeback after life-altering injury

Clayton Faulconer suffered a traumatic brain injury after a car accident in Vancouver

For Clayton Faulconer of Fernie, arm wrestling is a ‘gift from God.’

That’s because Faulconer, who was born and raised in Fernie but now lives in North Vancouver, suffered a “terrible accident” about three and a half years ago that left him with a traumatic brain injury (and it wasn’t the only major accident he’s been in in his life).

In 2018, it was a car accident in Vancouver that left him in an induced coma for 7 days. He spent a 6-month stretch in hospitals and a group home after that.

The road to recovery was severe. He had to relearn how to eat, talk, and walk, he said.

But through it all, there was one thing that stayed solid.

“After my accident, arm wrestling was like riding a bicycle,” he said.

“It was easier than eating.”

Faulconer has been no stranger to the strength-testing sport in his life. As a kid, he knew his parents (who still live in Fernie) were very strong, and he wanted to be as strong as them. His mother did well in an arm-wrestling competition in Fernie in 1987, and he was inspired.

When he moved to Cranbrook for college in 1991, he began to train with the Cranbrook Wrist Wrestling club, and had his first contest that year, in which he didn’t do so well. Fast forward three years, to 1994, and he won the Canadian Wrist Wrestling Championships in Kelowna, according to his new website, Arm Wrestling Champions. He had already collected a set of arm-wrestling accolades before the accident in Vancouver.

“As soon as I got out of the group home, I wanted to arm wrestle, I wanted to get back into it,” he said, adding that “I’ve been training my butt off for the last three years.”

About two years ago, Faulconer was already back in the saddle. He competed in a national championship at the West Edmonton Mall and placed second, “which is crazy,” he said.

He wasn’t sure if he still had it in him, and coming in second in the national championship proved it, he said.

That second place finish enabled him to compete in the World Armwrestling Federation championships in Romania in December, 2021.

So, about four months ago, a few years after his life-altering injury, Faulconer flew to Romania, the ancestral homeland of his mother, to compete in a world tournament that included about 1,600 competitors of different weight classes, he said.

Fernie’s Faulconer placed 7th in his weight class, though he said the host of the tournament still gave him a gold medal out of appreciation for his story.

Now, Faulconer is telling his tale and offering arm-wrestling training videos at his newly-launched website, armwrestlingchampions.com. It’s his vision, he said, to be able to teach people the sport that he’s been doing for over 30 years.

“Arm wrestling, for me, is like a gift from God,” Faulconer said.

“I lived, and it gives me a chance to prevail and be good. So it’s like a breath of fresh air.”

“Arm wrestling is a sign that this is what I’m here to do. I know that I’m here to arm wrestle. That’s why God put me on the earth.”

Looking forward, Faulconer is excited to compete in a provincial championship in Kelowna in May.

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scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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