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German men with the strongest fingers compete in ‘Fingerhakeln’ championship

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Germany’s famous finger wrestlers met in a beer tent yet again over the weekend, to decide which man has the strongest digits.

Despite the threat of dislocated fingers and strained muscles, over 150 Bavarian men came together on Sunday May 12 to compete in Germany’s unique national championship of “Fingerhakeln,” or finger wrestling.

The “finger wrestlers” met in a big beer tent in the small southern village of Bernbeuren. Around 1,000 visitors cheered on the all-male contestants as they gulped down their national beer and world-famous German sausages while Bavarian live music filled the air.

The village has a population of less than 3,000.

Finger wrestling, a well-known competitive sport in Germany’s Alpine region and neighboring Austria, originated as a way to settle disputes.

A competitor warms up for his bout, at the German Championships in Fingerhakeln or finger wrestling, in Bernbeuren, Germany (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

In each round, two competitors sit on opposite sides of a solid table and each hooks one finger — usually the middle finger — through opposite sides of a small leather loop. As soon as a referee signals the start, a contestant tries to pull the other across the table swiftly. The whole thing usually lasts a few seconds, and digits put out of their joints are common. The winner moves to the next round.

An Auffänger sits behind each contestant to support their bodies if they lean too far back.

A man dressed in traditional clothes tries to pull his opponent over the table at the German Championships (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The standard rules for the measurements of the leather strap, table placed between the opponents, stools on which both the parties sit, and distance between the middle line and the sidelines need to be followed.

The length of the strap is 10cm and the table is 109cm long.

Training regimens for the wrestlers consists of using their middle finger to lift a weight and pull a rubber band over and over again.

A competitor stretches his fingers as he prepares for a bout at the German Championships in Fingerhakeln (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

According to experts those with fatter fingers are more likely to win. Athletes train their fingers by squeezing tennis balls and lifting heavy weights with one finger.

“This tradition has been popular for a very long time in beer houses and pubs across the region,” said Marie-Therese Eierstock, the head of the Fingerhakler Gau Auerberg association, founded in 1961 and organized this year’s championship.

People dressed in traditional clothes attend the German Championships in Fingerhakeln or finger wrestling (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Customarily, only men are allowed to participate in finger-wrestling competitions.

At Sunday’s tournament, the youngest competitor was 15 years old and the oldest 70, Eierstock said.

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