St. C. resident wins gold medal, sets world record in Armlifting

BETHESDA — While most moms were being wined and dined last month for Mother’s Day, St. Clairsville’s Melissa Dingey was setting a world record thousands of miles away in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Competing in the Armlifting Professional League World Championships, Dingey, a mother of one daughter, traveled abroad with her husband, Jason, and good friend, Mike Saffell.

“I had only been training for a few months, and only got into that because of my husband and Mike,” Melissa Dingey explained. “I picked it up really quick and I’ve done pretty well so far.”

Armlifting is a sport wherein a weight is lifted, or manipulated, with a predominant dependance on grip strength. It began as a single-discipline grip competition (Rolling Thunder) and has since expanded to include multiple events, with multiple classes, opening the sport to more people.

A nurse practitioner during the day, Dingey established her world record in the Silver Bullet Hold. Weight is added to a hand grip and the competitors see how long they can hold the grip.

“It was the first event in the women’s competition,” Dingey recalled. “It was pretty exciting. The world record was 52 seconds and a (USA) teammate of mine (Dani Schwalbe) broke it at 54.44. I was a couple of competitors behind her and I did it in 59.2.”

Dingey also brought home two bronze medals from the Axel Dead Lift and the Excalibur Lift.

Dingey nearly didn’t get to make the trip of a lifetime.

“I was No. 7 on the leaderboard in the national rankings and only the top 3 made the trip,” she explained. “For one reason or another, several people ahead of me couldn’t go, so I got the invite to go with my husband and Mike.”

And to think, her career began as “just something to do.”

“Mike had a competition and there was only one female coming from around Morgantown. He asked me if I wanted to step in so that there were two females going against each other,” she recalled. “One of the event’s was a head-to-head hold, so I started training and eventually competing.

“I did okay, but I didn’t win anything,” she noted. “Then, a few months later, I competed in Zanesville and I was the only woman there. I did well. My numbers were pretty good.”

Saffell also returned with a bronze medal in the Excalibur Lift where he scored 115 points.

Jason Dingey, although being ranked No. 3 entering the competition, failed to bring back a medal.

However, all three said it was an experience of a lifetime.

“It was great with the exception of the flights going there,” Jason said of a late flight out of Pittsburgh that caused a 12-hour layover in Chicago. “The people over there really treated us nice. They were happy that we were there.”

The Dingey’s are headed to Finland in August for another Grip Contest.

“I keep hearing it is the fastest growing sport going,” Saffell said of Armlifting. “But, you can take that for what it is worth. I’ve seen a lot more competitions popping up.”

For more information on the sport, contact Saffell at (740) 310-4622 or stop by his gym located at the corner of Lake and South Willow streets in Bethesda. It is located in the southwest corner of Epworth Lake.