World Championship Tug-Of-War Is 'A Thing Of Beauty'

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The Tug-of-War World Championships take place in Madison, Wisconsin, this weekend. And it's not like your school playground tug-of-war.

Rick Skindrud, a longtime enthusiast and coaching assistant to the U.S. team in Wisconsin, said eight people in sync, digging their steel-heeled shoes in and leaning way back to pull a rope 12 feet to victory is "a thing of beauty" and not to be missed.

But it's not all about brute strength, he explained.

"Strength is obviously an important part of it," he told Here & Now's Sacha Pfeiffer, "but it's the timing, it is the ability to have foot position — they dig in their heels — and it's knowing at what position and how low you can get to and still maintain your balance and coordination to pull on the rope."

Mastering the technique can take a lifetime; in fact, many of the tuggers are older than you would expect. Skindrud said the oldest American competitor is almost 60 years old, and many other team members are in their 40s and 50s.

But still, the American team is "in top physical shape," according to Skindrud. He added that because they're so well trained, serious injuries aren't common. But the sport maintains its own unique challenges.

"What will happen is if the other team gives a big jerk on the rope or they aren't prepared or they aren't doing it properly, I've seen calluses ripped off of their hands. And that's painful," Skindrud said. "It hurts like the dickens and, you know, they gotta shake it off and grab hold of the rope and go again."


  • Rick Skindrud, a former competitor and former state legislator who helps coach the U.S. team from Wisconsin.

This segment aired on August 29, 2014.


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