At least his hand doesn’t seem to be made of stone. Although you can never be quite sure with Matthias Schlitte. Hailing from Haldensleben in Saxony, the German ranks among the planet’s top-tier arm wrestlers. In 2022 he was crowned world champion in the 70-kilogram class. The redoubtable Schlitte is known to insiders by a petrifying nickname: “Hellboy” – taken from a cartoon character with a giant right arm made of stone.
Due to a genetic disorder, Schlitte was born with a much larger right arm. Today the circumference of his right forearm measures 44 centimeters, 16 centimeters more than his left arm. Worldwide, some 3,000 people are affected by this condition. Many have already thanked their “Hellboy” for turning this erstwhile flaw into a source of pride. Professional arm wrestling has little in common with the variant sometimes seen in clubs and pubs. “Strength only makes up 30 percent of the equation. The rest is technique, speed and experience,” says Schlitte.
Sport has transformed this “hellboy” into a global celebrity. He has already visited more than 40 countries. In the arm-wrestling strongholds of Eastern Europe, he is a star. In Japan he regularly competes in front of millions. And in Oceania he has featured in cinema commercials. His sport may not bring him riches, but he is still grateful to his mother for indirectly launching his career. In 2003, she brought home a flyer from the gas station advertising a local tournament. The aim was to find the strongest arm wrestler in his hometown. And this kindled a spark in her son that still lights up his life today: “You have to be passionate about something,” he says, “and my passion is arm wrestling.”