• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 17s

Excruciating ear pull challenge tests athletes’ limits

By Heather Hintze 11:05 PM July 18, 2014

It’s not about strength, it’s about how much you can take.

“It’s for the pain endurance,” said Michelle Strange. “I’m very competitive as well so I love it. And I apparently have really good ears to compete,” she laughed.

The ear pull is not only one of the most painful games to play at the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, it’s also one of the more grueling to watch.

Strange was gunning for first place this year, but not if Vanessa Tahbone had anything to say about it. One by one she knocked out other first-place hopefuls.

“Two down, undefeated,” Tahbone smiled. “On the way to the top. Got a few more pulls. Hopefully I can go all the way undefeated.”

It was quite a sight as competitors wrapped simulated sinew around their ears and tried to tug it away from their opponents.

“It’s simulating being in the cold, preparing for frost bite,” Tahbone said of the cultural significance. “The pain is a different feeling,” she paused. “It burns.”

In years past it was just a single strand that would take its toll on their aural appendages.

“I got eight stitches on this ear,” Tahbone said as she flipped over her left ear to show the scar. “This is my weak ear and this is my strong ear. So when I start, I like to start with my strong ear because it’s my winning ear.”

Now the competition uses a braided rope. Athletes said the thicker strand is hard to keep on, but it cuts down on the cuts.

“I’m super excited,” said Strange as she prepared for the semi-final round. “She beat me two years ago for first place. So I’m excited/nervous.”

Strange and Tahbone went ear-to-ear in the third place match where Michelle came out on top.

Then it was time for her to go for the title that escaped her last year.

“Ready, set, pull!” shouted an official.

Strange won one and her opponent won one, forcing them into a third round where they both pulled with their winning ear.

Unfortunately, Strange couldn’t pull out a victory this time and will have to settle for second place again. That’s just fine with her tough because she escaped with minimal damage.

“[I’m feeling] really good cause my ears aren’t cut, so I’m doing fabulous,” she said.

Not all the competitors were that lucky.

“Ahhh … ahhh … AAAHHH!” one of the men screamed as the match seemed to last forever.

The men’s final rounds proved to be a bloody battle. One athlete’s ears turned purple with blood blisters. Another wiped blood from behind his ears onto his pants.

It was ear endurance to the extreme that paid off for at least one competitor in the end.

Latest Stories

  • News

    Alaska Native veterans give input for national Native American memorial

    by Megan Edge on Oct 21, 21:25

    George Bennett Sr. isn’t ashamed to be Alaska Native or a U.S. veteran. Nearly 50 years after he left Vietnam, he’s proud to be both; it’s who he is. It hasn’t always been that way though — he said it took him about 30 years to find a bit of personal peace. Wearing a Vietnam […]

  • Weather

    State, municipal plows stay busy after first snowfall of the season

    by Eric Ruble on Oct 21, 21:07

    The first measurable snowfall Friday created a mess on many Southcentral roads. By the evening, most major streets were cleared of snow. However, many side streets had not yet seen a plow. Both the Alaska Department of Transportation and the street maintenance division of the Anchorage municipality plow the busiest thoroughfares first. For DOT, prioritizing […]

  • News

    AFN: A battleground for Alaska’s political candidates

    by Liz Raines on Oct 21, 20:55

    This year’s Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) convention is the place to be for anyone running for public office. It’s an opportunity to get their name out among thousands of Alaska Native people from across the state, and ask for their vote — a powerful vote. Next month’s election is front and center at the annual […]

  • News

    Local homeless shelters were full before snow fell, now overflowing

    by Lauren Maxwell on Oct 21, 19:59

    While some welcomed the first measurable snowfall Friday, for others winter weather is putting pressure on an already strained housing situation in Anchorage. Staff at local homeless shelters say their facilities have been overflowing for weeks. Lisa Caldeira, program manager at the Brother Francis Shelter, said there was no room even before the snow fell. […]

  • Lifestyle

    Anchorage students enjoy a day off with fresh powder

    by Shannon Ballard on Oct 21, 19:09

    What’s better than the first significant snowfall? When it happens on a day that students in the Anchorage School District already have off. Friday was an in-service day, so instead of racing to class, best friends Oceana Gamel Howes, Ava Evans, and Emily Robinson spent the morning speeding down the popular sledding hill at Service […]

  • News

    Alaska unemployment rate inches up to 6.9 percent last month

    by Associated Press on Oct 21, 18:55

    Alaska’s unemployment rate inched up to 6.9 percent in September, hitting its highest level since the summer of 2014. The state labor department says last month’s preliminary seasonally adjusted rate was up from 6.8 percent in August and 6.5 percent in September 2015. The national unemployment rate stood at 5 percent last month. Alaska’s rate […]

  • News

    First snow keeps Anchorage tire shops busy with winter changeover

    by Heather Hintze on Oct 21, 16:21

    The first sign of winter brought in big business for Johnson’s Tire Service when many people awoke to snow on Friday morning and realized they still had summer tires on their vehicles. “It’s a little insane,” said Johnson’s manager Michael Hagler. “It’s a whole ‘nother monster to work in a tire shop in changeover season.” […]

  • DJ Spencer Lee’s Holiday Pajama Jam: A party for the whole family

    by Daybreak Staff on Oct 21, 15:41

    Looking trip the light fantastic with the whole family — in your pajamas? DJ Spencer Lee has you covered with his Holiday Pajama Jam. The event is part of his popular series of Baby Loves Disco events and he will be joined by Victamone. Holiday Pajama Jam Sunday, December 4 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Williwaw […]