University of Vermont Diver Annika Overvig recently competed at the World Championships, but not in the sport one would expect.

The 19-year-old sophomore from Minnesota represented the United States on the world stage at the World Tug of War Championships Sept. 15-18 in the Netherlands. Overvig shot in the 580kg mixed weight class with his sister and brother, placing 6th out of 11 teams with his club, the DJ’s.

“I wasn’t supposed to compete with them actually,” said Overvig, who was traveling overseas for the first time. “Co-ed was our first day and my sister was on the team so it was the two of us. I was able to pull with my two siblings on my first rope at the Worlds, which was really cool.

“We did better than a lot of people expected of us,” she added. “We’re all quite young, and as far as experience goes, it was our first Worlds for a lot of us. So we didn’t qualify or reach the final, but we weren’t supposed to. We still played a lot of good teams and overall people think we have a lot of potential.

Overvig grew up as an elite gymnast before getting injured and switching to diving as his main sport. During her freshman year of high school, she got into all-out wrestling because her brother got into the sport through a friend whose father is a coach. It became more important this past offseason after Overvig suffered a back injury last season in Vermont that disrupted her diving career. She thinks the tug-of-war training helped her recover.

“I trained quite aggressively this summer and came back and all my coaches commented on how strong I looked,” Overvig said. “I don’t dive much at the moment because unfortunately last year I had a nasty back injury while diving. We are still in the process of finding a training plan that works. But I’ve definitely gotten a lot stronger over the summer and my back has improved so far I think because I’ve gotten a lot stronger.

Lower body stability and strength are key in tug of war and diving.

“Overall it’s a lot of small muscles,” Overvig said. “It’s a lot of stability. You might think tug of war is a lot of weapons, but it’s actually based on the legs, because that’s where your strength comes from. Same thing with diving.

The benefits of tug of war go beyond fitness. Overvig says the sport can develop the kind of mindset needed to perform high-pressure dives.

“I think a big part of diving is mental toughness,” she said. “For tug of war, if you’re not mentally controlled, there’s no way you can sit with a team for three minutes. It’s not comfortable sitting – you’re working, your legs Having the mental toughness to stick with it and want it that badly, I think translates very well to working under pressure in a dive.

Overvig also learns from the team aspect of tug of war. There are few sports where you are more connected to your teammates.

“I think it’s a really cool community of people,” she said. “I was shooting against people we didn’t even share a language with, but you could mention certain words that were tug of war techniques and everyone knew what everyone was talking about.”

Due to COVID-19 postponements, there will be World Tug of War Championships the next two years instead of every other year – sound familiar, swimming fans? The world tug of war championships will be held in Switzerland next year and will be hosted by Germany in 2024.

“This is the year we aim to be competitive through to the medal round,” Overvig said of the 2024 edition in Germany. She also hopes tug of war could be reintroduced to the Olympics in 2032. The sport was part of the program for the 2022 World Games in Alabama.