Vern Martel and friend
Meet Vern Martel
Hi Vern - how long have
you been armwrestling?
I have been armwrestling for 25 years now and plan on
doubling that before I quit.
How did you get started?
I fooled around with armwrestling growing up with my family and friends and it was not until I was 15 that I considered that I might be good enough to
compete. I was down at a Golden gloves boxing competition and one of the guys there was going around challenging everyone to armwrestle him since he
was an armwrestling champion. A lot of the guys from the club knew that I was pretty good at it and set me up against him, well to his surprise I beat
him...he told me that I should go to a competition and try it out. Well just my luck there was a competition in my hometown put on by Keith Koenig, only
problem was that it was held in a place that did not allow minors. Keith was able to
get them to allow me to run in and armwrestle when my name was called then run back out. I ended up taking 3rd in the competition after holding the BC
champion for just over 5 minutes before finally losing to him. Keith was impressed and gave me a list of tournaments to attend, it was at that point
I hung up my gloves and started a sport I fell in love with.
What happened next?
I traveled around to many tournaments over the next few
years after that and after finally winning a Canadian title in 1983. I qualified for the World
championships in Costa Rica; we had a large team from Canada led by the late
great John Miazdzyk who kept us very entertained with his jokes and singing. I captured my first world title there and it felt great!
Tell us about your accident.
It was in 1984
that my whole life took a change....I was riding my motorcycle and was hit by a
car which left me in a wheel chair for a year an a half as well as leaving my left arm paralyzed. This ended a lot of the sports I played as well as a
long relationship that was close to marriage. I was devastated and an emotional
wreck, I didnít know what I was going to do. I went through what I thought was hell and back and I kept trying to see a light at the end of the
tunnel. I worked very hard trying to build myself back up and with the help of some friends I was able to try armwrestling again. I met with a lot
of disappointment and at times was ready to give up. After many tournaments I was able to develop a style for myself that allowed me to finally start
winning some competitions. It didn't take long before the name "the one armed bandit" was giving to me and I proudly display it on my jacket.
Things were looking up; I got married and have five beautiful kids and a good manager job at Costco. I am still very hard on myself because I always
challenge myself to be as good as I would have been without the loss of use of a arm.
Then how did your armwrestling
It was exactly 10 years later in Moscow Russia 1993 that I beat out Vaughn Cartwright from the United States to win another world title in the
physically challenged class. I also placed fourth in the regular able-bodied class, which drew the attention of the people there. I was in my glory when
they raised my hand in the air and walked me around the one ring circus and gave me a standing ovation.
I have gone on to win several more Canadian titles and won 4 more World titles. I have had many tough, tough matches over the years and some of the
more notable ones have been against my good friend Dave Hicks who I had to beat out at the Canadians. For the World title in 1998 in Thunder Bay
against another tough physically challenged competitor Wayne Burns. Winning Two World titles in Petaluma 2002 in the Masters class as well as the 154
pound class against the famous Kenny Hughes who is like a energizer battery and just keeps on going. I surprised myself with another World title in
St.Louis in the Masters class against Joel Christianson because my right arm was in a whole lot of pain from just too much pulling!
The 2003 Arnold Classic competition will go down as another very memorable event for me. This was an event I was going to pass up due to a tear in my
bicep, which has been hindering me and not allowing me to work out. I just couldn't pass up the chance to see Arnold though as well as meet up with old
friends. On my final match to take forth place, event organizer Fairfax Hackley call me back to center stage and help up my hand and said "This is
my Hero, he is know around the world as the one arm bandit, and despite his
disability he still competes in a strength sport like this! Lets give him a
hand" I tell you it gives me chills down my spine and a happiness that
my heart to know that I made the right choice and struck with this sport.
How do you train?
My workouts consist of one-arm push-ups, handgrip exercises and about 4
hours of armwrestling a week. I try to train with larger guys all the time
to build up strength and power and work on balance at the table.
Recommendations For New Armwrestlers?
The best advice I could give to new armwrestlers
would be to take the time
after an event and talk, listen and learn from the guys who have done well in
this sport. Feed off their wisdom, respect who they are and appreciate what
they have done. When you go to the table be a gentleman, give the referees
respect as well as well as your opponent. Set up fair so that you will never let
anyone feel that you beat them by cheating a grip. Practice and develop a
true love for the sport and get ready to make friends from all around the