Popeye himself would have been impressed by the biceps on display in Queens this weekend.
Cheap Shots Sports Bar & Lounge in Flushing was at capacity on Sunday for the 37th annual NYC Big Apple Grapple International Arm Wrestling Championships, with amateurs and pros were competing both right-handed and left-handed across weight classes.
Each year, the overall strongest male and female athletes take away a cash prize of $100 — and more importantly, they are crowned NYC’s King and Queen of Arms.
“Three-time champion Joyce Boone on the right and on the left, the 2013 Queens of Arms, Ana Kenah!”New YorkArm Wrestling Association PresidentGene Campsaid over the loudspeaker to loud cheers. “She beat Boone last year. Can she do it again?”
Boone, 47, of Brooklyn, is a legendary figure in the arm wrestling world. In 1997, she was badly injured during a live televised tournament but managed to come back better than ever — until Jersey City’s Kenah managed to steal the title of “Queen of Arms” away from her last year. It was Boone’s first loss in three years.
“Joyce Boone is a really unbelievable story,” said Camp, who has overseen the Big Apple Grapple for 37 years. “She broke her arm and we figured she was gone, out, done. Usually people break their arm and don’t come back.”
“She wants her title back big time,” he added.
Boone locked hands with her 29-year-old nemesis. Kenah stared straight ahead, Boone down at the ground.
Copious amounts of chalk couldn’t counteract the steamy air inside the bar, and their hands slipped. Referee Jason Vale strapped their hands together. The next time, Vale called a foul. Kenah and Boone took a 30-second break to chalk up.
Finally, on the third try, Boone crushed Kenah’s arm down. She eventually went on to officially reclaim her title.
The Boone vs. Kenah matchup was one of the most highly anticipated of the day, but reigning King of Arms Mike Ayello was also on hand to defend his title against the man he saw as his biggest challenge.
“Tim Bresnan from Connecticut,” said Ayello. “He’s a freak. He’s probably number one in the world right now.”
At six-foot-five and 270 pounds, it’s hard to imagine anyone posing much of a threat to Ayello, a New York City firefighter in Queens. The defending champ said he trains seven days a week, sometimes climbing the Ladder 135 station pole with 100 pounds of gear on his back.
But by the end of the night, Bresnan had taken Ayello’s crown.
It wasn’t just locals flexing their biceps in Queens on Sunday. Nor was it all seasoned pros. Arm wrestlers had come from as far away as Uzbekistan, Turkey, and Puerto Rico to compete. Teams had also driven down for the day from Long Island, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
One relatively new face was Kelly Carvara, 26, of Bristol, R.I.In years past, Carvara said, there weren’t enough women in the male-dominated sport to split the competitors into weight classes.
But increasingly, that is changing. Lighter competitors are eligible to compete in every weight class above their own, and the petite Carvara was signed up for all of them.
Carvara got into arm wrestling a little over a year ago when she met one of her current teammates.
“I was like, ‘That’s a real thing?'” she said. “And I came to his practice and fell in love, I was hooked.”
Follow Emily Johnson on Twitter @emilyjreports