June 19, 2012

27 women arm wrestle on Ocracoke for a title and a good cause


Eliza German, 25, didn’t even break a sweat as she bested 26 other women in the Fourth Annual Women’s Arm Wrestling Tournament Friday night at Community Square on Ocracoke.

The bout was a fundraising event for Ocracoke’s community radio station, WOVV FM 90.1, and the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department.

One of the lifeguards at the public beach on the island, German had never arm wrestled before and decided at the last minute—a few minutes before the event began, in fact -- to join in the fun.

“A friend told me to do it,” German said after the event while greeting well-wishers.

Maybe that’s why German did not have a costume, although she called herself “Sasha Fierce.”

For each of her bouts, she bounded up on the stage in shorts and bare feet, smiling.  About a second after referee Giles Russell yelled “go,” her opponent's arm was down.

This was a double elimination event, but not all the contestants wrestled each other.  Ages of the women ranged from recent high-school graduate Echo Bennink to Brenda Blecher, 55, an island visitor, who probably was the oldest contestant.

Blecher, whose name was “Brenda the Baker,” was the fourth-place finisher and had a few rounds in which she had to work hard a few minutes for her win.

“Those girls were strong,” she said after her last opponent, who happened to be German. “She took me by surprise,” she said about German’s almost-instant win.  “It was like, boom! Done!”

Karmen Layton, the reigning champion for the last three years as “Karm the Arm,” decided to sit this one out and let someone else win.  Perched on her “throne” on the Community Store porch she oversaw the action.

“It’s the best time ever,” Layton said as costumed contestants and a few hundred spectators milled about drinking beer. “There’s nothing this island loves more than a costume.”

She was a little rueful that she hadn’t donned her cape costume for the event.

“But I’ll be back next year with a vengeance,” she said.  “I love this and it’s for such a good cause.”

Fun was the operative word.

Sarah Fiore, dressed in a red ballerina tutu, was “Tiny Dancer,” and sported a Russian accent.

“I’m always Tiny Dancer,” she said. “I’m not here to win but to look good.”

Heather Johnson, in a long red hoop dress, black ringlet wig, a chain of skulls, and blood dripping from her eyes, as “Scarlet O’Terror,” and Brooke Doan, wearing a muscle suit as “The Doan Crusher,” were the finalists for the costume contest.  As they faced off on stage, by audience acclamation, Doan was declared the winner.

“Sister with a bad Habit,” was Theresa Ray, a commercial fisherman, in a scanty approximation of a nun.

Among the other contestants were: “Audrey Hurt Your Arm,” “Strawberry Beefcake,” “Tragedy Ann,” “Bambi Thumper,” “Dolly Spartan,” “The Enforcer,” “Badass Banana,” “All the Way May,” and “Daph Punk.”

Some of the contestants had practiced or looked into strategies.

“I’ve been practicing, but you have no idea what’s coming,” said Kimberly Emery as “Red Sonja,” about each match.

“I didn’t do any special workout,” said Jessie Howard, as “The Alabama Slammer.”  “But I do kick boxing!”

“I have a strategy, but I can’t tell,” said Kim O’Neal before the event, in which she appeared as “On Cloud Nine.” 

Whatever it was paid off as O’Neal placed third.  “Miss Merica” was second, with German instantly defeating her in the title bout.

Valerie Amsterdam, an island visitor who participated as “Anchor Woman,” revealed that she had indeed looked into some of the strategies of arm wrestling and found three popular arm movements.  The owner of a fitness studio in Greensboro, she said she enjoyed the novelty of this event.

“I’ve mortified my children,” she said, noting that they were watching from as far back as possible.

Russell, the referee and a professional arm wrestler, said that this was the biggest women’s turnout in a single event.

“I’ve never seen a women’s arm wrestling event with 27 contestants,” he said.  “This is awesome.”

He competes from Maryland to Florida with both arms and is ranked regionally fourth for his left arm and seventh for his right arm.   He said the women’s matches usually draw three or four contestants.

Russell was brought into this year’s event by William Howard, a friend and an event organizer. 

Russell brought a special arm wrestling table and set up both contestants’ arms correctly before yelling “go.” Past events have been held in bars with the contestants sitting at tables.

Having the table and the referees levels the playing field and makes it safe, said Howard.
Many spectators stayed the entire three hours of the event.

“I think this is fabulous,” noted Joan Crowe.

Announcers David Allewalt and Bill Cole gave it a major-event feel by wearing their own costumes and dramatically announcing each contestant.

“It doesn’t matter what you got but what you got goin’ on!” yelled Cole about the costume contest.

Clayton Gaskill, WOVV manager, said the station made about $2,900, which was probably less than past events because the organizers had to pay the expenses of permits, beer, and cups to hold it in Community Square, which was possible only because the Community Store is closed at the moment.   About $150 was paid out in contestant prizes.  The OVFD made about $1,000.

Gaskill said video footage of past events and this year’s events are on www.Youtube.com if you search for Ocracoke Women’s Arm Wrestling.

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