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N.H. woman wins two gold medals at international arm-wrestling competition

Cathy Merrill (left) traveled to Turkey with her coach to compete in the 2018 World Armwrestling Championships.
Cathy Merrill (left) traveled to Turkey with her coach to compete in the 2018 World Armwrestling Championships.(Cathy Merrill)

Cathy Merrill recently won two gold medals at an international arm-wrestling competition in Turkey — one for her left arm, and one for her right. There was no prize money, but that’s beside the point.

“You get bragging rights,” she said.

Merrill, a 54-year-old school bus driver from Sunapee, N.H., faced off against elite arm wrestlers from all over the globe last month at the 2018 World Armwrestling Championships for the dual honor of earning first place in the Grand Master Women’s category (for women age 50 and over) in both the right-and left-handed competitions.

“I’m typically right-handed, but both arms seem to be doing good,” she said in a telephone interview.

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The championships were held in Antalya, Turkey, from Oct. 12 through 21. Merrill traveled there with her coach, Art “Badger’’ Drewes, but they didn’t do much sightseeing on the trip. Their focus was on arm wrestling.

“The competition was really good,” she said.

What makes a good arm wrestler? According to Merrill, you need focus, control, and most important of all — technique.

“It’s not all strength,” she said. “Strength does help, but it’s not everything.”

This is Merrill’s seventh year as a professional arm wrestler. She first got hooked on the sport nine years ago, when she entered an arm-wrestling contest at a local fair on a whim and handily beat her opponent. She’s come a long way since then and has traveled from Malaysia, to Bulgaria, to Hungary to compete against the best in the sport.

At this latest championship in Turkey, Merrill competed in her age group and also in an open division, in which she was pitted against female arm wrestlers ages 21 and up. She didn’t fare as well against the younger women (“They’re quick,” she said), but the experience prompted her to set a new goal for herself.

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Merrill said she plans to spend the coming months training to prepare for next year’s World Armwrestling Federation championship, which is scheduled to take place in Poland.

“I’d like to medal in all four classes. That’s my new goal,” she said. “You gotta have goals, right?”

She plans to work on different techniques and wants to become stronger and faster so she can place even higher against younger competitors next time.

“You gotta have something to work for,” she said.


Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.