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World Champion Arm Wrestler


If you like sports, you might have seen those world champion boxers heading to the arenas in their Bentleys, bragging about their millions in prize money and the size of their pay-per-view audiences. But there's another world champion we want to tell you about who doesn't like to brag, still drives a school bus and is a grandmother of five. Cathy Merrill is a world champion arm wrestler. She's gunning for another world title next month in Turkey. And she's with us now from Newport, N.H. Cathy Merrill, thanks so much for joining us.

CATHY MERRILL: Oh, you're welcome. Thank you for reaching out. It's great to be able to talk to you.

MARTIN: Do I have this right, that you actually got started on a dare for some French fries?

MERRILL: Yes, it was. It just - it happened at a small 4-H fair in Cornish, N.H., and friend of mine and I were walking around. And he said, oh, come on. Let's go do the arm wrestling. And I said, I don't know if I really want to. And he said, well, tell you what. I'll pay the entry fee. And if you win, I'll buy you some fries. Well, you're not going to say no to that. So - and that's how this whole thing got started. And I beat the Vermont state champion, and she was not exactly happy about it. It was, like, dead silence when I - you know? I just - I beat her, and nobody said anything. And I said, did I do something wrong? And Mike (ph), the guy that was reffing, who is now my coach, tapped me on the shoulder and said, Cathy Merrill - winner.

MARTIN: So you got the bug, basically.

MERRILL: I did get the bug, yes...

MARTIN: Yeah? How come? What do you like about it?

MERRILL: You don't have to be in any shape. You don't have to be of any specific size. You don't have to be - you know, everything is revolving around fitness these days, which is good. And I'm not taking anything against that. But some of us have a hard time with the weight factor and keeping fit and doing, you know, everything. And some of us just don't have that metabolism. So, for me, it was - and what I also liked about it was that it's a family sport. We've got little kids in our group that are 4 years old that go to meets that have - the pulling (ph) for kids. And the whole family can do it.

MARTIN: You're a celeb - right? - in town, right? And people...

MERRILL: Well, yeah. They say I am. I don't feel that I am, but they say that I am (laughter).

MARTIN: Well, your kids are grown, right? So they're too old to be embarrassed by your antics, right? Doing whatever you know (laughter). Yeah...

MERRILL: Oh, yeah - no. I have - my daughter's 32, and I have twin boys that are 27, so...

MARTIN: And what about the grands? Do they - are they excited about it?

MERRILL: Oh, yeah. My daughter's oldest, Kayla (ph). And she - I just saw this morning, in fact. And she says, Gammy (ph), when do you leave to go to worlds? And I said October 11. OK. I want you to bring me back an orange dress to match one that my mother has, and I need more gold medals.

MARTIN: Oh, OK. Well, yes. Of course. Absolutely.

MERRILL: So that was kind of very matter-factly (ph) from the 8-year-old (laughter).

MARTIN: To that point, just a couple of weeks from now, you're going to Turkey to compete again to defend your title...


MARTIN: ...Right? And what are you doing to get ready?

MERRILL: Other than practicing with the guys, I don't do a bunch of weightlifting - but I just my normal everyday stuff - throwing hay, cleaning horses out, lugging wood, stuff like that. It keeps me mobile. And I get enough exercise and work that I don't really - I don't know. Maybe the gym might benefit me a little bit more if I went to the gym. But I work - the stuff that I do, I work muscles that you don't get worked in the gym.

MERRILL: That was Cathy Merrill. She's a world champion arm wrestler, and she was with us from Newport, N.H. Cathy Merrill, thanks so much for joining us.

MARTIN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF QUEEN SONG, "WE WILL ROCK YOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.