Vern Martel has too many provincial championships to count. He also has 10 Canadian championships and three world titles. The local arm wrestler, who has overcome major injuries twice in his career, has a spot in the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame. The man known as the One Armed Bandit sees his selection to the Hall as a tribute to his sport.
“It’s neat to have arm wrestling in there,” said the 38-year-old Martel, who won world championships in 1983, 1993 and 1998. “The sport has been good to me. It has been there in good times, tough times and even tragic times.”
Martel, who has been a member of Team Canada for 12 years, won his 1983 world title in San Jose, Costa Rica. A motorcycle accident shortly after that victory put him in a wheelchair for 18 months and paralyzed his left arm.
Martel did not compete for three years but always had it in his mind that he would return to the world stage one day. Through sheer determination, he re-trained himself to arm wrestle without using his left arm for leverage. In 1993, he once again advanced to the world championships, this time in Moscow. In that historic Russian city, he won his second world crown.
“It was a huge accomplishment and satisfied something within myself,” he said. Martel’s 1998 world championship came a little closer to home, in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Again he had to overcome adversity to win.
Prior to the 1998 worlds, he had been out of arm wrestling for more than two years because of a broken bone in his right hand. He made his comeback in a Williams Lake tournament, went on to place second at the B.C. finals and then found his way back onto Team Canada. In Thunder Bay, Martel scored two straight victories over Minnesota’s Wayne Springall to claim the world title in the 80-kilogram, right-hand class.
Martel, who also organizes arm wrestling tournaments and is a Level 2 referee, is not satisfied with three world championships. He plans to return to Russia for the worlds in the year 2000 and will not be happy with anything but gold.
“My goal still is to win as many world titles as I can,” he said. “I still have a lot of years left in this sport.”