By Alexandra Bellink
Joyce Boone (center) at the Long Island Arm Wrestling Championship last year.
Photo courtesy of Joyce Boone.
Perceived male dominance in sports dates back to the Olympic games of ancient Greece. Thousands of years of progress and today, women participate in as many sports as men do including basketball, baseball, volleyball, and golf. Yet a sport where they’ve gained significant recognition that isn’t given enough attention is professional arm wrestling.
The New York Arm Wrestling Association hosts a variety of events each year that are open to both men and women arm wrestlers.
One of the most influential women in the New York Tri-State area arm wrestling community is Joyce Boone. The 45-year-old health care aide has been arm wrestling since 1997, and since then has gained not only recognition, but also a great amount of tournament titles. BTR sat down with Joyce to speak with her about her achievements and thoughts on women in arm wrestling.
BreakThru Radio: How did you start getting into arm wrestling?
Joyce Boone: In 1997 there was a fair at Nassau Coliseum, actually my boyfriend had gotten me into it because he had done a tournament before and he had gotten me recently into it.
BTR: So did you practice with him?
JB: Yeah, after that tournament because I won first place at Nassau Coliseum so after that we started practicing.
BTR: How often do you do tournaments nowadays?
JB: I would say about maybe three or four tournaments a year.
BTR: Do you take time to practice still in between the tournaments?
JB: Yes, I go to my friend Jason’s house, Jason Vail. He lives out in Queens and he gives practices out there at his house, you know I’ll see him every week.
BTR: In 1997, was that not when Angela Annunziata broke your arm during the Empire State Gold Arm Tournament of Champions?
JB: Yeah, that was my first Empire State.
BTR: Have you had any negative relations with her or was it just-
JB: Oh no, I think she’s very nice. You know, we met up again last year to do the Bronx Tournament again and everything. She’s very nice.
BTR: Would you say that it gets competitive?
JB: Yeah, she’s competitive. You know, but there was no rivalry, nothing like that.
BTR: That’s good to know. How long did that take you to recover after that? Did it make it more difficult to arm wrestle?
JB: Oh no, you know it took me after I broke my arm six months to heal. And then I was out for about a year before I even got back into it. It just seemed like my arm got stronger after that happened.
BTR: That’s impressive! How do men react to you telling them that you do this? Do you feel that they underestimate you or do they welcome you into the world?
JB: Yeah, well they mostly welcome me, everything like that. But when they feel me on the table they just can’t believe the strength that I have. It’s a woman, so you know, but they welcome me. Some of them even try and help me do better. Yeah, it’s more welcoming.
BTR: And would you encourage more women to participate in it?
JB: I would love to see more women do it! I’m sure there are a lot of women out there who are very strong and I would love to see more women do it. That’s the only thing that kind of disappoints me is that not enough women will be going into it. Because when you go to the tournaments it’s mostly all men. You see a few women, but it’s mostly all men.
BTR: Yeah, you know I saw that in April they had the Five Boroughs Ladies’ Arm Wrestling League that hosted a charity event raising money for women’s charities at the Public Assembly. Did you go to that?
JB: No, I didn’t go to that one. I didn’t even know about that one.
BTR: What I read about it was that it was actually a younger crowd and I read an article and some of the girls were saying that arm wrestling is “sexy and unsexy” at the same time and “wild and angry” and it seemed to promote feminist activity. What are your feelings on that?
JB: You know, it’s kind of nice in the way that it’s just the point of competing against each other and having the crowd come behind you. I think it’s great.
BTR: Do you fear that it may turn into more of a fad that will fade out because it seems like there are a lot of things these days like that, that’ll be popular for a year or two. Do you think that this will be a continuing thing throughout the years?
JB: I’m hoping that it will. I just found out about it in ’97, in the ‘70s and ‘60s I used to watch the Wild World of Sports. So you know, after that it just faded out. But I heard in ’97 about it and that’s what got me excited to do it.
BTR: And did you do any other sports before? What are your other hobbies?
JB: Oh well, I never really was an athletic person. I mean, I do play handball sometimes and I lift weights and everything like that. And that’s about it.
BTR: Does that help train you for your tournaments?
JB: Yeah, it makes my arms stronger and it helps my coordination on the table. So yeah, handball is very good. Sometimes I just throw the ball on the wall that helps to get my arm stronger too and also stretch it.
BTR: And what would you say is your proudest moment in your arm wrestling history?
JB: Oh wow, there’s a lot of them! Well when I won the Queen of Arms, that was great. When I did it two years ago I was beat by the Canadian champion, Josie. But when I kept at it, I won it with first place and everything like that. But it was good. And the moment when I beat Josie, because she’s very strong too. She’s Canadian- the best arm wrestler.
BTR: So have you competed internationally besides Canadians?
JB: No, she came to one of the tournaments a couple of years ago to Empire State and I competed against her on that.
BTR: Do you have any advice for people who are discouraged? What do you do when you feel discouraged? Do you have anybody who helps you- kids, grandkids, or family?
JB: Well yeah, my family, my son, my boyfriend, Harry. He helps encourages me. When I do lose to somebody- when I do lose a match or something like that, that just wakes me up even more. That just makes me want to try even more harder. Yeah, that wakes me up more. I’ve got to do better next time.
BTR: Do you have any tournaments planned for the future that you are going to be participating in?
JB: The only one that I know of will be at the Port Authority again and that won’t be until November. And that’s the Empire State, the last one of the year.
BTR: So you’ve got lots of time to practice for that.
JB: Yeah, oh of course! I’m going to do my best.
For more from Joyce Boone, check out this week’s episode of Third Eye Weekly, airing Thursday.