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Arm wrestling provided Christine Jaworski with her own personal Olympics

The date was July 26th, 1986; the venue - the Las Vegas Hilton (Nevada).

The sport of arm wrestling had risen in popularity, largely thanks to the coverage on Wide World of Sports. But at this particular World Championship, there was an additional buzz in the air.

On site were the cast and crew of the movie "Over the Top", a 1987 released film starring Sylvester Stallone that shone a spotlight on the circuit of professional truckers who supplemented their routes in the States by competing in regional arm wrestling events, for money.

For all intents and purposes, this was Christine Jaworski's Olympic moment, as she claimed the world title for the third time, garnering a photo that graced the front page of the New York Times.

"I wanted to be the best at something, so arm wrestling became the one sport that I could become the best at, with the least amount of funding behind me," stated the now 58 year-old woman, arguably one of the greatest female natural athletes the city has ever produced. That said, a family of seven children, with modest means, was not about to open a gazillion doors in the world of elite sports.

"I was just a strong little kid," recalled Jaworski, who has resided in Sudbury all of her life, interspersing summer visits to the family camp on Lake Wahnapitae. "From the time I was young, from nine to nineteen, I worked for the family janitorial business, wiping down the sides of the desks, washing the floors."

"It created a lot of natural strength."

And then, of course, there is that small matter of genetics.

Christine is the daughter of football and track and field great, Lorne Jaworski. In 2003, his high-school junior boys shot put record was among those that were retired, after standing for more than fifty years. Her older brother David would play football with the Ottawa Gee Gees, while older sister Debbie excelled in both track and basketball.

You get the picture.

Yet there was something just a little different in the offing for Christine. It really was just a matter of finding the right fit.

"I could run, I could throw - the only thing I wasn't great at was high jump," she said. "I think I would have been a really good pentathlete." A star when it came to the Canada Fitness Awards, at the time, Jaworski was already garnering plenty of attention, even as she captured athletic hardware at both Queen Elizabeth Public School and Lansdowne Public School.

"The problem is that it costs money to have personal trainers and such, and growing up in a family of seven, my parents couldn't afford anything." So she took to the closest most inexpensive option.

"In grade nine and ten, the guys would line up in home-room to arm wrestle me," she said. "It was a big sport, at that time, but it was just something that I always seemed to have inside of me." By her mid to late teens, Jaworski was earning an impressive reputation within the local arm wrestling circuit, be it what it was.

"I looked older, so I could get into the President Hotel," she laughed. "I would go and arm wrestle there with the guys and win money. I would go to the bar, not to drink, just to arm wrestle. I knew that some of the men would beat me, but the majority of them didn't."

The key, it turned out, was a technique that she perfected, one which came relatively easily to the young woman who enjoyed a great deal of natural strength.

"I learned how to top-roll at a young age," she said. "That combined with strength and determination got me through. Top rolling is something that is very uncomfortable, when you first try it, because it goes opposite to what you think an arm wrestler should do."

In 1982, at the age of twenty, it was time for Jaworski to expand her horizons.

"There were little competitions in Sudbury, at Winter Carnivals, some in Timmins, but I started travelling more because I was just so darned good at it," she said. "I ended up going to Canadians that year, winning the lightweight and heavyweight title on the same day. I was the only Canadian ever to do that."

Thanks to both a local grocery store sponsorship, as well as a work ethic that would see Jaworski squeezing in employment opportunities all while continuing to train, not to mention a little prize money on the side, the powerhouse who typically weighed into events between 135 and 145 pounds found a way to travel to the necessary showdowns.

That would mean making the flight to Las Vegas almost a dozen times. And while she had incorporated more weight training and nutritional discipline into her own routine, the truth is that much of the foundation of success in this sport came courtesy of a certain lifestyle.

"Some of the hardest competitions I ever had were against girls that were farmers, who worked while they were growing up," she said. "When you develop those muscles and tendon muscles that way, they tend to develop naturally." In her case, that involved working as a meat cutter with Vitto Foods for nearly a decade.

Meanwhile, her interest in aerobics had stretched the boundaries of her endurance. And above and beyond all of that came the intangibles. "You just have to have an inner strength, right in your heart and your soul," said Jaworski. "At a world championship, you might arm wrestle 70 times in a day."

And so it was, the world crown in 1984 (in New Orleans - a tournament that she won as Christine Leclair) and 1985 (in Las Vegas) already on her resume as Jaworski arrived, head to head with the hoopla of 1986.

With as many as 5000 in attendance, the intensity was off the charts. "You want to show them how you can just rip somebody's arm off - well, not really," said Jaworski, trying to capture the emotion of that stage. In fact, off-setting the ultra-competitive athlete that has always fuelled the fire is a softness that shines through the tales of her youth.

"Any time a girl would get into a break arm position, I would hold back, look at the ref as if to say, "get her back in the right position or else she is going to break her arm," Jaworski confided. Proclaimed the "Lady Liberty of Canada" by the New York Times following her victory, it was time for the arm wrestling phenom to come home.

"I was 26 years old, getting past my prime, and I wanted to get into fitness and nutrition."

For the past thirty years or so, Jaworski has worked as a fire fighter and subsequently a radio operator/fire clerk with the Ministry of Natural Resources in the summer. The off-season is committed to her passion for ceramics, a skill she learned from her mother and shared with the public for quite some time at the Sudbury Downtown Market.

Still the memories never leave, not of her first great athletic achievement, recognized as the Athlete of the Year in grade eight. "I remember sitting in the audience, my parents sitting there next to me. I just remember wanting that award so much, just because I was such a talented little girl, when it came to sports."

Memories equally as vivid as the sport that most defines her.

"I really wanted to become an Olympian, so I did it in a different way," said Jaworski. "I went the route I had to go."

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