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Arm Wrestling Contest Held in N.Y.

October 13, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ For most people, arm wrestling is synonymous with bulging muscles, threatening tattoos and fearsome anger. But amid the grunts, growls and grimaces at an amateur arm-wrestling competition in the Port Authority bus terminal, competitors shared smiles and advice.

``Next year it’s yours,″ Steve Black, 30, told the sculpted 17-year-old Edwin Safarian minutes after Black defeated him in a left-handed final. About an hour earlier Thursday, the two had battled in a right-handed match, which Black also won.

``Arm wrestling is a sport. A lot of people think it’s something that’s only done in a bar,″ Black had explained earlier. But unlike other fringe sports where athletes are paid or sponsored, ``we do it for medals and trophies.″

Black added that the strain on ligaments and tendons caused by arm wrestling requires specialized training and days of rest before and after tournaments.

The musclemen _ and women _ displayed a sense of community at a competition where most people knew each other, ``or if someone is good, you know their name,″ said Black, who won his weight class in right-handed competition.

The meet, in the middle of New York City’s principal bus depot, was sponsored by the New York Arm Wrestling Association and was the final event in the group’s New York ``Golden Arm″ series. Organizer Gene Camp said the winners in each division would be invited to a professional tournament at Madison Square Garden in February.

The event attracted winners from earlier competitions around the region.

The Fortuna family, of Long Island, had a particularly strong showing. Dan Fortuna finished third in the super heavyweight category, while his wife Dina defeated their 12-year-old daughter, Amanda, in the women’s open weight class final.

``I can practice against her and learn her weaknesses,″ said a smiling Amanda soon after losing to her mom. In competition, Dina has a 3-0 edge in the family rivalry.

The top three finishers in each of eight weight and arm classes earned trophies and certificates.

But for other competitors, it was gratification enough to be there.

``People here win, people lose, but people also help each other and talk to each other,″ said Goran Mikovic, a student at SUNY Stony Brook who lost his two matches. ``It’s raw sport.″

Chris Myers, the owner of the Queens tire shop where Steve Black is an office manager, shared that feeling.

``It’s man against man, you shake hands before, and you shake hands after,″ Myers said. True to his word, Myers shook hands with his opponent before and after he claimed the tournament’s heavyweight title.

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