19 Oct 2017

ARMWRESTLING MATCHES IN THE CRADLE OF STRONGMEN



A HISTORY OF ARMWRESTLING IN EARLY 20TH CENTURY QUEBEC

​During the golden age of strongmen around the turn of the twentieth century, one place seemed to produce more than its share of formidable strength competitors than anywhere else on earth: the Canadian province of Quebec. Why was this? It is believed that Quebec was a “cradle of strongmen” due to the lifestyle of the ancestry of the French-speaking population. Life during the early days of Quebec was hard. Many men worked seven days a week during the summer plowing the land and during the frigid winters they worked in the forest as lumberjacks. Physical strength was an integral part of life; great strength became revered. It is no wonder that this environment, combined with the availability of abundant natural, healthy foods, produced several impressive specimens of strength.

The man who best represented the strength of French-Canadians was Louis Cyr. Recognized by most for close to 20 years as the world’s strongest man, he was a hero among Quebeckers. Not only was he the greatest strength competitor of the era, he was also an incredible armwrestler. And though he did not often perform armwrestling displays in his strength shows, he always enjoyed partaking in the activity in social situations. He never lost. 

​​One strongman who did occasionally take part in official armwrestling challenges was a young man named Hector Décarie. His first recorded major win was in a match in 1901 or 1902 against a man by the name of Ovila Chapleau, who was considered by many to be unbeatable. Hector proved everyone wrong, as he handed Chapleau his first-ever loss.

​​It is not clear if this match was for any particular title, but by the time Hector faced Louis Cyr in a strongman contest in 1906 (Louis’ final one), Mr. Décarie was being billed as the undisputed Armwrestling Champion of Canada. Whether he earned the armwrestling title by winning a particular match, or whether it was simply assigned to him to build publicity for the strongman contest is unclear...   Read all article written by Eric Roussin on www.thearmwrestlingarchives.com.