ST. ALBANS TOWN — Lyme disease has atrophied Gil Trombley’s once-bulging forearms, and age creeps around the edges of his eyes and peppers his tightly cropped beard.
But the hands of Gil still tell stories. Firm, heavy, almost disproportionately large hands, hands that dominate yours. They tell stories of tense arm wrestling matches, straining over the plastic and leather table, wrists and shoulders and abdominals pulling against an opponent.
Gil Trombley, 73, a retired car salesman and home builder, no longer competes professionally in the sport that brought him touches with fame and plenty of accolades, although rarely fortune.
But in April, Gil traveled to Virginia for an arm wrestling competition that was more of a reunion, really, celebrating 50 years since the sport was officially founded and organized on the East Coast.
The trip, for Gil, was an opportunity to reflect on a time when arm wrestling was king in Vermont, especially in Franklin and Addison counties. Old friends and competitors were at the Virginia reunion. Gil, a former state champion and U.S. runner-up, officiated a few matches between younger arm wrestlers there to meet the legends. Bob O’Leary, who founded the sport’s governing body at a Scranton, Penn. YMCA, headlined the event.
Gil sits back in the leather chair in his office, cluttered with photos showing him posing with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Lou Ferigno. On the corner of the desk is a hand-strengthening device, still frequently used despite the weakness caused by the disease.
He thinks for a long time before chuckling, recalling memories of four-minute matches and tournaments lost decades ago, in a sport that took him from quiet local clubs to movie sets in Las Vegas.
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