HAVE YOU EVER CHALLENGED your coworker to a friendly arm wrestle? If your coworker is Local 66 member Marcus Zerr, you might regret it.
At the age of 60, Marcus is somewhat of a track-and-field Renaissance man. He’s won medals in discus, javelin, shot put, hammer throw, weight throw, long jump, triple jump—and arm wrestling. And he doesn’t show any signs of stopping.
MARCUS WAS BORN IN FRANCE and moved to Quebec as child. His family then moved to Moosejaw, Saskatchewan, where he grew up. He and his wife, Christal, and growing family eventually settled in Hope, BC.
As a youngster, Marcus showed an aptitude in track and field sports. He also realized he had a natural gift for arm wrestling.
“I tried my hand—or arm, that is—in a few wrestling competitions back in Moosejaw when I was a teen,” says Marcus. “I ended up absolutely destroying the competition.”
While winning medals for arm wrestling and track and field sports was a thrill, real life got in the way of entering more competitions. Marcus joined the lumber industry at the age of 28 and hasn’t looked back since, working at the Ledcor Cant Mill as a dip tank and packaging operator.
Fast forward a few years, and Marcus is the father of eight kids—six of whom still live at home. He runs a home renovation side business with two of his sons.
“When I turned 50, I made a bucket list,” says Marcus. “At the top of my list was to start getting back into arm-wrestling competitions. Even though I’ve accomplished a lot in my life—raising eight kids and running a side business—the passion to compete never left.
“My biggest goal for that bucket list item was to earn a medal in the Canadian arm-wrestling championships and make it to the world championships.”
IN 2013, MARCUS ATTENDED THE BC arm-wrestling championship and wound up winning a gold medal. After four years of training, he qualified to go to the 37 World Armwrestling Championships for Team Canada, which were held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Unfortunately, two weeks before the competition, disaster struck.
“At the worst possible moment, I injured my arm in a training session,” says Marcus. “I pulled the ligaments where my bicep attaches to my shoulder. This is one of the most common arm-wrestling injuries, but it can be quite severe. I’ve seen it happen to a competitor where the ligament was completely torn and the bicep rolled into his elbow.
“In my case, the doctor figures I stretched the ligament about an inch. He told me to quit arm wrestling or I’d tear it off.”
Unable to lift even 40 pounds at that point, Marcus had to withdraw from the world championship.
“It’s really sad because at my peak, I could curl 180 pounds on an EZ bar,” he says. “Because of my injury, I had to quit arm wrestling.”
AN INJURY THAT SEVERE WOULD cause even the strongest competitor to quit track and field sports competitions for good. But Marcus was never one to let anything get in his way.
A couple years later, his wife saw an advertisement in the local paper for the 55+ BC Games being held in Kimberly and Cranbrook. His interest sparked, and the passion to compete still strong, Marcus immediately began training hard, visiting the gym or running the track six days per week.
“Training for a competition is really intense,” says Marcus. “A typical training session includes 45 minutes of throwing exercises, followed by jumping and sprinting.”
How does Marcus manage to fit in so much training with a full-time job, a side business, and six kids at home?
“It’s all about time management,” he says. “You have to manage your time critically. Sometimes, my kids will join me at the track, and we’ll all go sprinting together. I also try stretching for an hour every evening and whenever I have a few seconds in between loads at the mill. I feel as flexible as I did when I was 19!”
ALL THE HARD WORK CLEARLY paid off. At the 2018 games, Marcus won five medals, golds in discus and javelin and silvers in long jump, triple jump, and weight throw. Immediately after those wins, he began training intensely again for the 2019 55+ BC Games in Kelowna, where he won three gold medals in discus, javelin, and shot put and four silvers in hammer throw, weight throw, long jump, and triple jump.
“In an unfortunate stroke of luck, I came into contact with poison oak during the competition and suffered the effects of a skin rash. I had to stop jumping because of the welts on my skin.”
But his achievements are impressive nonetheless. Of 4,000 participating athletes, Marcus was one of the highest-scoring athletes in the Lower Mainland.
Never one to slow down, he has his sights set on 2020, where he’ll compete and represent BC in the 55+ Canada Games and the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah.
“I’ve broken personal records and plan on competing until I can’t anymore,” says Marcus. “I can’t think of a better way to spend my senior years.”
Let the Games Begin!
The 55+ BC Games is an annual multi-sport event produced by the BC Seniors Games Society for those 55+ to participate in up to 29 individual sports.
For life, sport, and friends
- Carpet bowling
- Dragon boating
- Five-pin bowling
- Floor curling
- Ice curling
- Lawn bowling
- Mountain biking
- Table tennis
- Track and field
Heavyweight with a Heart
Not only is Marcus known around the Ledcor Cant Mill for his strength, he’s also known for his big heart.
“To say Marcus is a nice guy is an understatement,” says Todd Jerome, a fellow Local 66 member who is a foreman at the mill. “He’s the type of guy who would literally take the shirt off his back and give it to you if you were in need.
“A couple of years ago, Marcus and his sons bought a home and renovated it through their side business and sold it for a good profit. Instead of pocketing the money, Marcus decided to share his wealth by donating 12 percent to charitable organizations, and giving his fellow Local 66 members a $50 gift card for Save-On-Foods.
“This was such a meaningful gesture because it was Christmas, and everyone knows money can be tight for a lot of families at that time of year. It was really appreciated by everyone.”
From Egypt to Snoopy
The ancient sport of arm wrestling can be traced back to a painting found in an Egyptian tomb dating about 2,000 bc depicting a scene of two men engaged in a form of arm wrestling. The sport as we know it today is based on a Native American game, which was called “Indian wrestling” when practiced by frontiersmen in the 19th century.
A popular sport for high school and college students, arm wrestling was also a tavern sport. The first organized competition was staged by journalist Bill Soberanes in 1952 at Gilardi’s Saloon in Petaluma, California. It became increasingly bigger and in 1962, the tournament moved to a large auditorium in Petaluma and was renamed the World Wristwrestling Championship.
But the sport got its biggest boost in 1968 when Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz did a series of comic strips where Snoopy was headed to Petaluma to compete in the championship. Unfortunately, Snoopy was ultimately barred from competing—the rules require opponents to lock thumbs and, alas, the beagle has no thumbs.