Published on: 2/19/2013 11:45:02 AM Print | Font Sizes:  Normal Text Large Text

Dragons' Den pitch leads to arm wrestling matches

Lori Larocque, left, and Joanne Lachance are bringing the national arm wrestling championships to Timmins this summer and are hoping to attract 500 to 800 competitors.
Lori Larocque, left, and Joanne Lachance are bringing the national arm wrestling championships to Timmins this summer and are hoping to attract 500 to 800 competitors.

Their pitch to the CBC's Dragons' Den last fall didn't get them any investment dollars, but Lori Larocque and Joanne Lachance of Timmins were able to generate some great exposure for a sport the couple has been involved in.

The dragons didn't go for their attachment to stationary spin bikes found in fitness centres, which is a seat for babies and small children, that could be fitted on the front and back.

But the national arm wrestling champion (Larocque) and the world arm wrestling champion (Lachance), got to take on a few dragons in a friendly competition aired on national television.

Lachance is organizing the national championships in Timmins this year, set for June 28, 29 and 30. She is counting on 500 to 800 competitors competing in 80 classes.

“The only thing that really matters about the Dragons' Den is that I beat Kevin (O'Leary),” Larocque laughed. “That was great.”

The married couple and business partners happened to mention their involvement in arm wrestling to a producer prior to taping the episode. They were asked to bring a competition table to the taping in the event it could be used.

“We didn't know if there would be any (arm wrestling), but we then introduced ourselves as Canadian and world champions, the table was brought out and they all came off their chairs to arm wrestle us,” Lachance said.

Larocque beat O'Leary, and Lachance beat Jim Treliving. David Chilton then beat Lachance.

“What you saw on TV was only a few minutes but the whole arm wrestling thing actually lasted about 45 minutes,” Larocque said. “It was great fun.”

The dragons wanted their photos taken with the couple and Lachance said they felt like celebrities.

“Regardless of the outcome, it was an amazing and unique experience,” she said. “It was great exposure for the national championships and we made some great contacts that might help us get some good exposure.”

The idea for the bike seat originated with their long-time involvement in the fitness industry. They currently own and operate LoriJo Fitness, a 15,00-square-foot facility on Spruce Street, and a 12,000-square-foot fitness centre in Kirkland Lake.

Larocque's parents owned a gym in Kirkland Lake and she became involved in its operation as a teenager. In 1998, she and Lachance bought the facility in Kirkland Lake. When they moved to Timmins in 2003, they offered fitness classes and coaching on the side.

“It was called LoriJo Studio and we started out in our house,” said Lachance. “People thought we were a photography studio, I think. But there was a need for this.”

They found their classes were popular and they couldn't take any more clients, with some waiting more than a year. They opened a few more studios to accommodate their specialty, which was one-on-one and small group sessions. Their boot camp sessions also grew in popularity.

They left their jobs and devoted their time to their clientele. When the opportunity came along for the Timmins facility, they didn't hesitate.

“We are doing what we love to do, instead of doing what we have to do,” Larocque said.

A total of 30 people are employed between the two fitness centres.

The arm wrestling championships will be held at the McIntyre Arena, at the same time the annual Rotary Club Rib Fest will take place.

“We are looking to work together to make each other's event even greater,” Lachance said.

There is a history of arm wrestling in the city. Former parks director Fred Salvador promoted the sport, previously referred to as wrist wrestling. He organized the first world championships in Timmins in 1970 and got television exposure through the Wide World of Sports. The event was held in the city for 12 years in a row.

Lachance would also like to get at least one dragon to Timmins during the event for a rematch.

“I have to take my crown back,” she said. “Because David beat me, he said he was the current women's world champion.”

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