CARBONDALE – When Barb Jaksa puts on her leopard-print dress, get ready to rumble.Jaksa, aka “The Croatian Princess,” is KDNK radio’s reigning Female Arm Wrastlin’ tourney champion.And she doesn’t mess around when in character.”I shouldn’t be in daylight in this dress,” joked the Carbondale architectural designer, outside the KDNK studio Thursday afternoon. “You won’t believe how out of character this is for me.”In donning her fur-trimmed caped spandex dress with black mullet wig, Jaksa transforms from a petite jock to a competitive arm-wrestling contender. Under the guide of her manager, Pearl, she earned her title on March 10 at KDNK’s first female arm wrestling event in Carbondale. Competitors will challenge her at 10 p.m. Friday at The Bayou in Glenwood Springs.”I think that it’s a fun event. I always volunteer for KDNK, and it was just up my alley,” Jaksa said. “I blew out my knee playing basketball against a bunch of guys from Glenwood and had been lifting my upper body. I went out for something to do that night.”A former University of Cincinnati second guard, Jaksa stays in tip-top arm-wrestling shape by lifting weights, jumping rope and trail running.
“I don’t know how long my indoor arm wrestling career will last, but I got my summer planned out for me,” she said. “Once I realized I was going to be a Croatian princess arm wrestler, there was a lot of training. I lift weights, and there’s a certain amount of cross training. I believe in being multi-sported, and I’ve expanded it to arm wrestling.”Jaksa said her idea of cross training for arm wrestling bouts is not quite what’s seen on Nike commercials.”My cross training, it’s a lot different than what most people think cross training is,” she said. “I take a drink, then I run a trail. That retains your coordination. And I have taken up juggling in the last week – juggling is helping with my focus. And there’s some grunting with the weight lifting. I do practice grunting.”To psyche out her opponents, the 46-year-old Jaksa relies on her life experience – and an old friend from Lynchburg, Tenn.”I drink shots of Jack Daniels and make them drink them with me,” she said. “The majority of my opponents were rock climbers and I’d ask, ‘How old are you?’ and they’d say, ’26.’ Then they would ask how old I was, and I’d say, ‘Old enough to be your momma.’ Then, boom.”The idea for The Croatian Princess moniker came about with help from Jaksa’s father. She called him in Ohio to ask the origin of the family name.”My last name, the ‘Jak’ part in Croatian, is basically ‘strong.’ Jaksa, loosely translated, is ‘strong son,'” she said. “My original name was ‘kneginjica jak’ which means ‘strong princess.’ It got first shortened to Ninja because the announcer couldn’t pronounce it. Then it changed to The Croatian Princess.”
This Friday, look for the short arm wrestler with a jet black mullet, long gloves and boots. And maybe listen for a retro entrance song describing her arm wrestling achievements.”My career, it just started,” Jaksa said. “‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ by the Carpenters should be my theme song.”Contact April E. Clark: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
Name: Barb JaksaAge: 46From: Carbondale (originally from Cleveland, Ohio)Occupation: architectural designerHobbies: Arm wrestling, juggling, playing basketball, lifting weights, jumping rope and trail runningSomething interesting about you: I’m in the University of Cincinnati Basketball Hall of Fame
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UPDATE: Both westbound lanes and one eastbound lane of Interstate 70, according to a 12:20 a.m. update from Garfield County.