Senior Olympian strives for gold

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ceaira Tinsley
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
While he stretches, he appreciates the overcast sky, light breeze and warm 70-degree temperature, which was a nice break from the scorching 100-degree heat that has plagued Georgia most of the summer. He puts his game face on, prays for a safe run and to bring home the gold in Warner Robins, Ga., Sept. 17.

Adorned in a black tank top and gray shorts, 82-year-old Frank Lathron approaches lane four, prepared to kick off his first competition of the day at the Georgia Golden Olympics.

The Georgia Golden Olympics, a preliminary competition, allows contestants over 50 years of age to compete in various competitions against other seniors in their age group. The top three winners in each category qualify to go on and compete in the 2016 National Senior Olympics.

Nearly 20 years ago, Lathron was stationed at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., when he was chosen to be the head of security for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. In remembrance of that time, and the luck he believes it brought him, he wears his 1996 Olympics jacket to every race.

However, today he isn't on the sidelines watching but instead he's chasing his dreams and competing against other seniors in the 81 to-85 year old category.

As the gun fired, signaling the start of the race, Lathron took off. He was in second place and gaining on the first-place runner. Unfortunately, about 10 strides into the race, he was halted by a sharp pain coming from his right leg, ending the competition for him.

"I trained very hard and I really wanted to do well," said Lathron. "I had intended to do well in the 50, 100 and 200-meter [run], but after the first 25 yards it was over for me. This isn't the first bad thing to happen to me and it is not going to be the last."

After being alive more than eight decades, lacing up his shoes to compete in the races requires a heavy workout regimen.

"I have a three-day cycle and on the first day I do 20 to 30 meter sprints," said Lathron. The second day, I do light weights and the third day, I'm on the mat doing sit-ups, pushups and crunches. The fourth day is a day of rest which is very important."

Frank repeats this routine but increases the intensity and repetitions each time.

His legs aren't as fresh as they were when he was 20, but with a healthy diet, constant workout routine and good genes Lathron says he believes you're as young as you feel.

"My greatest hero for the first 50 years of my life was my dad," said Lathron, who describes his dad as a fantastic athlete. "I get my good genes from him and my dad wouldn't let me quit in anything."

In the past years at the olympics, Lathron was able to bring home numerous gold, silver and bronze medals. This year he was sidelined early in the competition, but that did not stop him from cheering on his fellow seniors.

"I saw a lot of people that I haven't seen in years and I think it's great to see people doing this stuff at any age," said Lathron. "To see people continue with good health is wonderful."

While Lathron says he would have loved to beat those 'old farts,' at the end of the day, it is about building relationships and motivating each other to keep going.

"This competition is important, not only for the competitive spirit, but it keeps them active and it keeps them moving," said Antoinette Davis, a 14-year Georgia Golden Olympics volunteer. "They are able to build friendships and we have even had a few find love. Even in their senior years, it's important that they keep moving and keep active."

Lathron isn't sure if he'll run again because his pursuit to reign as a champion once more has come to a standstill while he rehabilitates his injuries.

"I've never had an injury like this before, although, I've seen people who have," said Lathron. "My age will play a huge factor in whether or not I'm able to compete again, but only the Lord knows."

Fortunately, this year was not a qualifying year and the Senior Olympics is slated to be held in Nashville, Tenn., in 2016. Lathron has a year to allow his injury to heal and begin recuperating to return to the start line.