Saturday, June 28, 2008

"Golden Boy"

As you will see, this was not written by me, but I thought that it should be on my web page.
A friend of mine, Louis Moore, gave this title to an article that appeared in the Times-News on 23 September 2007.
Dr. Donald Bales, 85, who recently won three medals and two ribbons in swimming competitions at the National Senior Games, credits heredity, luck and lifestyle for his longevity.
Going for the gold
85-year-old retired doctor wins three medals, two ribbons in swimming at the National Senior Games
When describing Kingsport resident Dr. Donald Bales, a number of words come to mind. Outspoken, methodical and intelligent are among the many you could choose. Some words that would not be suited for this retired octogenarian are broken down, inactive or, least of all, lazy.
The 85-year-old Bales recently won three medals and two ribbons in swimming competitions at the National Senior Games, the Olympics for a more mature section of the athletic community.
The National Senior Games are held biennially in a venue suited to hold the 12,000 qualified 50 and older athletes and the 20,000 spectators that come to be a part of the 800 scheduled events.
This year, the games were held in the Kentucky Exposition Center and the University of Louisville in Louisville, Ky.
“There’s always a big crowd at the nationals, and it’s always interesting,” Bales said. “It’s a friendly, nice atmosphere. You almost never meet anybody who goes to the games that’s nasty.”
To make it to the national level, Bales had to qualify at both the district and state levels, something he said would be more difficult if he had more competition.
“One thing about district and state is that sometimes there wouldn’t be anybody else in my age group,” Bales said, smiling. “I guess if you can’t out swim ’em, outlive ’em.”
All jokes aside, Bales’ performance in the pool is quite an accomplishment. He has attained state records for the 100-yard breaststroke in the 75 to 79 age group, and also for the 50- and 100-yard breaststroke in the 80 to 84 age group.
This year, in his age group, he won a gold medal in the 50-yard breaststroke, a silver in the 50-yard backstroke and a bronze in the 100-yard backstroke.
When added to the previous medals he won at all levels since he began competing in 2000, Bales has 55 gold medals, five silver and four bronze.
Always a modest man, the retired doctor refuses to put his awards on display, preferring to keep them in a bowl on top of the piano in his family
“Somebody said I ought to get a board and hang them, but that just seemed a little bit vain,” he said.
Bales’ competitive spirit originated in high school in his hometown of Morristown, Tenn. There, he was a minor athlete on the basketball, track and football teams.
Regrettably, Bales’ athletic interests took a back burner when he began building his medical career.
When he was in his 40's, the President’’s Council on Physical Fitness inspired Bales to take up an active lifestyle again through a recommended exercise routine.
Bales then became an avid jogger until the pains in his arches told him it was time to try something new. So he switched to cycling and swimming.
After retiring from his practice in June 1997, Bales took up swimming at the indoor pool at Dobyns-Bennett High School. Fellow Kingsport Senior Center board member, Joan Wilder, coached him to swim competitively, and he took to it like a fish to-well, water.
Bales said he outlasted his contemporaries because of a critical mixture of three factors.
“A lot of people who were born the year I was are dead in the graveyard, in a nursing home, in a wheelchair or they don’’t know what they had for breakfast,” he said. “Time has been kind to this old man. I attribute my longevity to three things: heredity, luck and lifestyle.””
He’s had a full 85 years, but Bales said he’s only shooting for 15 more.
“I took one of those longevity tests that said my actual age was 68 and my life span will be 107,” he said. “I’d only counted on 100, if I make it past there, I’ll have to reexamine the situation.”
It’s been said that behind all great men is a supportive woman, and Bales is no different.
His wife of 62 years, Julia, goes along with him to his countless swimming competitions to act as a cheering section.
“Some of the luck that I had was picking my profession,”” Bales said. “Another was picking my wife. Two the the most important things in life have turned out really well for me.”
Together, the Bales’s have four children who inherited their father’s proclivity for healthy living.
“They’’re all lean, they’re all in superb physical condition, none of them smoke, none of them drink, and none of them are on drugs,” Bales said. “When I turned 70, they wrote a list for me called ‘70 Things I Learned From Daddy.’ One of them was lifestyle.”
In the off-season, Bales continues to train, with no immediate end in sight to his swimming career.
“I hope I can make it until I reach the 95 and older age group, then I won’’t have any competition, and I’ll win a bunch of gold medals,” he said, with a smile.
Whether he makes it that for or not, you can be sure that in whatever he does, Bales will always be going for the gold.

Going for the gold
*Perhaps I was a minor athlete in track-I never placed in a meet (that was the criterion for getting a letter in track), but I considered myself to be and I think the coach and my teammates considered me to be a major athlete in basketball (I was the center), and, especially, in football. I was right end on offense in my senior year and weak-side linebacker on defense (center both ways in the sophomore and junior years). DWB

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