Race Walker Celebrates Anniversary of Becoming An Amputee with Gold Medal Performance

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CLEARWATER, Fla. — Day eight of the 2018 Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, got off to a big start at Crest Lake Park in Clearwater with a milestone anniversary of a race walker and some exciting finishes on foot and on bicycles.

Gary Bertelsen, of New Smyrna Beach, crossed the finish line with a time of 33:30.50, on a prosthetic left leg, on the 30th anniversary of becoming an amputee. He had a “deer hunting accident in Wisconsin,” in November of 1979 and had his left leg amputated above the knee, the following month, on December 8.

He admitted after the race that “running as an amputee kicks your butt,” even though he was a runner until three years ago and even ran in the New York City Marathon in 1995.

“I entered a race walk competition by accident,” he said. “I thought it was a 5K running race but found out otherwise. It made me learn how to race walk. I watched some videos before the race to learn the rules and now I love it.”

It was his first participation in the Florida Senior Games and will also compete in the 1500-meter Race Walk on Sunday.

Taking off five minutes before the Race Walkers, the husband and wife team of Edward and Angela Blankenship, of Naples, turned in the 5K Road Race top overall men’s and women’s times and earned gold medals in the 50-54 age groups. Edward was the first overall finisher with a time of 17:51.10 and Angela crossed the finishing line at 25:42.10.

Edward’s run to the finish line did not come easy as the top three overall finishers were 14 seconds apart and Derek Larner, from Grand Cayman, was just over a second behind Blankenship.

“It was very close,” Blankenship said. “We kept swapping the lead. I led the first mile, he may have led the second mile, and the guy who came in third (Thomas Hampton, of Miami) led for a while. I surged forward with just a little bit left in the course. It was pretty close the whole way.”

Angela’s top female time was 17 seconds ahead of the silver medalist in the 50-54 age group, Roberta Meyer.

Across the way on Cleveland Avenue, there were more close finishes in the 20K and 40K Cycling Road Races. Kathy Petrillo, of Jupiter, who was the 2016 FSG Female Athlete of the Year, and Peter Butler, of Tallahassee, were the top finishers but each of their gold medals were decided by a second or less.

Petrillo and Kay Carver, of The Villages, were neck and neck at the finish line with Petrillo holding a 3/100 of a second advantage in the 20K Race and a 2/100 of a second lead in the 40K Race.

Butler’s 20K time of 33:00.54 nudged Kevin Clark, of Miami, with a time of 33:01.45. In the 40K, the difference between the two was 2/100 of a second.

Ronn Wyckoff, of Sarasota, was a perfect 30 for 30 in the Basketball Shooting Free Throw event, at Highland Recreation Center, to win the 75-79 age group gold medal. He edged Harry Carothers, of Pinellas Park, who hit 29 of 30. It was the second time Wyckoff recorded the perfect score at the Florida Senior Games, as he accomplished the feat in 2015.

Chris Evans, of The Villages, had the highest women’s Free Throw Shooting total, hitting 24 of 30 from the line. It was her third consecutive gold-medal winning performance in the 65-69 age group.

In the Spot Field Goal Shooting, Garland Reynolds, of Frostproof, hit all 15 shots of the competition to win the 65-69 age group gold medal. Reynolds hit all five shots from different places on the court in all three rounds.

In the Timed Field Goal Shooting, William Oliver, of Reunion, hit 24 three pointers and an outside shot for a total of 122 points to win the 65-69 age group gold medal.

Laura Fowle, of Brooksville, had the highest women’s point total with 108 points, hitting 20 three pointers.

In the Field Events of the Track and Field competition, at Clearwater High School, 12 age-group records were broken. Madelaine “Tiny” Cazel, broke three 80-84 age group records with a long jump of 8 feet 10.5 inches, a shot put of 23 feet, 3.5 inches and a discus throw of 65 feet, two inches. The 2003 FSG Female Athlete of the Year, Cazel, topped her own discus throw record, set last year, by 13 feet, and she now holds 10 field event records in the 70-74, 75-79 and 80-84 age groups.

Troy Bellrichard, of Spring Valley, Minnesota, set a new record in the 50-54 age group with a Discus Throw of 152 feet, seven inches. He broke the previous mark, set in 1998, by Bruce Hedendal, of Delray Beach by over nine feet.

In the third of four days of Pickleball, Gary Miller, of The Villages, and Steve Wojcik, of Naperville, Ill., won their fourth consecutive men’s doubles gold medal in the 60-64 age group. They defeated Paul Cash, of The Villages and Doug McClintlock, of St. Augustine in the championship match.

Among those Powerlifting at the Safety Harbor Recreation Center, Ellen Stein won the Best Overall Lifter and Sam Beckwith, of Lakeland, won the Best Male Overall Lifter.

April Shoemaker, who weighs 114 pounds, won the Best Female Bench Press with a lift of 214 pounds, nearly twice her weight.

Over 2,600 athletes are competing in the 2018 Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, in Clearwater and Pinellas County through December 9. The 2018 Games are a qualifier for the 2019 National Senior Games, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 14-25.

The 2018 Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, are an annual presentation of the Florida Sports Foundation, the state’s leading sports promotion and development organization and are held in conjunction with Visit St. Pete Clearwater and the City of Clearwater.