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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Thompson Takes Gold at National Senior Games

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Fred Thompson on his way to gold during a 2005 Summer National Senior Games-The Senior Olympics triathlon held in Pittsburgh, Pa..[photo courtesy of the NSGA]
North Adams- City resident and well-known area athlete Fred Thompson scored a monumental victory at the 2005 Summer National Senior Games – The Senior Olympics in Pittsburgh, Pa. after he completed a grueling triathlon with a time of 1:13:33 and claimed the event’s gold medal.

Going For Gold

Thompson, 64, bested 14 competitors entered in the 60- to 64-year-old category. The triathlon launched with a 400-meter swim followed by a 20k cycling race and a 5k run to the finish.

“I came out of the water kind of slow, not near the front, but I apparently passed everybody cycling and then held them off during the run,” Thompson said during a June 14 interview at his city-based law office.

Thompson earned top five finishes in several other 2005 summer games events. He took fourth place after competing in a 20k road race, fifth place after a 10k time trial, fifth place after a 40k road race, and sixth place after a 5k time trial.

Those showings inspired Thompson to pour it on during the triathlon, he said.

“I got outsmarted in the cycle races and I was determined to win the triathlon,” he said with a grin.

Cyclists who competed during the triathlon faced an additional challenge. The event was held the day after a 40k cycling race, which occurred in temperatures that rose above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, Thompson said.

“The 40k was over very hilly terrain and it was between 90 and 96 degrees all week,” Thompson noted. “There were a few cyclists, me included, who did the triathlon and it was the day after the 40k.”

A tough and eager athletic competitor, Thompson said his gold medal win was just a bit sweeter because his performance topped that of Thomas Murray, a Pennsylvania athlete who’s beaten Thompson twice.

“I feel pretty good; the guy who’s beat me twice came in fourth,” Thompson said.

Competition is strong and every athlete strives for a first-place finish during the games, but the toughest competitors are often good friends, Thompson said.

“We love each other, us guys,” he said.

Thompson with his gold medal and ribbons won during the 2005 Summer National Senior Games-The Senior Olympics.


New Sport, No Problem

Thompson is no stranger to athletic accolades; his honors, awards, medals, trophies and plaques are too numerous to count, cover almost 50 years and involve a wide arena of sports. In 1957, Thompson [then known as Fred Pratt] was a 16-year-old Drury High School senior and was named All-Western Mass. for football. By age 18, Thompson was making himself known in college football.

“By the time I was 18, I had played a year of freshmen football at the Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kansas,” said Thompson.

When he was a college senior, the college team was ranked sixth in the national standings and Thompson was named an All-Conference player as a defensive back. While studying law at the Washburn University, he coached that school’s football team backfield.

During the 1960s, based on his college football career, Thompson scored a try-out with the Boston Patriots, now known as the three-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. An extensive July 20, 1966 Topeka Daily Capital newspaper article listed Thompson’s accomplishments to that point; the list includes winning three Topeka Memorial Day tennis tournament titles [Thompson took up the sport in 1963], the 1965 Heart of America handball championship with Don Luttrell, and the 1965 national drag-racing championship at one-eighth of a mile in Kansas City with a 1958 Corvette.

Sports and competitions have always been a priority for Thompson. During recent years, he’s secured victories and top-three finishes in events such as the Vermont Sun triathlon, the Greenfield triathlon, Massachusetts Senior Games competitions, American Canoe Association Whitewater Canoe National competitions and a host of additional events.

“Right now I’m leading the New England downriver white water canoe series with five firsts and one second,” Thompson said, after being prodded for more information about his accomplishments.

“I don’t always have the same partner,” Thompson said. “Sometimes I’m in the front of the boat, sometimes I’m in the back. I’m not that good at it. But I try harder.”

Thompson has won his age category while competing in the Great Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon, which is the oldest bike-canoe-run triathlon in the country, five times between 1997 and 2002.

He remains competitive in “open events,” meaning no age restrictions.

“I compete in open events during the [Adams-based] Pedal and Plod,” Thompson said. “My partner Nicole Plante and I won twice in a row. She’s a great athlete now. She is focused.”

He also teamed up to “paddle” with his 10-year-old stepdaughter and secured a fourth place win during a competitive event.

“I never get tired of competing,” Thompson said. “I love it.”

He was a sparring partner for former New England welterweight boxing champion Al Romano for 15 years.

Thompson said he enjoys coaching youth sports. And he can get right into a good game of pool.

In Court, On the Court

Thompson is a practicing attorney who’s handled high-profile criminal cases and said he enjoys edgy competition in the courtroom, a setting where legal expertise and quick thinking take precedence over physical ability.

His training strategy is surprisingly simple when one considers his athletic prowess and longevity as a winning competitor.

“You go to work at 6:30 a.m., work eight to 10 hour days, and always get in a one-hour workout, always,” Thompson said. “Do something, run, bike, racquetball, something.”

Thompson said he remains hungry for the next win.

“I’ve enjoyed every sport I’ve ever done,” he said. “I don’t see myself not competing. It keeps me going.”

The National Senior Games began June 3 and will conclude on June 18. More than 10,000 athletes and about 15,000 spectators are expected to attend or participate in the games, according to information provided by the National Senior Games Association. The University of Pittsburgh served as the athlete and corporate villages as well as the venue for badminton, basketball, racquetball, shuffleboard, swimming, and volleyball competitions. The North Park played host to cycling, triathlon, softball, golf, race walk and road race events. Additional competitions were held throughout parts of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania.

Additional information about the National Senior Games is available at www.nsga.com.

Susan Bush can be reached by calling 802-823-9367 or by e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net.
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