Heath strikes gold at Senior Games
Longtime Dolores resident wins gold medals in discus and shot put
Ian MacLaren/Dolores Star
Track and field is generally a young man's undertaking, but good luck explaining that to Mel Heath.
At the ripe age of 80, the longtime Dolores resident is taking the world by storm, winning gold medals in the shot put and discus events in the 80-84 age division at the Huntsman World Senior Games in October of this year.
Known for being the largest multi-sport event in the world for athletes older than the age of 50, the Huntsman World Games plays host to 27 athletic events ranging from badminton to basketball.
Included in the games is a full slate of track and field events that attracts athletes from countries including Canada, Barbados and even Trinidad and Tobago.
For Heath, the idea to compete in the Games was borne by accident during a conversation with his son and local resident, Steve Heath.
"Steve and I got talking about discus, and he knew I used to throw it," said Mel, a former high school discus thrower. "Next thing I know, I get two discuses in the mail that (Steve) bought for me. He says go out there and throw them, so that's what I did."
Initially, Heath's training involved short stints throwing the discus, but after a short while, his workout regiment intensified.
"I made myself some metal plates that are heavier than a normal discus to build my strength," said Heath. "The discus is about technique and speed. My 80-year-old feet do not do what my brain tells them to. I've had to work on my coordination, which is getting better."
After training for about seven months, Heath's competitive urges kicked in, and before long, the seemingly ageless athlete had entered himself in the Huntsman Senior Games.
Travelling to St. George, Utah, to compete, Heath was impressed by not only the number of athletes, but also by the diversity of his fellow competitors.
"We stayed in the same motel where a team from Barbados stayed," said Heath. "I got to talk to people from Sweden, Germany, Trinidad and Tobago and Canada. It was fun."
Upon stepping into the discus circle at the start of competition, Heath was nervous, tossing his first two throws out of bounds. His third throw was far better however, travelling 84 feet and 11 inches, a distance that turned out to be good enough for gold.
"I felt a little pressure," said a smiling Heath. "It was fun."
Along with his first-place discus throw, Heath struck gold in the shot put, tossing the 3-kilogram metal sphere 33 feet and 6 inches.
Asked about the reasons behind his success at his advanced age, Heath, a longtime carpenter, joked that a healthful lifestyle certainly wasn't to blame.
"The Lord has blessed me with a healthy body," Heath said. "As much as I drank and smoke and chased girls, it didn't hurt me too much."
As for his future in the sport of track and field, Heath stressed that he plans to continue lifting weights throughout the winter in hopes of returning to the Hunstman Senior Games next year.
In addition to his training between now and then, Heath will spend time enjoying life in Dolores with his wife, Eva, his three children when they come to visit, and his numerous grandchildren.
"I like it here," said Heath. "What I like about living in this area is that a traffic gridlock is two cars at a stop sign. I moved here for the slower lifestyle."
A pillar in the community, a family man and an athlete, Heath's late-life athletic success will undoubtedly provide inspiration for those of all ages.
And who knows, with any luck, the ageless and outstanding thrower may add two more gold medals to his collection next year.