A series of circumstances came together to send Evans resident Chuck Baer on a gold-medal-winning trip to Sydney, Australia.
Baer and his wife celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in April, and they had always wanted to visit Australia. And, at 55, Baer realized he would be the youngest in his age bracket at the World Masters Games, held Oct. 10-18 in Sydney.
Baer's work -- he owns and manages Applewood Golf Course in Keysville, Ga. -- allowed him the flexibility to take the time off, and so the trip was a go.
Once the decision was made, training began for the former football player and field athlete for the University of Virginia. Baer's goal was gold.
As he posed for a picture last week, his gold medal for winning the shot put hung around his neck, along with a silver for discus.
"It was nice," Baer said. "That venue was just world-class."
The events were held in Sydney's Olympic Park, which played host to the 2000 Olympics. Baer said World Masters athletes were given the same treatment as the Olympians, with opening and closing ceremonies and a march into the competition venue.
The participation fee included public transportation, which allowed Baer and the other athletes to hop on buses, trains or ferries and explore Sydney.
The international event was Baer's first. He started training a year in advance with weight and cardio programs. During the summer, his workouts increased to four a week.
The competition was set up like the Olympics -- three throws in preliminaries, with the top 12 moving on to finals the next day, in which they made three throws. Throws were measured by a global positioning system.
Baer said there were nine countries represented in the shot put and discus events, and his top competitor was a man from Estonia. The Estonian took gold in the shot put, but Baer beat him out for gold in the discus.
"I took it pretty seriously, set the goal," Baer said. "I wanted to win and got world champion."
Baer received a bag from the event bearing the motto "Fit, Fun, Forever Young." Baer said that was the basis of the competition, that people can stay active and compete no matter their age.
He said that at a national indoor Masters event in Maryland in March, he saw a 94-year-old woman run the 60-yard dash.
"It makes you realize that, hey, I may be 55 years old, but if a 94-year-old woman can continue to compete, then there's 40 years of competition ahead of me I should be able to enjoy," Baer said. "I think that's the message of this World Masters. Stay fit, stay young. Get out and do it while you can."
Baer said he would take a break from competition to allow an injury to heal. He coaches Lakeside's throwers on the track and field team and is looking ahead to the upcoming season.
He's hoping the recent success of the football team and its weight-lifting program produces some capable throwers.
"There's a lot more stronger kids out there," Baer said. "That will help us."
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