Buzz Gagne, 68, Concord, New Hampshire
The most publicized event of the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana was the heated battle of javelins between centenarians John Zilverberg and Fred Winters, which was seen on The Today Show and on numerous media websites. While noteworthy, the cameras did not catch a younger athlete setting new records and building on his own legacy in the same sport.
The other “buzz” on the field was 68-year-old Buzz Gagne, who earned the gold medal with a javelinthrow of 50.61 meters (166 feet), good enough to set the all-time National Senior Games record in the men’s 65-69 age division. He now holds the top two slots, including his also-impressive 2013 performance. He has garnered six gold and three silver medals since first attending The Games in 1999. Buzz is also in the top 10 world records for the javelin for the 60-64 and 65-69 age groups.
“I always seem to have my best throws at the biggest meets,” the Concord, New Hampshire athlete says. “I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s the level of competition and the camaraderie there.”
One of those silver medals, earned in 2011, is arguably his most remarkable since Buzz was diagnosed with prostate cancer that year. “They had to remove my prostate, but I waited until after the season ended to do it.” Buzz recalls that following surgery, he had no core strength left.
“It took me over a year before I started to feel good again. I couldn’t put much into my throws, and had to do a lot of core conditioning to bring it back.” Asked if he contemplated hanging it up, Buzz quickly responds, “I love throwing. It’s the most fun that I’ve had with fitness, and I’m glad I’m still doing it.”
Buzz, who earned his nickname the day he was born when an uncle said his crying “sounded like a buzz bomb,” showed signs of athleticism as captain of his high school track team in Greenfield, Massachusetts. After three tours of duty in Vietnam, he returned to get his degree, but basketball and soccer were the only sports offered at his college. It was not until 1998 that he noticed an ad for a masters track meet and got back in the game. The self-taught thrower attended a USA Track and Field clinic where his technique was videotaped and critiqued. “They pointed out things that needed to be corrected,” he says. “One by one, I worked them out and I started throwing 25 to 30 feet farther with a lot fewer injury problems. It made all the difference in the world.”
Buzz now enjoys competing annually in several masters and state senior games in the Northeast, in addition to attending national and occasional international meets. Locally, he trains with the Twilight Throwers Club (“a fabulous group of guys”) in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, and has a passion for helping others to learn and train safely.
”I can’t help but coach people. I’ve volunteered to teach javelin with the Merrimack Valley High School team for 8 years. At senior meets, I find myself asking others if I can point out some things to help them. Most are receptive, and I’ve made a lot of friends that way.”
Buzz appreciates his accomplishments, but says he’s not in it for accolades. “Records are meant to be broken, so that’s not why I do it. I do it because it’s fun and for the camaraderie. I never feel like I’m competing against the other guys. I just try to do the best I can every time, and ask God to lift my javelin just a little farther.”