Charlie Edwards, 96, Springfield, Virginia
It’s not everyone who can pick up a sport at the age of 92, overcome a last place finish at his first national event and come back undaunted and capture a gold medal two years later. For Charlie Edwards of Springfield, Virginia, it was just another interesting challenge to conquer.
Now 96, Charlie took up archery on a whim, having shared an elevator ride four years ago with a fellow resident of his Greenspring retirement community holding a strange looking bundle that turned out to be a bow and arrow. Intrigued, he bought a beginners bow and started practicing at nearby Fort Belvoir on the military base’s ranges. He entered some competitions and qualified at the Virginia Senior Games to go to the 2013 National Senior Games presented by Humana.
“I came in third in a field of three in the 90 to 94 age group,” he recalls. “The thing that kept me going, though, was that those other two guys were good and I was still competitive. One had been at it for 80 years and the other had worked as a professional instructor. I didn’t look ridiculous out there, and that was encouraging as hell.”
This year, Charlie traveled to The Games in Minnesota with two of his children. “One or more always go with me and we have a good time. But I thought Minneapolis would be a wonderful place to go in July and it didn’t exactly turn out as cool as I thought. I didn’t see a single snowflake the whole time!”
This time, he found himself with no competition in the 95-99 age division of compound release. In a recent feature in The Washington Post, Charlie joked that made it a lot easier for him to win. “Here I am a national champion without anybody ever challenging me,” he said. “That’s embarrassing, but nevertheless, I’m gonna keep my gold medal.”
With a background as a decorated World War II Navy fighter pilot, we asked if his above average vision helped his rapid improvement in the sport. “Probably, but a steady hand is a big part of it too. As I’ve gotten older I’ve been able to avoid having any tremors which would really wreck the whole effort.”
The outgoing archer attributes his youth athletics, which included being on a championship wrestling team at Lehigh University, as setting the tone for keeping active and healthy throughout his life. He also credits his genes, saying “My mother lived to 93, and my grandmother to 99. So I still have a few years to go to be the oldest in my family.”
“I feel good. I just don’t know what’s going to stop me,” he proclaims, then jokes, “Of course, you know, it might be a jealous husband or something like that.”
Charlie is making plans for 2017 and beyond. “I could decide to be a swimmer too. I’ve been in most of the oceans of the world, but what I do now is mostly just splash around and have fun. I have a long way to go to be competitive. But I absolutely have no doubt in my mind that I will compete in the 100 to 104 age group in The Games when they come along!”