David Salazar, 69, Cedar Crest, New Mexico
Performing a Lofty Role
NSGA’s official highlights video from the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana sought to go beyond action clips and honor the athletes and the people of Albuquerque and New Mexico by selecting a local athlete to represent them in an unusual way. The video titled “Enchanted” (watch it here) features stunning drone video shots of a medal winner perched atop the Sandia Crest, displaying anticipation and determination in the beginning and then showing pride and reward in the closing scene. That has prompted the question: “Who is that guy?”
David Salazar could not have been more perfect for the role. Born in Albuquerque, David’s heritage includes Native American, Hispanic and Anglo roots. He earned a gold medal in the men’s 65-69 800-meter race at The Games in 2015 and grabbed silver in the same event in 2019. With the help of New Mexico Senior Olympics, we found David literally one day before the shoot was scheduled, and by coincidence he lives on the east side of the Sandia Mountains just a few minutes from the remote location we had selected.
When contacted about participating, David was humbled about the opportunity. “There are three things I feel honored about doing this – representing and helping to promote both New Mexico Senior Olympics and the National Senior Games, representing my track club, and then promoting Albuquerque and New Mexico in general,” he says.
Besides his National Senior Games medals, the father of three has also competed at several previous USA Track and Field Masters national meets and won multiple races in the 800, 1500 and pentathlon events. Like many of his Senior Games peers, he was a late bloomer.
“I did some track in junior high, but I didn’t do again competitively until I was around 40,” he explains. “I was always active. I just wasn’t motivated to compete until then. After I did well in a few races I got serious about it.”
David ran with two different track clubs in California over time, and five years ago he helped form a New Mexico track club that now has 30 regular members. “I am the USATF certified coach for the track club, and I coached high school track for 12 years,” he proudly states. “I don’t coach a team anymore, but I still coach a few individual students.”
When winter comes, David doesn’t hibernate. He participates in winter recreation and has become involved in adaptive sports, teaching people with disabilities how to snowboard.
Living nearby, the runner has hiked on the crest and visited the “rock house” he stood on for the camera many times. This was the first time he donned his athletic gear and climbed onto the roof of the mountaintop structure, and the weather was unexpectedly cold and windy. “I was shaking and asked the drone guy if he could see it, but he said no,” he says with a laugh. “If it had been winter, I would have probably been comfortable. But since it was summer that 50 degrees and windy felt pretty cold. But you never get tired of the beauty and serenity of the mountains.”
When David saw the drone video clips from the shoot, he realized he was doing something special on many levels. “Seeing the video made me feel pretty insignificant, really,” he reflects. “But it is great that we can do things to communicate about serving our community, staying fit and helping others to maintain a high quality of life, and to continue to do what we do for years to come.
“I enjoyed doing it. It’s an honor,” he concludes. “I’m always willing to do anything to help promote something like this.”