WASHINGTON – He might not be an Ian Thorpe,the world record holder in the 400-meter freestyle,but he is an Olympic athlete.
Earlier this month,Tony Diamond joined 16 other athletes to yell for the slowest swimmers,some who finished several minutes behind the winners,and shake hands after each race. Husbands,wives and children cheered for everyone through 12 races. Sportsmanship trumped the hard competitive edge at this Olympics,which drew athletes ages 51 to 85.
When most his age might pick the less-strenuous sport of golf or tennis,Diamond,74,began to compete in the D.C. Golden Olympics at age 57 in swimming,track,football throw,basketball free-throw and softball throw.
Now 74,Diamond competed in this year's trials for the Summer National Senior Olympic Games to be held June 3 to 18,2005,in Pittsburgh. He will represent the District of Columbia in three running and two race walk events.
Tony Diamond has been an athlete for as long as he can remember. In 1944,when he was 15,he won a 5-mile race in his hometown of Buffalo,N.Y. He ran track and field in high school,college and even in the Army. A self-proclaimed “sports junky,” Diamond considers himself to be a multi-sport athlete.
The D.C. Golden Olympics,now in its 21st year,allows District residents 50 and over to compete in the same 18 events as the national games. The D.C. Parks and Recreation Department and the Office on Aging sponsor the competition,which includes events ranging from bowling and swimming to archery and table tennis.
The National Senior Games Association,based in Baton Rouge,La.,is a not-for-profit organization,dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles for people 50 and over.
“Athletes like Mr. Diamond have already bought what we are selling. They are tremendous role models,” said Phil Godfrey,the group's vice president and chief of operations.
Diamond has attended three previous national competitions,held every two years. He walked away with two ribbons from the 2003 games,which were held in Hampton Roads,Va. Diamond also competed nationally in 2001. He has won 14 medals since he began competing in the senior games.
“I'm just going to keep training to prepare for the games,” Diamond said. “I do a 5-mile run daily,and I always take the stairs instead of an elevator if possible.”
Diamond's athletic career began at Buffalo Technical High School,where he led the cross-country team to a second-place finish in the 1946 All High Cross Country Championship. Diamond was also a three-letter man in cross-country,swimming and track. While attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy,N.Y.,Diamond led his team to the first New York State Small College Cross Country Championship in 1950.
Diamond works for National Aeronautics and Space Administration as a small business adviser but plans to retire shortly.
A torchbearer for the 1980 Winter Olympics held in Lake Placid,N.Y.,Diamond carried the torch from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol.
After participating in 14 events in this year's D.C. Golden Olympics,Diamond was named All-Around Male Athlete in his age division.
When giving advice to those others on how to stay fit and active at his age,Diamond says,“it's a lifestyle,and you must be humble.”
Asked when he will stop competing,Diamond said he'd once told his wife in jest: “I'll run way all the way into heaven! Better yet,since it's downhill,I'd better run to hell.”