At 81, Chet Boehlke won’t stop moving, brings home 3 medals from the Adirondack Games

Chet Boehlke

– Photo from Sharon Boehlke
Taking a break from all that winning: At the Adirondack Championship this past weekend, Chet Boehlke won three gold medals for the javelin, shot put, and discus.

NEW SCOTLAND – Chet Boehlke should have been dead 15 years ago; well, that’s what his doctor told him at his most recent check up, his wife, Sharon, said. So that makes his accomplishments at the Empire State Games and Adirondack Championship all the more impressive.

She was joking, of course, but not about her husband’s athletic feats.

At the Empire State Games, in June, Boehlke, 81, won a silver medal in the javelin and a bronze in discus, and came in fourth in two other events, the hammer throw and shot put. At the Adirondack Games this past weekend, Boehlke earned three gold medals – in the javelin, shot put, and discus.

More impressive is that Boehlke won all of these medals while living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an inflammatory disease that blocks airflow from the lungs, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Mrs. Boehlke said that she asked her husband recently how much longer does he plan on competing, and, she said, he answered: “I want other couch potatoes my age to know that they can get up and do it.” His wife concluded, “He’s got a great outlook on life.”

Chet Boehlke told The Enterprise that senior citizens “need to keep moving or else they die.” He added later, “Keeping active is the secret to keeping alive.”

He said that the more active he is, the better he feels.

Boehlke first participated in the Empire State Games in 1986. Prior to that, his daughter had been competing as a gymnast in the games. So, he and his wife agreed: “Well, we can do that.”

It’s an impressive feat because, in 1985, Chet Boehlke had an octuple bypass. While he was on the operating table, he quipped that the doctor said: “Well, we have him open, might as well clean them all.”

Participants of the Empire Games compete against other athletes by age group; every five years, an athlete moves up to a new group.

Boehlke competes in the first year whenever he moves to a new group; the other four years he is an official (he is certified by USA Track and Field), which he prefers. “Not to mention, they need good officials,” he said.

He graduated from Colonie Central High School in 1956, where he was an all-star athlete; he had been a four-year letterman in football, basketball, track, and a three-year letterman in baseball.

After high school, he joined the Navy for two years of active duty. He was a metalsmith and welder, and played for his ship’s basketball team.

When he got home, he became a truck driver, and was also the animal-control officer for the town of New Scotland. He then worked for the county as a foreman for the highway department before retiring.

While his COPD will never be cured, Boehlke said, therapy has helped and his lungs are working better. He said that he feels better doing his main hobby, and side business, cutting down trees for firewood, which he has been doing all his life.

Boehlke said that, since he’s been going to therapy, he has been able to run a little bit, which he couldn’t do before, and, because of that, he can practice a little more.

“It’s a general health issue; the more you work it, the better you are going to be. Rather than sitting in a chair all the time, you got to get out and do stuff,” he said.

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