Bill ThomasCongratulations to Bill Thomas! Bill submitted a personal story of his, and we have selected it to publish on our blog. For his contribution, he received a free copy of Finish Strong as it fits the accomplishments about which he wrote. You can submit your story too!

I asked Bill, author of the "fictional autobiography" Telly's Torch, to talk a bit about himself:

I'm nearly 86, in fair health. We have three grown children and seven grandchildren; all wonderful achievers in their own lives. I'm a Veteran of WW II, having fought in North Africa, Italy, France, Germany and Austria. I was a forward observer in an artillery battalion. We made amphibious landings in Anzio, Italy, and in Southern France. I am Commander in two Veterans organizations, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I am a writer and published author. I've written five nonfiction workbooks. My passion is in writing. I'm currently endeavoring to start a blog featuring interviews with people who have had a great "15 minutes of fame." The blog will be interesting, inspirational and motivational. I have been a successful salesman for over 60 years. I'm planning to live to 104. My motivation was your offer to publish one of my stories and what better selection could I have made than to write about a great wife, mother, grandmother, and a winning champion. Thank you for the recognition and acceptance of Soula's triumph.

Without any more delay, here is Bill's story:

Soula Thomas, 85, Rossmoor, WV resident, won a bronze medal in race-walking on Tuesday July 28th at the World's Masters International Track and Field Competition held in the city of Lahti, Finland.

The full event ran from July 28th to August 8th, 2009. Approximately 5,300 athletes participated in various competitions. This event is a bi-annual phenomenon which attracts athletes 35 years of age or older worldwide. Many of these elder athletes are current or former Olympians or world record holders. It may seem strange to see men and women ages 35 to 100 throw javelins, heave shot puts, fly over hurdles, run and do long jumps or run in 100 meter to 800 meter races.

Race-walking is a somewhat tricky heel, toe, and knee movements race and, if not done correctly, athletes can easily be disqualified by any of the many judges situated around the course. Soula, a petite race-walker, competed against four women in her age class. She walked the 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) in 44.22 minutes to win her bronze medal. The first place winner's time was 41 minutes.

Soula also won a bronze medal in Australia in 2001, and has competed in England and Spain. She was delighted to see so many of her local American friends in Finland and so many other athletes from previous competitions

abroad. The next event will be in July of 2011.

The most remarkable aspect of this event is that these senior athletes are all so amazing. Individually and collectively, they are most impressive. They are agile, strong, powerful, full of energy, ready to compete, and striving to win. Up close, in their street clothes, you may notice their gray hair, face wrinkles, and varicose veins... but once they are on the field, they transform into dynamic challengers and winners. From a distance, it is difficult to distinguish the more elderly from the younger competitors. The camaraderie with all athletes is strong, but even the most famous, current champions are in awe of these senior athletes. Many swept away tears of joy.

The mixture of languages is like a jolly melody, and the laughter is constant but if anyone ever needs proof that age doesn't matter so much, these older athletes prove that it is never too late to accept challenges.

September 19, 2009
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