To 96-year-old Charlie Edwards, growing older isn’t an excuse to slow down. In fact, for him, it’s all the more motivation to speed up and try new things. That’s why he took up archery at age 92 and, this July, the decorated WWII veteran found himself with a gold medal around his neck at the National Senior Games.
“I never picked up a bow before in my life until I got here at Greenspring,” he said, referring to his retirement community in Springfield, Va.
Edwards discovered his interest only four years ago when, by chance, he shared an elevator with a man who happened to be holding what Edwards described as an “interesting looking package.” It turns out, that weirdly shaped bundle held a bow and arrow and soon Edwards found himself traveling to Fort Belvoir every Monday to utilize the military base’s indoor and outdoor ranges.
“I was hooked,” he said. “I found I really liked it, so I bought myself a bow and a bunch of arrows.”
Within a year, Edwards began entering competitions, and in 2013, he found himself competing in his first National Senior Games in the 90-94 age group.
“There were three of us and I came in third,” Edwards said. His competition was stiff, though, for Edwards who at the time had just a year of experience in the sport. He went up against an archer who had been at it for 80 years and another who had worked as a professional instructor.
This year, things were different. Edwards found himself alone in the 95-99 age category, which he joked 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.”
Edwards earned it by spending two sweltering days shooting a total of 180 arrows at six targets situated at three different distances in Minneapolis, where this year’s competition was held.
“It was hot as hell,” he recalls, noting that the unexpected conditions in the upper Midwest have given him pause about whether he really wants to compete in the next National Senior Games in 2017. They’re slated to take place in Alabama’s summer heat.
“At this point, I’m thinking about switching to swimming,” he said. He joked at first but later reconsidered. A competitive swimmer in high school, Edwards said he still swims regularly and especially likes the backstroke. “I need to get somebody to time me,” he said.
Whatever event Edwards ends up entering, he says his biggest competition will always be himself.
“What I … shoot for is my personal best,” he said. “Secondly, I’m always looking if I did, perchance, beat somebody in one of the younger (age groups).”
Although Edwards’s activity level defies his age, he’s not allowed to stray from his age group. In fact, that rule’s given him a new goal.
“Whether I go to Alabama or not, I’m going to be back for the 100-104 age group,” he said, which would be the 2019 National Senior Games, the location of which is still to be determined.
“I love it. I have fun with it,” he said. “It keeps me mostly in good shape. If I just continue, it’s gonna keep me alive.”