After winning a gold medal — along with a silver and a bronze — in his first trip to the Georgia Golden Olympics last year, the Carrollton native returned to Warner Robins last week and brought back five golds this time around. The charismatic competitor left The Games as a household name, especially when it came to his premier running events.
Smith, 75, swept the 50, 100 and 200-meter dashes to capture three of his gold medals, where his flock of growing fans began chanting for the Golden speedster to mimic Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt’s signature pose from the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games every time he ran.
“They kept wanting me to do the lightning bolt, so I did,” Smith laughed.
Smith — who never forgets to casually remind you that he is the “original” Will Smith — burst out with top times of 9.19 seconds in the 50-meter dash, 17.34 in the 100 and 38.25 in the 200, then rounded out his strong showing with gold-medal efforts in the softball throw and shot put.
And while Smith enjoyed being a part of the 30th Annual Georgia Golden Olympics — held Sept. 19-22 and hosted by the Warner Robins Recreation Department — the U.S. Army veteran and cancer survivor said his No. 1 priority in competing was to put a spotlight on seniors’ health.
“I want what I have accomplished down there in the Olympics, I want to come back here to Carroll County and this area and I’d be willing to go and visit some of the senior citizens’ homes and the veterans’ homes and try to encourage those seniors and elder people that you just don’t have to take pills to live. That you can exercise, follow your diet and be active,” Smith said.
“Even if I hadn’t have won a gold, it meant a whole lot to me just to go and participate. Again, it was a privilege to be there on the 30th anniversary.”
Making this particular event even more special for Smith was having his wife, Annie, compete with him this year. Having watched her husband last year, Annie Smith, also 75, decided to take part in the festivities this time around. She, too, came home with some bling, winning a pair of gold medals in the half-mile walk (7:22) and Frisbee throw and taking bronze in the softball throw.
“It was great. I went last year, but did not participate. But since I had cheered [my husband] on, now it was my time to really get out and perform. So I did my best with what I had been trained to do, and I came out pretty good,” said Annie Smith, who added that she looks forward to competing again next year.
Will Smith actually passed up on the opportunity to claim a sixth gold medal in order to turn the tables and cheer on his wife from the sidelines.
“It was the first time she attended any of the events. She always watched me. There was an event — throwing the football — that came off at the same time as her event. So what I did, I forfeited that event and I was a cheerleader for her,” Will Smith said. “So I got to watch her do the Frisbee, softball throw and half-mile walk.”
The Smiths were joined by David Lovvorn, 65, of Bowdon, who competed in the 100, 200 and 800-meter runs, earning a silver medal in the 800. It marked Lovvorn’s second time competing in the Golden Olympics, and he said it’s more of a motivational tool than anything.
“It’s kind of the carrot and the stick — something to help you want to exercise. I sought out coach [Larry] Turner. I know last year I saw in the paper that Mr. Turner had helped Mr. Smith, so I intruded on their training to get some tips. [Turner] was very helpful about what you need to do and how to do it,” Lovvorn said.
For the second straight year, Carrollton Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department track and field head coach Larry Turner trained the senior athletes. He said this group was fun to work with and he is hopeful of seeing the number of local participants grow in coming years.
“We’re just so pleased that they had over 600 athletes participating. The thing is, it’s no different than coaching — I know they talk about their age — but it’s no different than coaching, what I’d say older people versus younger people. If you can coach, you can coach any age group. They were just a fun group to coach, because I just love coaching. That’s all it is,” Turner said.
All three competitors were appreciative of Turner for taking time out of his schedule to help them train at Carrollton High School’s Grisham Stadium — even if he was a little tough on them, at times.
“There’s some things I didn’t like that made me sore and it made me angry — but it paid off in the end,” joked Will Smith, who also wanted to thank the Carroll County Veterans Memorial Park Committee for sponsoring him, as well as Carrollton football coach Rayvan Teague for allowing them to train at Grisham Stadium.
Will Smith said he also plans on talking to the local recreation departments about starting a Carroll Golden Olympics that would lead up to the annual Georgia Golden Olympics in future years.
As for this year’s trio, Turner said all three performed tremendously and serve as an example that you’re never too old to get out and exercise.
“I was really pleased with them. When you want to do something, you’ll do it. That’s the bottom line,” Turner said. “You can find all kinds of excuses not to do it, but they really wanted to do it. So it made my job much easier. It wasn’t hard to coach them at all. You know, once an athlete, always an athlete.”