Old Crow’s Allan Benjamin has been keeping a quick pace since he was a little boy.
“My grandmother adopted me when I was two years old and she raised me,” said Benjamin. “I always walked with her, snowshoed with her when we went out in the bush. So she was kind of my coach. She always hustled, she never walked slow. So every time I walked with her I had to walk fast, so it’s kind of built into me.”
More than five decades later Benjamin is still fast on his feet.
The 60-year-old won 12 medals at the Alaska International Senior Games in Fairbanks, Aug. 11-20.
Benjamin, who competed in the men’s 60-64 division, not only won gold in a five-kilometre road race, he set a new Games record. The lifelong Old Crow resident, competing at the Games for his first time, finished in 20 minutes and 50.37, beating by two seconds the previous record set in 2003.
“I’m actually not a sprint racer; I don’t train for sprints,” said Benjamin. “I do well in sprints and distance, but I don’t train for sprint races because you can get injured and probably be off for a month or two.
“My expertise is distance and snowshoeing. The five-kilometre — that was a perfect run.”
Benjamin’s other medals came in track and field events. He almost cleaned house in the running events he participated in, taking gold in the 50-, 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-metre races. He only missed out in the 100-mete dash, taking bronze.
Benjamin, who won five medals at the 2016 Canada 55+ Games, even took gold in the 1,500-metre power walk despite having no experience in the event.
“That was my first time competing in the power walk,” said Benjamin. “I didn’t know anything about it. But when I’m not running I always walk or I bike or I ski or snowshoe. I’m kind of a cross trainer; I’m involved in everything.”
Benjamin’s medals weren’t limited to track events with silver and bronze medals in triple jump, standing long jump, long jump and shot put. He also placed fourth in javelin.
“It was just an awesome event,” said Benjamin, who was also a torchbearer in the opening ceremonies. “I wanted to have fun and that’s what it’s all about — meeting new people at the Games, learning.”
Benjamin was one of six Yukoners to compete at the annual Games that saw 353 athletes compete with 11 states, including Alaska, represented.
Whitehorse’s Brenda Dion also won hardware in track and field, but she’s more proud of her silver in the five-kilometre road race, finishing in 26:51.20.
“I did get a lot of medals, but I want to qualify that,” said Dion. “I was in six events in track and field and in all six of those events I was either the only one or one of two competitors in my age group.
“But in the five-K run there were eight competitors in that event. So that’s the one I’m very, very happy about.”
Dion, who competed in the women’s 60-64 division, took gold in the 50-metre, the 100-metre, discus, long jump and javelin.
“I did one of my best javelin throws ever,” said Dion, who threw 71 feet-four inches. “It made me very happy … I think it is my personal best at competition.”
Dion, who also won silver in the standing long jump in Fairbanks, won four medals in track and field events at the 2017 World Masters Games this past April in New Zealand.
“It was our first time at the event. We heard about it through a couple other Yukoners who had gone there in other years,” said Dion. “We thought it would be fun to go out there and make a camping trip out of it and just experience the Alaska Games.
“They were very warm, friendly people.”
Whitehorse’s Patrick and Karen Milligan combined for seven medals in athletics.
Patrick, in men’s 65-69, won gold in standing long jump and silver in the 50-metre dash. He also won gold in javelin (throwing 20 feet farther than the silver medalist) and gold in the discus (throwing 30 feet farther than the silver medalist) — registering throws of 83 and 85 feet respectively.
Karen, in women’s 65-69, won silver in discus, bronze in the standing long jump, bronze in shot put, and placed fourth in javelin.
Whitehorse’s Bryan Craven took sixth place for men 60-64 in the five-kilometre road race with a time of 26:51.71.
Whitehorse’s Brent McLaren logged a Yukon first in pickleball, a version of tennis played on a small court with wooden paddles and a wiffle ball.
McLaren won silver in singles and gold, with Craig Patyka of Fairbanks, in doubles in the men’s 55-59 competition. The medals are the first-ever won by a Yukoner in pickleball at a major Games.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org