A heart attack and a total hip replacement weren't enough to keep two local senior citizens from bringing home the gold from the South Carolina Senior Games.
Fred Ruppenthal, 72, of Sun City Carolina Lakes, and Major Stewart Stiling, 83, of Fort Mill, competed against seniors in their age groups at the Senior Games, held May 14 at Francis Marion University.
Ruppenthal took home gold medals for the 100, 200 and 500-yard freestyle swimming events in his 70-74-year-old age group. The wins were surprising, he said, considering he had total hip replacement surgery last month and wasn't able to swim for several weeks. When he returned to the water, swimming felt so good that he immediately called his doctor and asked for permission to swim in the Senior Games.
He credits swimming for keeping him in shape, and helping him recover quickly from the hip replacement surgery.
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"My doctor told me I was his first patient to have no pain," Ruppenthal said.
This was Ruppenthal's second time competing in the Senior Games. His gold medal wins qualified him for the national games to be held in San Francisco in 2009. Ruppenthal plans to attend the national games and said that he is already swimming 20-30 minutes three days a week in preparation.
Stiling, who suffered a heart attack in January of this year, said he didn't even practice before he competed in the Senior Games. Still, he took home gold medals for the 100, 150, and 200-yard freestyle swimming events in his age bracket, as well as the 100, 150 and 200-yard backstroke. Stiling also received a gold medal for shuffleboard, two silver medals for track events, a silver medal for discus, a silver medal for shot-put, and a bronze medal for both pocket billiards and badminton.
Stiling has competed in the South Carolina Senior Games more than 15 times in the past 20 years. In 1994, he won a gold medal in shuffleboard at the national Senior Games. Like Ruppenthal, Stiling's win qualified him for the national Senior Games next year.
Not even a heart attack could slow Stiling down when competing against his peers, he said.
"I'm doing real well now, but I didn't think I'd do as well as I did at the games," Stiling said.