By Frank Rizzo
ROSCOE September 4, 2001 The competitive fires have long since dampened for Russ Hodge of Roscoe, 1964 Olympian and onetime world record holder in the decathlon.
Hodge, who turns 62 this month, still competes in masters weight throwing events, but he declines to put in the effort to remain on top.
I enjoy (the masters circuit) but I dont take it seriously, Hodge said. I want to do the best I can, but I go for the fun and camaraderie.
One recent sunny afternoon Hodge met up with his friend Len Olson of Daytona Beach, Fl. and Poyntelle, Pa. The pair were getting ready for the August 25 National Masters Weight Pentathlon in Syracuse and proved the adage that learning never stops.
Olson, 70 and a cancer survivor, is the author of Masters Track and Field: A History, published last year. He showed up at Hodges Roscoe spread to improve his technique in the discus, shot put and javelin.
Hodge, in turn, wanted to plumb Olsons expertise in the hammer and weight throw. Those five events make up the pentathlon.
So the two master fielders took turns throwing, heaving and spinning. They watched each other and dispensed advice while sweating under the blazing afternoon sun.
Hodge told Olson he could improve his shot put 10-12 feet by spinning instead of gliding.
Its hard to switch from 40 years of gliding to this, Olson admitted. They say it takes about 1,000 throws to get comfortable with a new technique.
The weight and dimensions of the implements change depending on the age group one competes in.
Hodge had trouble with the discus which is the size and weight used by women.
They should keep the same weight, but make it larger, Hodge said.
Olson was especially thankful for Hodges tips on the javelin.
That is why you need someone watching you to tell you what youre doing wrong, said Olson, a former IBMer from Endicott who was familiar with Roscoe from his patronizing the late, lamented Antrim Lodge. At meets, I see other competitors smiling and whispering when I throw the javelin.
Guiding others comes naturally for Hodge, who was the assistant coach and nutritionist on the UCLA track team from 1966-1993.
It helps you to coach other people, because it makes you accountable to yourself, Hodge observed.
Hodge related how a fellow masters trackster stopped by recently to train with him.
He was surprised that I only did four or five practice throws in each event. He thought we were going to do 100 each, Hodge said.
He has earned the right to take it slow.
For 20 years, I trained five to six hours a day, Hodge noted, calculating that he put in 60,000 training hours in those two decades.
Regarding the upcoming Syracuse meet he said, Im going there and winging it.
At press time, Hodge was out of town and results from the Syracuse weight pentathlon meet were unavailable.
Hodge started competing again at the masters level in his 50s on the West Coast. At the 1995 Masters World Championships he placed third in the shot and fifth in the discus.
He entered the Empire State Games for the first time this summer and set a 60-64 age group record in the shot put (45-13&Mac218;4) and won a gold in the discus as well (144-8).
Injuries have always been a problem for Hodge. Injuries kept him out of the 1968 and 1972 Olympics and theyre still a concern.
If I can get through a competition without being hurt, then Im fine, Hodge said, making note of numerous muscle pulls and strains hes suffered over the years.
A Storied History
From the training center he carved out on his 300-plus acres, Hodge could point to the house on his property where he grew up. He moved his family back to Roscoe in 1998 to be close to his mother Alice Arden Hodge.
Alice was a member of the 1936 Olympic team, making the duo the only mother/son Olympians in United States history.
My mom used to take me to the open relays, Hodge recalled. It was so exciting to me because I used to see Olympians at the hotel we stayed at.
Years later, in 1964 at Tokyo, Hodge became an Olympian himself, placing ninth in the decathlon.
In 1966, at the Los Angles Times International Games at the Los Angeles Coliseum, he set a world record with 8,230 points.
Hodge was ranked No. 1 three times during his career as a member of the United States national track and field teams (1963-71).
Hodge was close to Bill Toomey, the 1968 Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon, and felt he could have taken Toomeys measure at Mexico City that year. Toomey compiled 8,193 points for the gold.
My nemesis was not the other competitors, but myself, Hodge said.
Hodge did work for ABC television on the field in Mexico City. He was yards away from Bob Beamon when the long jumper set the then astounding mark of 29-21&Mac218;2 inches, which stood for decades.
He congratulated his friend Toomey on winning the gold medal, telling him, I have one tear of joy for you, one tear of sorrow for myself.
Hodge remained active in the Olympics every year except 1980 when the United States boycotted the Moscow games.
For the past few quadrennial games he has served as Olympic team chaplain. He has also organized hospitality efforts at several games.
Russell and Alice now own and operate the Body and Soul Regional Fitness Center. It is housed in the building where Alice and Russell Sr. ran Hodges Fashions in Furniture for two decades.
Russell Hodge is a husky 230 lbs. He has bench pressed 500 lbs. and leg squatted 775 lbs.
Yet he isnt musclebound. His trademark during his glory years was not just strength, but speed. On his achievements chart he lists a 4.2 second 40-yard sprint and a 9.3 second 100-yard dash.
Hodges decathlon marks:
100 meters 10.2
long jump 25-4
shot put 61-0
400 meter 47.8
100 hurdles 14.5
pole vault 15-0