81-year-old man battles cancer while breaking shot put records

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - While most people who've lived eight decades have long since retired to a lounge chair or fishing boat, Gerald Vaughn of Charlotte is still blazing senior trails with his monster shot put throw.

With arms that look like cannons, his 6'3"-tall body can hurl a six-pound shot put farther than most people his age can throw a baseball. In 2016 he was ranked second in the United States in his age group.

"I work out three or four days a week. I do exercises that are directly related to throwing the shot put," Gerald said.

Tuesday morning, we met Gerald at his homemade practice field, which is basically just him throwing from his driveway into his backyard.

"I can do it all by myself, and I don't really have to go anywhere to practice," he said of the ease of the sport which doesn't require a team.

It does, however, require tremendous strength to be able to throw the shot put as far as he does - which is at times more than 50 feet. 
Gerald has won 27 USATF Masters indoor/outdoor age-group championships and has placed in the top three in his age group at 244 consecutive meets.

He does all this while battling physical ailments that would sideline most athletes.

"I've had knee operations, I've had terrible sciatica in both hips and legs," Gerald said.

He was also diagnosed in 2011 with chronic leukemia and is on a regular regimen of oral chemotherapy. But his track record hasn't suffered much.

"In the 2017 outdoor season, I've had seven meets and I've placed first in all of those," he said.

Gerald offers encouragement for anyone who thinks they're too old to compete in athletic competitions. He suggests those naysayers get in touch with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Senior games and look into competing. That's where he got his start more than two decades ago, and where he still competes today.

His back yard is dented with craters where his massive shot put lands. His wife, Becky, usually follows each throw with an encouraging, "Good job, Jerry!"

By the way, Becky is 73 and also competes in shot put events with her husband. She's also hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.

Fitness is a family affair for these two, with age being nothing but a number for either.

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