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Lifestyles -

July 28, 2012

Local enthusiasts pick favorites, speak on what makes a good athlete

The 2012 Summer Olympics began Friday and will run through Aug. 12.

Officially known as the Games of the XXX Olympiad, the competition is in London.

More than 600 athletes will represent the United States, individually or as part of a team, in competitions to capture the gold.

The Olympics evolved in ancient Greece, which featured athletic competitions as well as chariot racing. Inscriptions found in Olympia in 776 B.C., which commemorated foot races held every four years, have given rise to the Olympic Games as we know them today.

Physical fitness aficionados and the public at large seem to have a favorite athlete, team or sport.

Though chariot races are no longer part of the competition, equestrian events have flourished.

Although Germany has reigned in capturing the most gold medals for equestrian events, local horse enthusiast, judge and program director Donna Carlton, sees gold being awarded to Canadian Ian Miller.

Carlton is Cooperative Extension of Delaware County's Horse Program director. Carlton, who has competed at the state level as an athlete and now as a judge and mentor for local 4-H'ers, said she sees both the rider and the horse as athletes.

Miller is a competitive show jumper. This year will mark Miller's 10th appearance at the Olympics. The 65-year-old athlete helped to bring home the silver to Canada in 2008. Carlton credits Miller's horse "Star Power" to provide him with an edge over other athletes. Developing a relationship of trust and understanding between teammates (horse and rider) is key, said Carlton.

"He simply proves that you are never too old to fulfill your dreams," Carlton said of Miller's enthusiasm and dedication to the sport. "He's a great athlete."

Carlton knows what makes a good athlete. She oversaw a county-wide qualifying competition for Delaware County youngsters to compete at the New York State Fair earlier this month.

The local competition produced 16 Delaware County eligible equestrians to compete at the state level at the end of August. Carlton has been instrumental in the success for many of the young riders that compete today. That, she attributed, to the athlete's love of the sport.

"Never give up. You may falter or fail, but successful athletes learn from their mistakes," Carlton said. She also tells the young equestrians in her charge to indulge in positive self-talk, to encourage success.

A regional veteran Olympic competitor is Beezie Madden, who hails from Cazenovia. She will compete with the U.S. Show Jumping Team in London as well. Madden will compete in her third round of Olympic Games with her mount Via Volo, individually and as part of a team. Madden is touted as a "model Olympian" which helped to capture team gold in 2004 and 2008.

Being positive seems to universally be a theme when it comes to athletic success. Raegan Reed, owner of the Cardio Club in Delhi, who is a certified fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in dance education, has favored gymnast Gabrielle Douglas as a winner in this summer's games.

"This little spitfire from Virginia is small but strong. She is positive and ready for a fight. She will certainly give the other competitors a run for their money, and I love that," Reed said.

Reed is no stranger to competition herself and has made a career out of a childhood love of sports.

That also seems to be a key ingredient in Olympians and professional athletes; developing a love of competition, sports and physical fitness as a child.

Reed was a featured dancer off-Broadway in New York City where she performed in "Shirley at the Tropicana." She now coaches and instructs children and alike at her fitness center and dance studio on Main Street in Delhi.

Starting with youngsters and helping them to craft the tools of "Determination, drive, power and heart" are what make a superior athlete, Reed said. Whether the tools are used in sporting events or day-to-day activities in their lives, these tools will help any child be a success.

Individuals jumping competition, in which Miller will compete with Team Canada, begin Monday, Aug. 6. Douglas will compete with Team USA starting Tuesday.

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