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Southern Arizona athlete racks up medals in Senior Olympics competition

David Tannenbaum isn’t weighted down by his bevy of Senior Olympics medals. He’ll be competing again at the national games in 2021. (Courtesy David Tannenbaum)

Senior athlete David Tannenbaum of Hereford, Arizona, recently completed a “decathlon” of his own making. “I set a goal to win 10 medals in three different sports,” he says. Achieving that goal at the 2020 Arizona Senior Olympics in February wasn’t easy but it qualified him for participation in the November 2021 National Senior Games in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Competing in the 55-59 age group Tannenbaum, 58, won three gold, five silver, and two bronze medals in February. “I have to admit that each of my gold medals I won as the only competitor in my age group. Nevertheless, I set several personal records in my efforts,” he says. The golds were in 20-kilometer and 40-kilometer cycling road races and powerlifting, which combined the squat, bench press, and deadlift. The powerlifting events were in Scottsdale Feb. 15.

At track and field events at Arizona State University track stadium in Tempe on Feb. 8, Tannenbaum earned bronze medals in shot put and discus, and silver medals in the javelin, hammer, and standing long jump. His other silver medals were in cycling, held in Stanfield, Arizona,  Feb. 22-23, including the five-kilometer and 10-kilometer time trials.

In five-kilometer cycling, Tannenbaum’s seventh event, he originally placed fourth, “ruining my attempt to win 10 medals. I was crestfallen,” he recalls. But he was called to the podium and, due to a mix-up in results, he was awarded a third-place bronze medal. “That night, I received an e-mail from the race commissioner. There was a second error in the results. I dreaded to read what might follow. I was to return my bronze medal … and exchange it for silver. Two riders were wrongly listed in my age group.  In a matter of hours, I had gone from no medal to bronze, then to silver. When I exchanged my medal the next morning, I told the race commissioner that if I just waited long enough, it might turn to gold. He called it alchemy. In my last two races, I did indeed win gold.”

Tannenbaum began competing in Senior Olympics in 2018 and has won medals in every event he’s undertaken, for a total of 28.  He also competed at the 2019 Maccabi Pan American Games in Mexico City in July, earning a medal for completing three cycling events.

When he’s not participating in sports, Tannenbaum teaches foreign cultures and languages at Fort Huachuca, outside Sierra Vista, Arizona, and travels abroad extensively.