For Jack Faust, a 101-year-old Navy veteran of World War II, the key to longevity is pretty simple.
“I never drank, I never smoked -- and that’s helped out a lot,” Faust told FoxNews.com. “In the Navy I had a few beers, but that’s a long time ago. I keep a pretty good diet too, and I just lived clean. I lived honestly.”
Faust, of Hayward, Calif., will take that mindset on Thursday to St. Louis, where he’ll be among nearly 900 competitors in the 26th National Veterans Golden Age Games, a sports and recreation competition sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs for former soldiers ages 55 and older.
In five previous years, Faust, a former house painter, has won 9 gold and 2 silver medals in bowling and shuffleboard from a wheelchair. He’s expanding that list of events this year to include air rifle and checkers, two competitions he’s far less confident about than his bowling game.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll get a gold in bowling and shuffleboard from a wheelchair, but I’m not too sure about my air rifle,” Faust told FoxNews.com. “I’m not very good at target shooting.”
Faust, who was born when President William Howard Taft was in the White House, served twice in the Navy, first in the Yangtze River Patrol in China from 1927 until 1931, and later in the Pacific during World War II. Decades later, in 1975, he retired from his painting business but remained active as a volunteer for the Hayward Police Department and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Believed to be the only 100-year-old competitor in the event’s 25-year history, Faust said his life experience is the key to success. His athletic career began just five years ago at age 96 when he carried the California flag at the Golden Age Games’ opening ceremony and competed in bowling and checkers.
Hosted by the St. Louis VA Medical Center, this year’s competition features 14 events -- including swimming, cycling, golf, track and field, bowling and table tennis -- and serves as a qualifying event for the National Senior Olympics, a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
“Through this rehabilitative athletic event, VA strives to introduce older veterans to the benefits of sports and recreation,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki said in a statement. “These athletes will showcase their skills, mental toughness and physical fitness at the games.”
After about a month of practice, Faust said he’s aiming to break his personal-best bowling score of 102 and will hopefully take home gold in front of his 91-year-old brother, who may make the trip to St. Louis if his health permits.
“I just enjoy playing the game and trying to beat the other fella,” Faust said. “And I like the competition, the camaraderie -- and it’s just a fine place to be around. What do I have to lose?”