A 59-year-old Guelph man who returned to competing in track and field events during his recovery from addiction has had continued success and is looking forward to competing in the upcoming Guelph Games.
Last weekend, Steve Baldamus added four medals to his ever-growing collection from the Ontario Masters Indoor Championships, held Sunday in Toronto. Baldamus earned a gold in the 60m hurdles and steeplechase and silvers in the 25-pound weight throw and triple jump.
In February, Baldamus participated in his first-ever pentathlon at the OMA Indoor Pentathlon Championship.
"That was my first time trying the indoor version and I got the gold," said Baldamus.
He has been building on the early success he gained when he began running again, during the Guelph Turkey Trot in 2018. Soon after that, Baldamus began running and competing more seriously in field events at various tournaments across Ontario.
In 2019, Baldamus competed in the Ontario Masters Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 55 to 59 age group, bringing home gold in the steeplechase and hurdles, silver in the javelin and bronze in the discus.
At that time he hadn’t run competitively in over three decades and hadn’t done the steeplechase in 40 years.
Baldamus said earning the medals is great, but he is more proud of keeping on the right track, improving his health and continually earning personal bests in the events he is competing at, no easy feat for a man pushing 60.
He said most people his age are getting slower, but his training schedule continues to help him improve.
"I am still getting faster and faster, stronger and stronger," said Baldamus.
Now Baldamus is looking forward to the upcoming 2020 Guelph Games in June to compete on his home turf. He has to travel to other cities for most of the championships he competes in.
Because it starts the day after his birthday, Baldamus will be competing in the 60+ category at the Guelph Games, which he hopes will put him at an advantage considering his success in the younger category.
He hopes to see some friendly faces in the crowd when he competes at home, including others in the community who are recovering or considering recovery. He wants to inspire them to see their own potential.
"I want to show people there are other things you can do with your life," said Baldamus. "My goal is to help at least one other person. If I do that, I have accomplished something.”
He added: “it’s very hard because to pull yourself out, even when there's people reaching out to you — maybe one in a hundred will take that hand.”
Baldamus admits even he finds times when his addiction tests him, as recently as competition day last Sunday.
"The morning of the meet Sunday, there was the time change," said Baldamus. "I did not want to get out of bed and I was even considering getting high, because I felt like I didn't belong. Most of these people have been doing this for years and here am I only doing it a year and I felt like a fraud."
"I guess it was a test of my resolve," he added.
Baldamus continues to crowd fund to go toward paying the entry fees for his competitions.
“So far I have raised about $275, my goal was 2020,” said Baldamus. "It is expensive to do these events, it averages $20 to $25 on each event, but it's money better spent than what I used to spend it on.”
After the Guelph Games, Baldamus has his sights set on the 2020 World Masters Athletics Championships, which will be held this year in Toronto.
"That is the big one I am looking forward to," he said.
Baldamus is also looking forward to coming full circle, competing once again in the Guelph Turkey Trot this fall.
"That would mark the two years since I started my recovery," he said.