Eugene Tatom, a 68 year-old Marine Corps Veteran from Philadelphia, is the model of preparation. He has been participating in organized wheelchair sports since 1969 and joined the Philly Phever National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) team in 2005. Tatom keeps a solid workout regiment throughout the year to be a top performer each year at the Games.
Tatom trains five days a week, including three in the pool and two at the gym. In the pool, he does 800 meters – 400 backstroke and 400 breaststroke. At the gym he does one day with a basketball league and one day solo. He also fits in time for softball practice to work on batting. His strategy for winning is to work on his distance first and then add speed for events like swimming and track.
Tatom participates in other sporting events throughout the year and recently placed second in the iconic 10-mile Broad Street Run in Philadelphia. He also drops by the Philadelphia VA Medical Center each year to do the VA2K.
A healthy diet is also key to Tatom’s year-round training and lifestyle. “I eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and salads and fish. Diet is important to keep healthy and at the top of my physical game.” said Tatom.
So, why the hard work and discipline each year to prepare for the games? “The Games give me hope. I love the serenity of being around other military men and women and meeting new people.”
He loves to help the younger Veterans get physically active and give advice about exercise and working out. “I enjoy the challenge of helping them to be better than I was – because that’s how it should be. The younger Veterans should be better and stronger.”
Tatom has seen his fair share of events at the Games. Among his events are basketball, softball, swimming, 1500 meter track race, table tennis, slalom, javelin and discus. Next year, his goal to try at least four new events, 9 ball being at the top of his list. He bought a pool cue but hasn’t used it and if he sets a goal to compete in 9 ball next year, it will give him the motivation to practice for it all year. “I want to challenge myself by trying new sports and gaining new skills.”
His favorite event is the backstroke. As much as he loves basketball, individual sports are his true love. Tatom said, in individual sports “You only get out what you put in and it’s a chance to measure your abilities.”
Day-of preparation is not overlooked. On the day of he drinks lots of water, eats a few bananas right before the competition and always remembers to take time to relax.
“It’s important to take time to close your eyes and relax and get focused. It’s not about winning for me; it’s about doing your personal best.”