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By DANNY P. SMITH
Dr. Jack Blendinger has more than one paddle in the water.
Not only is Blendinger a member of the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club national championship team, but he's also a Starkville septuagenarian scholar-athlete and Mississippi State University professor.
Blendinger juggles each of those tasks well and found out in December
found out in the middle of December that he was selected the 2010 Male Masters Paddler of the Year They told me during a meeting of the national championship.
"It was a big surprise to me," Blendinger said. "It startled me and was a great Christmas present. I feel good about it and it shows me what a 77-year-old guy can do if he just keeps working at it."
Blendinger led the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club to its ninth national title last year. The club also won national crowns in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009.
The club was founded in 1994 when Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympic Games. The canoeing, kayaking and rowing venues were held at Lake Lanier in Gainesville, Ga. LCKC is one of of a handful of Olympic legacy programs in the world still operating at full throttle after the games have moved on to other cities and countries.
More than 100 active members, approximately 60 hard-core athletes, ranging in age from 10-77, comprise LCKC's international racing team. The club has been in existence for 14 years.
Blendinger, a life-long California surfer, was invited to join the LCKC racing team when he became interested in Olympic sprint (200-5,000 meters) canoe and kayak racing team.
In five years of open and master's competition, Blendinger has made 24 trips to the podium at the national championships to receive 15 gold, five silver and four bronze medals.
It doesn't sound like Blendinger is planning to slow down any time soon.
"I have a lot of goals," Blendinger said. "I plan to compete for another season and I plan to keep teaching as long as I'm healthy. I love teaching and this is my 56th year in professional education. The years have gone by so quickly. I just love it all."
Being able to teach and train in a place like Starkville has been a plus for Blendinger.
"The experience is constantly challenging my mental growth so I just love it," Blendinger said.