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Bales gets better with age

Glendale resident Jon Bales took second in the World Aquathlon Championships held in China earlier this month.

September 24, 2011|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com
(Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff…)

Jon "The Bullet" Bales doesn't even bother guessing how many medals he's won over the years — there are too many of them. He has boxes filled with them and the walls of his Glendale home proudly display plenty more.

Bales, at the age of 67, has earned quite a few different kinds of medals, from the several he was given during his one-year tour he took during the Vietnam War as a first sergeant in the National Guard to countless more he's won from competing in races.

There is a small space on a wall in his living room where he's hung the most cherished prize he's ever won in a race.

"I've got a lot of medals and I figured, you know what, what is the most important medal?" Bales, who goes by the first name "Bullet" in competitions, asked himself.

The answer is the silver medal he won in the 2011 International Triathlon Union World Aquathlon Championships, which were hosted in Beijing, China on Sept. 7. Bales took second in the 65-69 age group's aquathlon, a two-part race combining running and swimming, with a time of 1 hour, 1 minute and 16 seconds. Bales was the race's top finisher from America. George Vargha of Great Britain won the race in 56:23.

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Bales' second-place finish was an improvement on his fifth-place mark last year when the International Triathlon Union World Aquathlon Championships were held in Budapest. He is currently ranked 10th in the nation in his age group for the aquathlon.

The Glendale resident has a background in triathlons. His first triathlon was the 1980 Iron Man competition. It was that same year, at a surfing competition, when Bales earned his nickname, "The Bullet," when his friend compared his bald head moving through the water to a bullet.

Bales still competes in triathlons today, but decided to switch his focus to aquathlons two years ago when his friend, Gary Burnett, suggested it after Bales had always struggled with cycling.

"I knew he could do really well [in aquathlons]," Burnett said. "He is a good swimmer and a good runner, so it was just automatic for him. He just hadn't heard of it before."

Aquathlons are pretty much tailored to Bales' strengths. He has deep roots in swimming after competing in the pool at Hoover High, Glendale Community College and Cal State Northridge. After years of training, Bales says he's also developed into a strong runner.

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