MOULTRIE -- When 90-year-old Rebecca Turner decided to compete in the Golden Olympics, she didn't just get her feet wet, she dove in head first.

The retired school teacher went to the four-day event in Warner Robins last month, just hoping to do her very best, and came home with five medals around her neck.

"I just figured I would do the best I could," she said humbly.

The Golden Olympics, started in 1983, is open to people over 50, and is aimed at creating an awareness of older Georgians' capabilities and promoting a healthy lifestyle for seniors, a press release said.

Turner said she was reluctant at first to competing in the games, but the wellness director at Magnolia Manor inspired her to give it a try.

"He finally convinced me that I could do it," she said.

Turner won gold medals in the breast stroke and football throw; silver in freestyle swimming and the basketball throw and brought home the bronze for the back stroke swimming competition. Competitions are bracketed into age groups.

Another person also instrumental in her success, Turner said, was Teresa Newell, administrator at the retirement home. Newell actually went with Turner to the games and helped her along.

"She went everywhere with me," Turner said. "She held my hand ... I couldn't have done it without her."

Newell said she was glad that she could help.

"We're just so proud of her," she said. "It just goes to prove that living doesn't stop at age 90, it's only beginning."

Turner retired from her 44-year teaching career in 1979. She taught the bulk of her career -- 30 years -- in Pelham. She taught English, even though she received her college degree in physical education.

"It was 1933, and most schools didn't have physical education," she said. "And the few that did were discontinuing them.

"I didn't want to teach English -- it was my worst subject in college, but daddy told me I would teach whatever they offered me, and I did."

Turner said she stayed up many nights until 2 a.m. studying the next day's lessons so she could teach.

"After 10 years of teaching English, I was offered a job teaching P.E. But by that time, I pretty well knew English, so I figured I would just stay," she said.

Since her retirement, she has been a volunteer for a non-profit organization that helps underserved children in Thomasville.

Turner was also a swimming instructor at a girls camp in north Georgia for 15 summers.

She credits her longevity and energy to exercise and good eating.

The retirement home prepares only one meal for its residents. The rest is up to them.

"I eat a lot of chicken," she said. "There's nothing wrong with my appetite ... I eat well."

At the age of 85, Turner said she went for a check up with her doctor, and he told her that her legs were in "great shape."

"He told me, 'you know, you're getting old, but your legs are the best I've seen of anyone your age,'" she said. "So ever since, I've been walking two miles every day."

To prepare for the games, Turner practiced at the Moultrie YMCA, which gave her free passes to the pool so she could practice swimming, she said.

"That was so nice of them," she said.

One of the competitions she didn't medal in was the half-mile walk.

"They walked a lot faster than I did," she said laughing. "I didn't know it was going to be a race."

Several of her relatives went to the event, some as far as Birmingham, Ala. And she plans to go to the Golden Olympics again. "If I'm living," she said.

To contact reporter Kevin Liles, please call 985-4545, ext. 225.

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