SCHENECTADY — Dennis Pelkey has been a lifelong athlete.
He used to catch criminals, having served 27 years with the city Police Department, first as a patrolman and later as a vice squad detective.
Now he aims to be the first across the finish line.
Since retiring in 2005, Pelkey and his wife, Sheryl, have traveled the world, from Ireland to Sweden, participating in the World Police and Fire Games.
He was inducted as a member of the 2019 World Police and Fire Games Hall of Fame earlier this month, an honor the athlete called the "ultimate form of recognition” by a group that “encapsulates high caliber athletes with strong moral fiber.”
Pelkey, 70, has racked up a fair number of awards, including taking first in the men's 100-meter run with a time of 13.95 seconds in the 65 to 69 age group.
After Tropical Storm Irene benched him in 2011, he remotely coached the 4 x 100 relay team, which he is a member of, to victory as he helped friends and neighbors dig out from the damage.
The World Police and Fire Games has its roots in the California Police Olympics, which was first held in San Diego, California in 1967.
Since then, the biannual event has broadened its focus to include firefighters, corrections and probation officers, and border protection, immigration and customs agents, attracting roughly 10,000 athletes from 70 nations competing in over 60 sports.
“There is always between 4,000 and 6,000 people cheering, even for us old guys,” Pelkey said.
This year’s event was hosted by Chengdu, China, but the pair did not attend.
Pelkey, a former Mont Pleasant High School football star, has also carved out wins numerous additional competitions, including the International Police and Fire Games, Western Police and Fire Games (now known as the United States Police and Fire Championships), the Dartmouth College Relays and the Penn Relays, where he won three medals in the 4 x 100 relay against former Olympians, including Bill Collins, who took home a bronze medal for rowing at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.
Despite having surgeries on both knees in 2016 and 2018, Pelkey said he has no plans on slowing down. He works out daily at Union College and Schalmont High School in Rotterdam.
“When the Lord calls me home, then I’ll stop,” Pelkey said.
Sheryl, who worked at Capital Region BOCES for 20 years as a physical therapist, provides moral support and a fair amount of post-performance medical care.
“I’ve gotten pretty good at kinesio-taping,” she said.