When Mary Hinds came to work at The Lebanon Democrat as a staff writer a few years ago, she told co-workers of how she woke up in the morning to the sound of “clang, clang, clang”.
Her sister, Joan Elmore, was practicing her horseshoe pitching.
Practice has more than made perfect for the Mt. Juliet grandmother, who is the LeBron James, Michael Phelps, Tom Brady [or insert your favorite dominant athlete here] of her sport – women’s horseshoe pitching.
Elmore won her seventh world championship in the last nine years last month in the Buffalo suburb of Hamberg, N.Y.
She won all 15 of her matches in the three-day championship round, tossing 726 shoes and hitting 631 ringers for a high average of 86.91 percent, the second highest percentage by a woman during the last century. She beat her nearest competitor, who scored 79.92, by almost seven percentage points.
Counting preliminary rounds, she said she tossed over 1,200 pitches during the event.
Her seventh championship moved her closer to the record of 10 won by one woman. She could have had eight already had she not lost last year’s world championships by a single ring.
“Competition is very stiff,” said Elmore, who admits to being amazed at her success in a sport she only took up seriously in 1997, when she was in her late 40s.
“I do look in the mirror and think, ‘Oh my gosh, world champion’,” she said Monday, some nine days after bringing home the trophy from western New York.
At age 65, Elmore competes in a sport which doesn’t require size, speed, strength, jumping ability and other talents that are generally limited to young, athletic individuals. But horseshoe pitching, at her level, does require talent. More importantly, it requires hours and hours of practice and dedication. She also tries to get in some exercise to keep her body in tip-top form.
“I try to walk a couple of miles a day,” said Elmore, a retired state employee who cares for her 91-year-old mother and sister [Hinds had to retire from The Democrat last year due to health issues] and regularly babysits her only grandchild. She has two daughters. During an interview, she was cooking supper for her family, which includes her husband, James.
“The life of a world champion,” she lamented while a reporter was trying to envision Tom Brady cooking dinner the day after winning the Super Bowl.
She does have a horseshoe pit outside her house and uses it to hone her game.
“Horseshoe pitching is great exercise in itself,” she said. “It’s too hot in the middle of the day. But I go out early in the morning and throw 200 shoes in the morning and 200 in the evening.
“That in itself keeps me in shape.”
She has more for which to keep in shape. She will go for her 16th state championship Sept. 27 at Rock Springs, near Bristol. She said the world championships will be held in Kansas next year and in Alabama in 2016.
She said the recent tournament was streamed live on the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association website and had over three million hits.
“It’s a great sport for families,” said Elmore, who laments the fact there are no horseshoe pits in Mt. Juliet for people to try the sport. “It’s a bigger thing than most people know.”