NORMAN — Two local firefighters recently returned home with gold medals from one of the largest international multi-sport event in the world, the World Police and Fire Games.
The games, which are held every two years, were hosted in Northern Ireland this year and Norman Deputy Fire Chief Jim Bailey and Moore firefighter Jason Smith represented Cleveland County well.
Smith is now the third-time world champion for the push-pull weightlifting category. The push-pull includes a bench press push and dead lift pull. He set the dead lift world record during the 2011 games in Vancouver, Canada and then broke both the bench and dead lift world records this year in Belfast.
Smith said the record he set for the bench press is 170 kilos, or 374.7 pounds, and the dead lift record is 265 kilos, or 584 pounds, for a total of 959 pounds.
The thing he enjoyed the most about competing this year was having the opportunity to compete against others who live further away and haven’t been able to attend games in the past held in the U.S. and Canada.
“It’s a different type of competition and a different level of competition,” Smith said. “The country is absolutely beautiful and the people are great.”
Bailey, who won a gold medal in the scratch golf competition, said police and firefighters from all around the world come to compete and the games provide an opportunity for you to meet people you’d never get to meet anywhere else.
“It’s great. Especially because you meet people in the same business from all over the world and realize that it’s not so different,” Bailey said.
Bailey said he got the chance to visit a fire station in Belfast and all of the equipment and experiences the firefighters had were amazingly similar to those in the United States.
Smith said the mentality and the brotherhood is the same but there are some differences as far as the area being divided by districts instead of cities like Norman and Moore. The firefighters there also do not make medical calls at all, he said.
“They have ambulances that run out of their stations but they don’t do the first responder things like most of us do here,” Smith said.
Bailey’s team member in the scratch competition, Blake Humbles, said the engines and the trucks look different, but much of the equipment was almost identical if not exactly identical to theirs.
“The engines and the trucks look completely different because they’re from a totally different manufacturer and they drive on the right hand side,” Humbles said.
This was Humbles’ first year to compete in the World Games, but he said he and Bailey have competed together in the past at the Western States Police and Fire Games, as well as the U.S. Police and Fire Games.
Humbles, a firefighter from Ontario, Calif., returned home from Northern Ireland with three gold medals. All of the medals were earned in the golf category, one of which was with Bailey.
All three of the firefighters said the people in Belfast were great hosts.
“I always thought that Midwest people were the nicest people I’d ever met and then I went to Ireland,” Humbles said.
Bailey said they are also a country that loves golf.
“They seemed to have a tremendous love for the game that came out of them,” Bailey said. “When you would compliment them they would just swell with joy.”
As he scrolled through pictures telling side stories here and there, it was clear that the experience was an experience of a lifetime. All of the firefighters plan on returning to the World Games in 2015 which will be held in Fairfax, Va.
Smith said for the firefighters and police who cannot afford the cost of the games, the Oklahoma Police and Fire Athletic Association, a nonprofit organization, helps with the cost for serious competitors.
“We don’t just go for vacation, it’s actually a very high level for a competitive team,” Smith said, who serves as the president for the nonprofit.
Their team consists of Midwest City and Oklahoma City police and/or firefighters competing in a variety of sports including motocross, wrestling and biathlons.
They are currently in the process of trying to make it statewide so competitors across the state can be assisted financially as well, he said.
For more information about the nonprofit organization, or to donate, visit OPFAA.com.
For more information about the 2013 World Police and Fire Games visit 2013wpfg.com.