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Athlete’s State of Mind: How Cecil Cordell Won Five Gold Medals

Cecil Cordell shaking a doctor's hand

Senior athlete Cecil Cordell won five gold medals at the Alaska International Senior Games in Fairbanks, Alaska, this August. His success came after he had hip joint replacement surgery at UF Health back in April 2023 — just five months before the competition.

Earlier this year, UF Health featured the story of Cecil’s recovery after surgery and his determination to get back to doing what he does best: winning.

Besides the five gold medals, Cecil medaled in four events, winning three silvers and one bronze.

A determination like no other

Cecil has been known to surprise people, and that was no different when it came to the doctors at UF Health.

During his hip joint replacement surgery, his surgical team found an additional injury, a labral tear, that left them scratching their heads. How did Cecil succeed while competing with these injuries?

His determination was a big factor.

Cecil’s physician, Hernan Prieto, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon in the University of Florida Division of Adult Arthroplasty and Joint Reconstruction, noted that recent scientific studies suggest 56% of patients who undergo a total hip arthroplasty can participate in high-intensity sports one year after surgery.

“Mr. Cordell’s story is very unique because besides returning to high-intensity sports, he got five gold medals just five months after his hip replacement, which is impressive and remarkable,” Dr. Prieto said.

The 2023 Alaska International Senior Games were a testament to this. In the spring before the games, Cecil tore his rotator cuff in his dominant arm. While he was able to have it repaired by the physicians at UF Health before the competition, he was still recovering from the surgical procedure.

Instead of withdrawing from the javelin event, he trained using his left arm and took home a bronze medal for his efforts. Cecil has competed in javelin using his right and left arms and medaled in both, making him the first athlete to do so in the history of the Alaska International Senior Games.

“Cecil is a motivated and compliant patient,” said Thomas Wright, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon in the division of hand and upper extremity. “With that being said, he was able to train all non-affected muscle groups so as to stay conditioned.”

Time to heal

Although Cecil enjoyed plenty of success at the Alaska International Senior Games, he took a fall at the finish line of the 200-meter dash. Landing on the track, he suffered road rash-like injuries, and the medics checked that he hadn’t suffered anything more serious.

After being cleared by the medical staff, Cecil finished the remaining events. Although he was still hurt from the fall, Cecil was able to place in the 1,500-meter dash, long jump and standing long jump.

Although athletes are focused on training and performing, the best athletes are good at knowing when it is time to take a break. After the games were over, Cecil took to Facebook to announce he's taking some time to heal.

“After today’s fall, I will most likely take the rest of the year off in Track & Field,” Cecil posted. “I was able to accomplish the goal I set for myself, but with that comes the aches and pains from too many surgeries.”

He also took this time to thank his medical team for supporting him through his athletic journey.

“A special shout-out to my entire health care team at UF Health,” Cecil posted on social media. “Without all of you, today wouldn’t have been possible.”

He concluded his Facebook post with one sentence that shows his understanding of his limits as an athlete: “Now it’s time to take off and continue to heal.”

Cecil hopes to return to competition in 2024. In the meantime, he is going to be cautious with his athletic ambitions. However, he did recently compete in the 2023 Gainesville Senior Games, an event that is close to his heart because it's where he started his athletic journey.

“I am not going to push it,” Cecil said beforehand. “I am always happy to compete, but I will not be doing any sprints.”

Cecil placed in four events at the Gainesville Senior Games.

Read more about Cecil Cordell’s story.

Medals earned by Cecil Cordell at the 2023 Alaska International Senior Games
Medals earned by Cecil Cordell at the 2023 Alaska International Senior Games in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Cecil Cordell’s 2023 Alaska International Senior Games Success

Gold Medal Events

  • Men’s 100 meters
  • Men’s 1500 meters
  • Men’s long jump
  • Men’s standing long jump
  • Men’s triple jump

Silver Medal Events

  • Men’s 200 meters
  • Men’s 50 meters
  • Men’s discus

Bronze Medal Event

  • Men’s javelin

About the author

For the media

Media contact

Peyton Wesner
Communications Manager for UF Health External Communications (352) 273-9620