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Helping George Bush to exercise on Air Force One

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 12-May-2011

MEET Ted Vickey, the former President of the White House Athletic Centre. A man who possesses a wealth of sporting knowledge, Vickey, in addition to the high profile position he held in Washington, has also written several books on health and fitness.

As interviewees go, Vickey is a fascinating subject. A native of Erie, Pennsylvania, the 41-year-old was a talented swimmer during his high school days – crowned a district champion – while he also competed on the Penn State University water polo team during his college years.

Indeed, only last year, he won an inter-varsities water polo title with University of Limerick – where he completed a masters degree in International Entrepreneurship Management – while this season he has joined Corrib Water Polo, having signed up for a PhD in Exercise and Technology at NUI Galway.

After high school, Vickey undertook an Exercise and Sport Science Bachelor of Science at Penn State, graduating in 1991. During this time, he was required to complete a work placement and made the bold move of applying for an internship at the White House.

“I wondered if the White House had a fitness centre, so I did some research and I found out that they did,” smiles the Salthill resident. “I applied for an internship and they offered me a position. That was 1991; it was the first Bush administration.

“It is called the White House Athletic Centre; the acronym – because in politics everything has to have an acronym – is WHAC. The WHAC, at the time, was a 35,000 sq. foot facility. It was built during the Reagan administration in the 1980s to allow staff to exercise and get healthy.”

At the White House, a young Vickey built up a great working relationship with his boss, Denise Terry, and when his internship concluded, she helped him secure an appointment as a specialist – working in the area of computer applications and fitness – for another Government agency.

However, a year and a half later, the affable American received a call from his old friend and colleague at the White House, Ms. Terry. “She said ‘I have met the man of my dreams, I am moving to Detroit, do you want to buy my company?’ I was 24, making $23,000 a year, thinking how the hell am I going to buy a company. I said, though, ‘you know what, this is something you tell the grandkids about’. So, I said ‘yes’ and I went back to work for her for a year.”

On July 27, 1995, Vickey signed the papers and took charge of the White House Athletic Centre, but the occasion was tinged with some sadness as his grandmother, who he once had told that one day he would hold the hot seat in the Oval Office, passed away.

“The contracts came through and I was now president of a company that ran the fitness centre for the White House. I got a plant delivered to me, with the message: ‘Congratulations, you are now President at the White House. Love Grandma’. She died three hours after I signed the contracts. I still have the plant.”

Over the next 11 years, though, Vickey – who expanded his business along the East Coast – enjoyed some interesting days on Pennsylvania Avenue.

“So, there I was, 25 years old at the time, fitness director at the White House. It was an interesting place to be. I have seen things I shouldn’t have seen; I have done things I shouldn’t have done,” laughs Vickey.

“We had a membership of about 500 members – classified and unclassified – who all paid $365 a year to join, so there was no taxpayer’s money used to run the facility. That was done on purpose, so the general public couldn’t say ‘you are wasting our money’.

“We opened at 6:30am and we closed at 8:30pm, Monday to Friday. I had a staff in there making sure the equipment was being taken care of. We would do group exercise classes, personal training and smoking cessation programmes. When you think about it, the people who came to us, these were people making world decisions. So, from a stress perspective, they needed a place to relax and release and to stay healthy. If these people were out on sick leave for a week, nations could crumble.

“It was a very important place to be. I remember when President (Bill) Clinton left office, he wrote me a little note saying ‘thank you for keeping my staff healthy’.

“We would have rows of treadmills and you might have the Vice President’s Chief of Staff exercising with the White House carpenter, exercising beside the White House florist, exercising beside a Secret Service officer. So, it was really interesting. There was a mix, but you kind of checked the Eagles at the door.”

Of course, every President had their own training regime. President Clinton preferred to exercise outside, while President George Bush’s favoured workout was the cross-trainer, according to Vickey.

“President Bush is probably one of the most fit men I have ever met. The man exercises every day,” says the fitness guru, who underlines the point with an interesting anecdote.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway Bay FM News Archives

Appeal for information following Portumna crash

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 08-May-2013

Gardai are appealing for witnesses following a single vehicle crash at the Portumna bridge this morning.

The road from Nenagh to Loughrea reopened shortly after 11 this morning following the completion of a technical exam.

Four men were travelling in a van when they hit the Portumna bridge around 6:30 this morning.

Gardaí, ambulance and two units of Portumna fire services rushed to the scene, and one of the men was taken to Portiuncula hospital in Ballinasloe.

He is being treated for head injuries, which have been described by Gardaí as serious.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Portumna Garda station on 09-097-42060

 

 

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Galway Bay FM News Archives

President Higgins among GMIT’s first ever honorary fellowships

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 10-May-2013

GMIT is to honour seven outstanding individuals including President Michael D Higgins with Honorary Fellowships at a special ceremony later this month.

It’s the first time in the 40 year history of the Institute the Governing Body of GMIT has decided to award honorary fellowships.

The GMIT Honorary Fellowships will be conferred at the g Hotel in the city this day two weeks Friday 24 May at 2.30pm in front of 200 invited guests.

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Galway Bay FM News Archives

Galway commuters hold their breath as LRC intervenes in bus strike

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 13-May-2013

Galway commuters are holding their breath as there has been a potential breakthrough in the Bus Eireann dispute, as both sides have agreed to talks at the Labour Relations Commission.

The LRC intervened this afternoon, on day two of strike action that has seen 95 per cent of bus services disrupted across the country.

The LRC’s Director of Conciliation Services, Kevin Foley, says the National Bus and Rail Union and the company have agreed to meet for mediated talks at 8 this evening.

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