John Charlton is one of the British athletes who, along with several from Canada and throughout the United States, are in Neosho competing in a multi-event challenge on the sports fields of Neosho High School.

These athletes, who must be at least 35 years old, have varying degrees of experience from local club competition to the Olympics.

A retired civil engineer, Charlton, who lives in Sheffield, England, has been in sports since his youth. He competed as a child in several track and field events but eventually gave up sports until he heard about the decathlon. In a decathlon, an athlete must compete in 10 events.

Once he started competing in decathlons, Charlton got with a coach and worked hard getting better and better. Before long, he was winning matches. He reached his peak in 1993 when he won the World Masters Decathlon, while competing in the world championship in Japan.

"I knew I would be competitive," Charlton said, "but Rex Harvey of the United States was the heavy favorite. So my win was a big surprise."

Ironically, he gives some credit for his win to Harvey because the American gave him some advice on throwing the discus. After he got Harvey's advice, Charlton threw his best-ever discus which helped give him the win.

Today Charlton and Harvey are best friends and it was they who started the competition that was held in Neosho this weekend. The first in Neosho was in 1996.

As an athlete, Charlton has traveled the world. He is usually accompanied by his wife, Eileen. Although Eileen doesn't compete she goes along and visits the tourist sites while her husband competes.

Eileen, a retired school teacher, admits she doesn't sit through all the competitions, preferring to explore.

"We often go places that we would never have seen without the competitions," Eileen said. "I often go into the area to see how others live. In fact, I love getting lost just to see if I can find my way back."

Asked which places has especially appealed to her, Eileen said the one trip she remembers most was when they went to Eugene, Ore.

"The kids were young and when the competition was over, we explored the West Coast. We went to Portland, Ore., San Francisco and Disneyland. This was also my first trip to the United States," she explained. "I also love Berlin, Germany."

But one trip that Eileen did not take with John is one that she regrets very much.

"I didn't go to Japan so I didn't get to see him win his world championship," she said.
The Charltons have been to Neosho three times. They both expressed a fondness for Neosho and for Tom Thorne, who hosts the local events.

"I think the special relationship we British have with Neosho is symbolic of our two countries," Charlton said. "Neosho should be proud of the impression the town has made on us."

But, it's a two-way street since John and Eileen have made their own impression on everyone they have met in Neosho.

The event continues today, starting at 9 a.m. and ending at about 4 p.m.