Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pflugerville boasts world champion

Updated: Thursday, 02 Dec 2010, 6:20 PM CST
Published : Thursday, 02 Dec 2010, 6:20 PM CST

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) - At 80 years of age, Ed Arionus is the reigning National Horseshoe Pitching Association World Champion. His victory in the "Elder" division of the NHPA competition came at the expense of pitchers from all over the world. What's more, Arionus has claimed world titles seven different times since he tossed his first shoe at the age of 55, back in 1984.

He earned those titles in three different divisions as he aged. His career also boasts of two perfect games, one of them racking up 26 straight ringers, and yet, that barely touches on the man's skill.

"My record in practice, throwing at home, is 65 ringers in a row," said Arionus.

Finally, this year, after a quarter of a century in the game, he finally made it into the Association's Hall of Fame. All that success, however, has not come easily.

"I can look at two stakes down there," he said. "If I stand here, I can look at two, see two stakes; my eyes are not focused. So I throw between the stakes," he laughed.

"No, but if I concentrate, I can get down to seeing one stake and then I throw," Arionus continued. "And my balance, I have a poor balance problem. I could be standing there with a horseshoe and pretty soon I'd be falling over. So you have to overcome some obstacles."

He has to deal with logistical obstacles, as well. The Austin area no longer has a horseshoe pitching club.

"The closest one from here would probably be Cameron, Texas," said Arionus. "The next one would probably be Waco, but they're redoing the whole city park. I guess it's going to be open again next year. Then Houston, San Antonio, East Bernard, those are basically the ones I go to. But they have them all the way out to West Texas, all over the state. As a matter of fact, 60-some tournaments a year."

None of them lead to riches.

"There's no money in horseshoes," said Arionus. "This year at the world I made $2,075, for a world championship. You pay your own way to get there, but most of the time, I made enough money to make expenses."

There are rewards, though.

"The first world championship in the United States was in 1909. It's 101 years old this year," said the champion. "It's a nice family sport, you know, real nice people most of the time. Millions of people throw horseshoes, you know, at family get-togethers on a Sunday afternoon or a picnic. I get the satisfaction of competing and more importantly, winning."

Editor's note: To illustrate his skill, Arionus agreed to pitch some horseshoes over reporter Jim Swift's body, outstretched just a couple of feet in front of the stake. The idea was to score ringers without having a shoe land on Swift's nose or other bodily parts. To see how that experiment worked out, check out the video story on this page.

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