HARBORTON, Va. (Delmarva Now) -- Olympic canoeing champion Frank Havens, 92, uses a cane to walk these days, but he still enjoys paddling almost daily on the creek near his Harborton home — or at least he did until a recent theft left the gold medalist without means to access his canoe.
"I'm on the water almost every day," said Havens, who won a silver medal in canoeing at the 1948 Olympic games in London and a gold medal at the 1952 Helsinki games — setting a world's record in the 10,000-meter event at the latter. He also competed in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics and carried the Olympic torch through Arlington Cemetery in advance of the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Nowadays, Havens uses an electric golf cart to traverse the distance from his residence to the dock where he keeps his canoe — but someone made off with the vehicle the night of Oct. 4, leaving the nonagenarian athlete high and dry.
Now Havens is missing his daily paddles on Taylor Creek or Pungoteague Creek, where the canoeist is a familiar sight.
"I'm usually on the water an hour-plus," he said, adding, "It's my only means of recreation, and I do it every day...That's the only exercise I've got left. The knees are shot, but I can get in a boat."
"It was right in my front yard when it was taken," Havens said, adding somebody in town told him they heard the sound of the cart going by that night.
Havens reported the missing vehicle to the Accomack County Sheriff's Office — several officers have come by to speak with him about the crime.
Still, the golf cart has not been recovered.
Haven's theory is that someone took it for a joyride and then left it wherever the charge ran out — whoever took the cart did not take the charger that goes with it. On a full charge, the cart could go as far as 20 miles.
"I'm sure what they did was, they ran it until it stopped," he said.
Havens doubts the cart was taken for its monetary value. The E-Z-GO cart, green with a white top, isn't new — he has had it 15 years, and the seat at some point in the past "went bad," resulting in Havens improvising a replacement one with plywood.
"So whoever's got it is sitting on a plywood board," he said, "It isn't the greatest cart on the Shore, but it's good enough for me."
Havens particularly laments the fact that the vehicle went missing from a yard in Harborton, a friendly small village on Accomack County's bayside where neighbors for the most part know and help each other.
"We've been there 30 years and we've never had to lock things up, but I think that's going to change," he said.
Still, Havens is hoping someone will spot the golf cart and let him know where it is.
"With all the hunters in the woods, somebody's going to spot it," he said, hopefully, adding, "I'd kind of like to get it back."
Anyone who has information about the heist or the whereabouts of Havens' golf cart should call the Accomack County Sheriff's Office at 757-787-1131.