Editor's note: This is the seventh in a series of stories that looks at life after sports for former local athletes who made headlines years ago.
Charlie Simpkins made it look so easy, so effortless as he ran down the runway and then exploded into the air with a hop, skip and a jump.
Simpkins is one of the greatest triple jumpers ever and he made two Olympic appearances in a career that started in Aiken, blossomed in Charleston and delivered a silver medal in the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
Simpkins also competed in the 1988 Olympic Games, which gained notoriety when 100-meters champion Ben Johnson was stripped of his gold medal after running a world-record time of 9.79 seconds. Johnson tested positive for steroids.
By the time the '92 Games ended, Simpkins knew his track career was nearing its end.
"Your body lets you know when it's time," said Simpkins, a former star at Baptist College (now Charleston Southern) who turns 47 in October. "The aches and pains and injuries -- physically it was so demanding. It was time to say when. I walked away and never looked back."
Simpkins resides in Knoxville, Tenn., and wears four hats these days. He oversees an AAU track team, is a personal trainer, and serves as a volunteer track coach at the University of Tennessees. He also runs a personal catering service on the side.
"When I was training for the Olympics, which was all the time, I used to cook," Simpkins said. "My friends and teammates asked, 'Why don't you cook?' I didn't have time in my career, but it was a hobby. When my career was over, 'Why not.' "
That was Simpkins attitude when former Baptist coach John Bagwell landed the talented jumper.
Simpkins was a state champion at Aiken High School with a leap of 51-5, but he wanted to play football when he arrived in the Lowcountry.
"They had one of the best track programs around," Simpkins said of Baptist College.
"But they didn't have a football team and you had to focus on something else, and for me, it was track.
"I really had no idea of how good I was when I was in college," Simpkins added.
"I came home from college after my first year and there was a box at the door. I opened it up and it a plaque inside. I was an All-American."
Simpkins won the '92 Olympic Trials in New Orleans with a wind-aided 58-7.
He finished second in Barcelona to Mike Conley, who leaped 59-7 1/2. Simpkins cleared 57-9.
Reach Philip M. Bowman at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 937-5592.