Retired Police Officer, Firefighter in World Games Hall of Fame

10 Medals During 16 Years
By DAVID BIGGY | Sep 04, 2019
Supplied Photo CHERISHED PRIZE: Former New York police officer and firefighter resident Frank Santiago of Brant Beach shows his new plaque from the World Police and Fire Games Hall of Fame.

Long Beach Township — During his teenage years, Frank Santiago was into street fighting. But at age 16, the trajectory of his life changed.

“I was the only Hispanic kid in an all-Irish neighborhood in New York City and street fighting was a way of life for me for a long time,” said Santiago, a Brant Beach resident recently inducted into the World Police and Fire Games Hall of Fame. “A priest I knew, Father MacGiver, took me off the street and suggested I channel my energies through karate. He knew a Methodist minister who was a karate instructor, so I started karate in 1967. Later on, I joined the karate team at John Jay College.”

A couple of years later, Santiago made his way onto the New York Police Department and served until 1982, before taking on a role with the Fire Department of New York. In 1985, the World Police and Fire Games were developed, and he was part of the first-ever Games in San Jose, Calif.

Santiago was a karate gold medalist for four straight Games, held every two years. He captured the gold in the 165-pound senior class in 1985 and 1987 in San Diego, and then grabbed the top spot on the podium in the 180-pound Kumite Master class in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in 1989. He repeated that effort in Memphis, Tenn. in 1991.

During the 1995 Melbourne Games in Australia, Santiago won gold as part of a 3-on-3-basketball team, and also collected silver in the 180-pound karate Black Belt Kumite Master division. In 1997 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, he returned to the Black Belt Kumite Master competition at 180 pounds and snagged gold, and grabbed silver in 3-on-3 hoops. He repeated both feats during the 1999 Games in Stockholm, Sweden.

His last competition in the Games was in 2001 in Indianapolis at age 52, when he again was part of a 3-on-3-basketball team that placed fourth.

“It was a great experience,” said Santiago, now 70, who spends several months of each year in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “It was like an Olympic experience, but better, because the World Police and Fire Games has more competitive events. But as one of the athletes, you get to travel around the city and go to all kinds of events for free. You’re treated like gold, almost like a celebrity, especially in the cities and countries outside the United States.”

In addition to winning 10 medals at eight World Games, Santiago co-founded and coordinated for the FDNY team as it raised funds and took part in group activities throughout the city. He also served as an official WPFG ambassador, working with WPFG organizers to promote the Games and athletic fitness within police and fire communities.

In 2015, the WPFG organizing body developed a hall of fame to honor athletes who exemplified excellence and were positive influences for the Games during their careers. For this year’s induction, Dave Miklos nominated Santiago, who was part of a seven-member group selected. Twenty individuals had been inducted during the first two selection processes.

“I didn’t realize the gravity of it when I was nominated,” Santiago said. “To me, it’s amazing that I was recognized. It’s a big thing. It’s the best thing I can be in, as a recognition for my career. I was really excited about it, honored and humbled.”

Unfortunately, due to travel concerns, Frank didn’t make the trip to Chengdu, China, for this year’s World Police and Fire Games, which were held Aug. 8-18. His induction plaque recently arrived at his home.

“There’s a lot of camaraderie within the police and fire communities around the world,” said Santiago, who nowadays enjoys playing pickleball, skiing and snowboarding. “When you go to the Games, it’s competitive. But you’re there as a member of this large community of public servants, and it’s really special. Being inducted into the hall of fame definitely is a highlight of my life as an athlete and public servant.”

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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