An officer and a medalist

Louis DiNuzzo ’04 holding a medal while in running gear

Louis DiNuzzo ’04

Some runners train to lose weight or for the rush of competing in races. For Colonie, N.Y., police officer Louis DiNuzzo ’04, however, training has far more serious implications.

“It’s important for this job because it could save your life,” DiNuzzo said. “If you’re in a struggle with someone, the longer your stamina holds up, the longer you can keep going.”

Last August, DiNuzzo put his training to the test on the world stage, traveling to Belfast, Northern Ireland, to compete in the 2013 World Fire and Police Games. His event, the biathlon, combines distance running and target shooting. He faced competition from all over the world — the games hosted 7,000 athletes from 67 countries, each representing their local police force or firehouse.

Having competed in the 2011 games in New York City, DiNuzzo used that experience as a benchmark for his training. “There was a little more pressure for this one,” he said. “I knew a gold medal was a possibility, and that’s something I really wanted to achieve.”

As a student, DiNuzzo had placed first with his team in the 2001 IC4A competition and won an individual Patriot League title for the indoor 5K in 2003. He credited his cross-country teammates and his coach, Art McKinnon, with helping him hit the ground running at Colgate, so to speak. “I was an introverted guy, and it helped me come out of my shell a little bit,” he said.

After college, DiNuzzo pursued his longtime dream of following in his grandfather’s footsteps as a police officer. Keeping up his running proved difficult as he took on the demanding new job.

Still, DiNuzzo was determined to stick with his training. He has competed in several marathons and returns every year to his police academy — where he still holds the track record for the 1.5 mile — to help new recruits train in distance running.

In Belfast, his determination paid off. The biathletes took off at five-second intervals, and DiNuzzo was the second to go. Within 50 meters, he’d passed the runner in front of him. From then on, he stayed out in front. “I could tell my time was going to be the best,” he said. “I just kept building more distance between myself and everyone.”

Although he dominated the running portion of the race, DiNuzzo still had to wait for the shooting to be scored before he could know if he’d won. “It was a stressful two hours,” he admitted.

When the scores came in, DiNuzzo was named world champion. His victory earned him recognition from his superiors on the police force and from the Colonie town government. Still, he joked, “there hasn’t been as much fanfare as I would have liked.” In fact, most of the reaction from his fellow police officers has come in the form of good-natured ribbing.

“I get jokes all the time about being the fastest guy,” DiNuzzo said. “If I ever lost a foot chase, I don’t think I’d hear the end of it.”

Joking aside, DiNuzzo’s medal-worthy abilities have proven their worth on the job. At a traffic stop last April, a suspect jumped out of his car and began running down the highway. DiNuzzo took off in pursuit.

“I kept pace with him until he tried to run up a hill and got tired,” DiNuzzo said. He successfully apprehended the suspect, but it was a close call. “It turned out he was running with a loaded gun. Even though he was a bigger guy than me, I was able to outlast him and I maintained critical thinking. I didn’t get tired. I was able to keep my head about myself.”

DiNuzzo is already encouraging his fellow officers to follow in his footsteps and start training with him: the next World Police and Fire Games are in Virginia in 2015. “I think we’ll be able to get a solid team together,” DiNuzzo said.

— Mike Agresta