KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Robert Chastain and Elizabeth Fontenot were bound by a common thread last year: hard work.

Fontenot ran, rode a bicycle and swam hundreds of miles in 2003, while Chastain hit hundreds of softballs and fielded hundreds of grounders and fly balls. And they did it all in addition to their regular duties.

Fontenot won the 2003 Camp Courtney 20-kilometer bicycle race, was the second Air Force women’s finisher and fifth overall in the Camp Hansen Reverse Sprint Triathlon and was the first Air Force finisher in Torii Station’s Olympic Distance Triathlon.

Chastain played for the Yellow Box open interservice softball team, which became only the second club in the Pacific Grand Slam’s 15-year history to reach all four tournament finals in one season.

Fontenot, a triathlete, and Chastain, a golfer, softball and flag football player, were chosen as Kadena Air Base’s Athletes of the Year for 2003.

“It was a surprise. It was a shock,” said Fontenot, 25, a first lieutenant from Ville Platte, La., who serves as an aerospace physiologist with Kadena’s 18th Aerospace Medicine Squadron. She also earned Pacific Air Forces Athlete of the Year honors.

“Looking at athletes at other bases, I was in the same category with them. Some are Olympic-class competitors. It’s an honor to be among them.”

“I felt honored,” said Chastain, 27, a staff sergeant from Emory, Texas, who’s a fire inspector with the 18th Civil Engineering Group.

In a typical day, Fontenot gets up at 5 a.m. and runs three to six miles before spending the day at work, flying “anything and everything” in Kadena’s aircraft inventory. “We’re that link to improving safety and human performance,” she said.

That’s followed by more hours of swimming and bicycling.

Yellow Box won the Pacificwide Invitational last May at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, then finished second to perennial power Pacific Force of Okinawa in the other three finals.

“We practice twice a week to gear up for major tournaments, and a lot of individual preparation goes into it,” Chastain said. “It speaks for itself what [coach John O’Brien and his assistants] do to prepare us to get there. They pull the strings. That’s how it happens.”

Chastain, a 10-handicap golfer, also guided his intramural softball team to the base championship. He founded his unit’s intramural football team and played quarterback and served as assistant coach.

Chastain and Fontenot were selected as the base’s athletes of the year last month but the awards were not officially announced by Kadena’s 18th Services Squadron until Tuesday.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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