2008-06-27 / Top Stories

Calleja-Call Him The Comeback Kid

By Christine Cea

Calleja stands in front of The Wave building with his silver medal from the competition on June 14.
Scalpels and other medical instruments are not the only sharp objects Dr. Gregorio Calleja has encountered in his lifetime. Indeed, this Rockaway resident has added other titles to his name besides M.D. Include National Champion of Spain for fencing for 1967 and 1968, and more recently, silver medal winner.

Coming to Rockaway to set up his first practice on Beach 129 Street in 1982 from his native country of Spain, Calleja left behind a strong fencing background. He had won the individual gold and team gold awards in 1967, and the individual gold and team bronze in 1968, both in Sabre, one of the three types of weapons used. Calleja, who claims that he did not fence competitively in the beginning of the '70s, returned in 1972 with a huge comeback. He had qualified for the summer Olympics that were to be held in Munich.

Calleja, however, declined the opportunity because his medical examinations were being given simultaneously. Calleja admits that, like everything else, he always does wonder about that decision, but claims that fencing for him is a hobby, and that "professional life is too demanding."

He continued to fence recreationally, but didn't fence competitively until Saturday, June 14, 2008, when he was awarded a silver medal after competing within his fencing club, Long Island Swordsman. Calleja has successfully made his second comeback.

In addition, this University of Madrid graduate is in the process of writing a book. But you won't find all of this out from Calleja, who is modest about his accomplishments - instead, his talkative and congenial wife gushes on his achievements. She has lived in Far Rockaway her entire life, and the couple recently wed on March 17, 2008, the same day as their engagement a year ago.

"When people read about him, they might see that someone over fifty can be this active and accomplish great things!" his wife says in her Irish accent. Calleja knows how important this is, considering that he specializes in family practice and geriatric specialties. His office is located on 107-10 Shore Front Parkway. He is also board certified. Thus, the man is more than a triple threat.

So what sparked his miraculous comeback in fencing? Did he long to compete? Could he no longer fight the urge to go back into the sport?

Calleja remarks that it is good to "challenge" yourself. He also claims that returning to competitions helped him create somewhat of a fencing community and that one grows "friendly with people." He then pauses for a second, laughs and says, "This might sound silly to say, but my wife kept telling me to do it so I did."

She takes that comment with a smile and there is silence for a few seconds. Then, she starts raving on and on again about the fencing, medical practicing, soon-to-be published marvel that is Dr. Gregorio Calleja.

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