Anaheim Police Officer Alan Roman is almost as modest as he is tough.
Six months after having his spleen removed, which required 11 days of hospitalization including time in the intensive care ward, Roman climbed, ran, swan and bench-pressed his way to winning the state title of "Toughest Cop Alive."
"It just happened to be my day, I guess," said Newport Beach resident Roman, 28, who has been with department three years. "I was absolutely exhausted after it was over, and I was surprised at how well I did."
An annual event, the Toughest Cop Alive competition pits law enforcement officers against each other in eight athletic events: the 3-mile run, 20-foot rope climb, 100-meter dash, 100-meter swim, shotput, bench-press, pull-ups and obstacle course. Roman beat out 15 opponents in the under-200-pound division to take the top honor last month.
Just as tough, though not quite as modest, are four fellow Anaheim officers who walked away with top honors in the team competition. The four officers--Amador Nunez, Rich Estrada, Lorenzo Glenn and Chris Ned--easily outdistanced the closest challenger, a team from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.
"I could have just said my arm hurts and not climbed the rope, and we still would have won," said Nunez, 32, who organized the department's team. "I knew when we put this team together it was a gold team."
Each officer competed in two events. Ned, a bodybuilder when not on patrol, bench-pressed 450 pounds (first place) and did 36 pull-ups (third place). Ned, 31, says a typical breakfast during training consists of four eggs, 10 biscuits, a bowl of oatmeal and fruit.
In addition to giving them bragging rights, the officers say, their athletic success has improved their police work.
"If I'm on a foot pursuit or a fight," said Estrada, 29, the team's three-mile runner and swimmer, "I'm confident, because I know I have more endurance than the average person."
Because they feel they have little to prove, the officers say they tend to be more patient and less frenzied in tense situations.
"We all look good in uniform, and that shows a good command presence," Nunez said. "We are less likely to get in a fight. And my stress level is way down."
The four-man team is hoping to travel to Australia in February for the World Police and Fire Games. They say they have the will, but the money is in question. The four are determined to raise the funds.
"We'll wash cars," said Estrada, who has won more than 80 medals--half of them gold--in triathlon and police competitions. "Whatever it takes to go to the world games."
Said Nunez, who has twice participated in the world event with the Los Angeles Police Department: "We'd have an excellent chance of winning."