A showcase for senior athletes
The national games offer more than 800 summer-sports events. The competition is keen – but the broader focus remains on healthy lifestyles.
(Page 2 of 2)
Dana Wolcott and Jon O'Connor of Rochester, N.Y., both in their 60s, are on a basketball team that beat seven others from the state to qualify. The men, who are on the younger side for the event, say they enjoyed seeing dedicated athletes many years older than themselves.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"Watching them compete is really inspiring," says Mr. Wolcott.
Typically, all basketball teams that are classified above age 79 qualify for the games – a perk the men jokingly say they look forward to.
"We're still kids," says Mr. O'Connor.
In fact, the games show that seniors can look forward to decades of athletics. The oldest participant is a centenarian: Roger Gentilhomme plans to take part in bowling and tennis singles. Estelle Frendberg, in her mid-90s, is the oldest female athlete, competing in the 1,500-meter race walk.
Virginia Smith, an octogenarian, took home three badminton medals Aug. 4 for women's singles, women's doubles, and mixed doubles. She met her husband playing badminton in 1941.
"It's a wonderful sport, it's good exercise, and it's a game you can play forever," she says.
Daniela Barnea glowed at the games as she ducked to receive yet another gold medal around her neck. She'd just broken the 41.39-second record for the 65-69 age group in the 50-yard butterfly, which had been in place since 2003. This was on top of breaking several other records.
Originally from Israel, Ms. Barnea was always athletic but wasn't competitive when she swam as a teenager, she says. When she came to Palo Alto 17 years ago, she started to swim for conditioning, but the desire to push herself soon kicked in: When her children participated in high school swimming and water polo, Barnea wanted to keep up.
"There was a competition between us. I wanted to swim and beat their times," she says.
In addition to enjoying the rush of winning, Barnea likes the meditative aspect of swimming: The sound and color of the water give her a place to relax and shed any worries from the day. She also enjoys eating what she wants. "I love my Häagen-Dazs at night, and I know I'll work it off the next day," she says.
Now, Barnea doesn't go anywhere without a swimsuit and goggles, and her workout takes priority in her life. She swims 1 to 1-1/2 hours a day and works out in the gym two or three times a week.
Like many participants at the games, Barnea was inspired by the athletes much older than she is.
"To get to be 90 is one thing, and to compete is just something else. It brings tears to my eyes," she says, adding, "I want to break their records when I get there."