The National Senior Games Rival the Olympics

Image: James Richardson, 80, in the high jump. Credit: THOMAS COINER/NSGA

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For Love of the Game

Who doesn’t love a good game? Whether it’s playing yourself or cheering from the sidelines, there is something exciting about people challenging their limits, testing their mettle against a competitor, and performing at their best. Whether it is on a local, national, or world stage, competitive sports are an adrenaline-burst of inspiration.

While some people focus on the winning and losing, they miss the point. The point is in the doing.

Too many people sit back, afraid to do or try. They play it safe. Whether it’s in sports or anything in life, there is a hesitancy to lose. No one wants to be a failure, to see their hard work go unrecognized or to feel they are not good enough.

The problem is you cannot grow without failure. You have to try new things, you have to challenge yourself, or you will never be better than you are right now. Stop settling. While you won’t win everything you take on, you are sure to learn something valuable along the way.

You miss 100% of the shots you never take.
— Wayne Gretzky

I say, when you play fair and with good sportsmanship, you cannot go wrong.

national senior games olympics
Dottie Gray, 92, in the 400-meter dash, Credit: TONIA MCKINLEY/NSGA

The National Senior Games

When you think about elite sports, at least when I do, I think of the Olympic games. Every two years, alternating winter and summer, we witness people around the world perform seemingly miraculous feats of skill. For a few brief weeks, nations come together to rally with pride for their fellow citizens regardless of color, race, or creed.

Honestly, why can’t we do that 24/7, regardless of sports?

Not everyone is aware of another Olympic game of sorts. Every two years, the United States hosts a National Senior Games, the last in Birmingham, Alabama in June 2017. Here people from 50 to 104 years old, get together to compete. Events include but are not limited to archery, badminton, basketball, bowling, cycling, golf, horseshoes, pickleball, racquetball, shuffleboard, softball, swimming, table tennis, tennis, and volleyball.

Tony Diamond at 88 years old was the oldest contestant to run the 10K, finishing in 1 hour and 31.13 seconds. 101-year-old Julia Hawkins finished the 100 years dash in 39.62 seconds. Charles Milliman, 85 years old, completed the pole vault at 1.75 meters. 95-year-old Hazel Trexler-Campbell landed a discus throw at 10.01 meters. 88-year-old Frank Farrar completed his triathlon in 2 hours, 57 minutes, 11 seconds. Fay Bond, 94 years old, leaped 0.93 meters in the long jump.

Age aside, could you have done any of these things?

Defying Age and Limits

The wonderful thing about sports is that there are no limits. The National Senior Games is living proof that age is only a number.

Before you get your panties in a bunch, I am not saying that every person needs to be an athlete or that everyone has the capacity to become one. Some activities could be too dangerous and even life-threatening if you had certain medical conditions. That said, there are many people with physical and mental disabilities who perform amazing feats in the Paralympics and Special Olympics. You may not be safely able to perform some activities but you can strive to be your best self. You can do what YOU can do.

Every year athletes outperform each other. New records are set, and we are astounded time and again by what we mere humans can accomplish. 142 records were set at the 2017 National Senior Games!

When I say there are no limits, I am really referring to our potential. Each of us has our own spark. We have to keep looking beyond what we can do today because our future is bright, brighter than any gold medal. Whether it’s in sports, in writing, or anything else you enjoy, don’t hold back. Defy those limits.