The swimming competition at the 2013 National Senior Games is not a neighborhood splash party. No one is blowing a ping-pong ball across the pool to win a race. Watching these men and women, all age 75–99, cutting the water with grace, fluidity and determination at The Busbey Natatorium on the Cleveland State University campus, was a humbling experience.
The afternoon session opened with the National Anthem just like any other major sporting event. The fans were eager and the swimmers were warming up in the water and at poolside. Volunteers were there to assist the competitors safely onto the diving platform from the slippery deck. Among the swimmers, the ranges of mobility varied but once they hit the water, it was "game on."
At the other side of the pool, a group of younger volunteers served as a pep squad as the athletes reached the opposite end of the pool. They shouted encouragement and urged the swimmers, especially those that might have been tiring, to continue. And their strategy worked. While a few swimmers might have wanted to quit, they kept on going to finish the race.
Jim Little, 81, of Edmonton, Okla., won a Bronze medal in the 200 M Breast Stroke in his age division. The day before, he competed in the 100 M Breast Stroke, winning a Silver medal. His wife, Joyce, calls Jim a fierce competitor. Training is long, hard, rigorous and consistent. "It’s a matter of each person seeking his or her personal best," says Joyce. "They have the ambition and drive to just 'put themselves out there,'" she adds. Little has one more event to go and then his wife says that their lives won’t revolve around the pool for a while.
The women had not only the same competitive spirit, but a better variety of bathing suits. Spritely Miriam Tuovila, 88, of Virginia, won the Gold in the 85–89 age bracket for the 100 M Individual Medley. The ladies were every bit as impressive as the men.
Even seated among the spectators were medalists like cyclist Deborah Barton, 65, who won a Gold medal that morning.
Staying active is a key ingredient in the wellness outlook for these senior citizens. Good habits and attitudes can carry you way beyond your years. None of these competitors accept the stereotypes of aging and show it in their outlooks, ready smiles and by enjoying every moment of the Senior Games, whether they place first or last.
As the 2013 National Senior Games are taking place, state competitions are also being held around the country to qualify athletes for the 2015 national event.
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