A Celebration of Three Cities Fit for a Parade
Bloomington, Minneapolis and Saint Paul officially welcomed the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana in last night’s Celebration of Athletes sponsored by AstraZeneca Diabetes, and thousands of senior athletes returned the embrace.
The festive event was held at the recently opened CHS Field, the home of the Saint Paul Saints professional baseball club. By far the crowd favorite element was the Parade of Athletes as competitors lined up behind their respective state flags and proudly entered the field before the formal proceedings. “This year marks the first time since 1999 that athletes marched alongside their flags,” NSGA CEO Marc T. Riker said. “We’re pleased that the activity brought the focus of the program where it belonged - on the athletes themselves.”
Once athletes were seated, the program featured welcome messages, including a video with US Senator Amy Klobuchar. Comments and acknowledgements followed by the key partners who make The Games happen, including Dave Mona and Susan Adams Loyd of the Minnesota Local Organizing Committee, Jody Bilney of Presenting Sponsor Humana, and NSGA Board Chair Stephen Rodriguez.
Interspersed in the program were video highlights prepared by University of Minnesota journalism students. Here are links to watch these entertaining segments:
One inspiring moment was the Oath of Athletes led by John Zilverberg of South Dakota, who is the oldest athlete at The Games at 101. Zilverberg was interviewed Thursday by the NBC Weekend TODAY Show for an upcoming feature about his participation in The Games.
Special recognition was given with two biennial NSGA service awards. The Warren Blaney Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dr. Robert Ziegler of Maryland, and the Harris Frank Distinguished Service Award for outstanding leadership in the Senior Games Movement was given to Vicki Pilgram with the Georgia Golden Olympics.
“We have numerous individuals that work hard throughout the year with our 51 member organizations that host qualifying games that lead to the National Senior Games,” Rodriguez said. “The exemplary service given by Dr. Ziegler and Vicki Pilgrim provide an inspiration for all of us to strive even more to bring the Senior Games experience to an ever-growing number of active adults.”
Tweety and The Pig
by Cara Desmond
Isabelle Daniels Holston is a 1956 Olympic bronze medalist. She’s been inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and the Tennessee State University Hall of Fame. She is the organizer of the religious organization Church Twinning International. She’s the mother of four.
Now, she is the subject of a children’s book.
Tweety and the Pig was written and illustrated by Isabelle’s daughter, Kezia Holston, and was published this past March. The story captures Isabelle’s life, and draws on one memorable event from her childhood to capture her athleticism and her determination.
“When I was growing up on the farm, when I was six or seven, my daddy had a garden that he grew every year. This particular year, a pig got in the garden. And I was sitting on the porch and looking at him, letting my brothers in the garden try to catch the pig, and they couldn’t catch the pig.”
Since her brothers weren’t having any luck, she begged her father to let her try to catch the pig, but he would not let her. “He got to the last [brother] and he couldn’t catch the pig… so finally he opened the gate and he let me in the garden, and I ran and ran. I ran so fast I passed the pig.”
Outrunning a pig as a child predicts much athletic success. At the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia, she not only won the bronze medal in the 4 x 100 meter relay with her teammates Mae Faggs, Margaret Matthews, and Wilma Rudolph, she also won fourth place in the individual 100 meter.
“I was determined to make it to the finals,” Holston, 77, said. “They talked me down, the officials in Australia. They said ‘Daniels has a slim chance of getting into the finals in the 100.’ But you know what, I got third in the preliminary semi-final, so I was able to make it to the finals. I won fourth.”
At the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana, she competed in shot put, discuss, the long jump, and the 50 meter. Although she didn’t medal in her events, she said that it didn’t matter. What’s more important to her is being able to compete, keep moving, and meet fellow athletes. “I was last in my heat, but I finished,” she said.
After coaching track for 35 years and being named the 1990 National Coach of the Year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association, Holston has taken up speaking at events at schools and churches state-wide. She’s also taking the time to write her own book about her life. She is hoping to finish within the next year.
Isabelle is a firm believer in the importance of passing on her story and the history of her community. “A lot of my teammates have passed and they didn’t sit down and put the history together and pass it on to the young folks,” she said. “They are thirsty--I go to these churches and they are thirsty for information like that. So I have some work to do."
She hopes to impart this advice with her writing: “I want the people I meet, especially the young people, to know that if you want something, you have to keep going, keep fighting.”
All’s Fair in Love and Tennis
Mike and Brenda Williams of Olympia, Washington have played tennis together since they started dating as 15-year-olds. A few years of dating and 34 years of marriage later, they are a well-oiled machine on the tennis court. Thursday morning, they completed a triumphant run through nine other teams to win the gold medal in the 55-59 Mixed Doubles tennis tournament Thursday morning.
The couple agrees that it can be a great advantage for your tennis partner to also be your life partner because communication on the court becomes intuitive and clear.. Mike and Brenda enjoy each other’s competitive spirit. “We anticipate well how the other’s going to move on the court and we both want to win so we’re on the same page,” Brenda said.
Mike also competed with Darrel Limeback in Men’s Doubles taking the gold medal and Brenda took 6th place in the Women’s Singles.
Men’s Singles age 60-65 finished with Gordon Hinrichs taking the gold, Edward Berghorn earning silver, and Gary Pittman receiving the bronze. In the Women’s Doubles age 65-69 Susan Furtney and Cammy Johnson captured gold, Hedy Brandt and Hiroyo Fisher took the silver, and Jan Allerheiligen and Katie Shappard finished with the bronze. For complete tennis results, visit the Results page at NSGA.com.
President’s Council Member Presents Medal to Hometown Hero
When Harold Bach, 95, of Bismarck, North Dakota won the gold medal for the men’s 95- 99 division 50 meter sprint, he was presented with his medal by another town resident who also runs and promotes fitness and health on a national platform.
Dr. Stephen McDonough, 64, is a policy leader around public health and fitness as an appointed council member to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN). McDonough, a 32 year practicing pediatrician, has been an advocate for public health for years and fought to help prevent childhood obesity and smoking.
He will join PCFSN Executive Director Shellie Pfohl and several featured athletes for NSGA’s Personal Best Empower Hour interactive discussion program to be held today at 3 p.m. at the Goodman Group Stage in The Village.
McDonough practices what he preaches. In 1993, he ran the Bismarck Marathon; in 2007 he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. He also supports the International Rhino Foundation and photographs wildlife, such as birds.
Even outside of his work, McDonough still enthusiastically supports people, like Bach, who become more active. “Find something that you like to do and have fun with it,” he said. “You will feel better mentally. You will feel better about yourself. You’ll feel more positive if you’re fit.”
Mind Over Matter
Racquetball player rallies back life’s killshots
by Matt Oleszczak
Racquetball player Sharon Huczek’s fiery determination to succeed kept her going through a maze of medical events. From April of 2012 through December of 2013 she has undergone six major surgeries, including rotator cuff surgery and a partial knee replacement that threatened her playing career.
Just as she was coming back from her knee injury, there was more misfortune. Huczek, who lives in Warren, Michigan, wiped out on winter ice and crushed her wrist in the fall. “At the hospital they said it was the worst thing they’d ever seen,” Huczek recalls.
The outlook was grim. Doctors told her not to get her hopes up. Huczek said, “Even my therapist, who was there through my knee and arm injuries, said ‘Sharon, I can’t give you much hope on this. I’m going to do my best, but I hope you don’t have high expectations of getting on the court again.'"
Huczek, 67, had played racquetball since the age of 25 and performed well, picking up gold medals from the US Open Racquetball Championships and National Masters Racquetball Association (NMRA). She was inducted in the Racquetball Association of Michigan’s (RAM) Hall of Fame in 2010 and served on their board for nearly 30 years. Giving up racquetball would be a very bitter pill to swallow.
So was her therapist wrong? How is it that she’s now competing in Minnesota? Huczek says she regained the ability to compete by drawing on her psychological and religious resources. When she hit a particular rough patch, she recalls a phone conversation with a woman from her YMCA who told her, “Sharon. The longer you stay away, the harder it is to come back.” Huczek had no time to slow down and believed to get rehabilitated, movement is key. She pushed herself to the limit with the encouragement of others. .“No pain, no gain” is not just a cliche to Huczek, it is her way to live life.
In addition to maintaining the belief that “you’re going to get better,” Huczek credited the healing as a gift from God. “God has blessed me with the ability to persevere, always striving to do my best. It’s a real blessing to be able to be back.”
Impressive as her comeback is, Huczek is even more proud of her son, Jack who she started in racquetball when he was only two years old. “He told me at three he’s going to become the best player in the world. And I said, ‘Yes, you will, son.’ He went on to be the greatest junior in racquetball history.” Jack won consecutive world titles from the age of eight until age 18, and was the youngest ever to win a professional tournament.
The key to becoming successful like Huczek’s son? “You learn from the seniors. He would take their knowledge, even if they weren’t the best,” she says. “People would ask him who his coach is. He’d say, ‘I can’t name just one person. All of these people were instrumental to my success.’” It really does take a village to raise an athlete.
Noted Minnesota Journalist Shares Wisdom
The 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana scheduled a wide variety of speakers on the Goodman Group Stage. One of the most inspirational on the slate is Dave Nimmer, a well-known Minnesota journalist who spoke with us yesterday.
To listen to Nimmer speak, the term inspirational is not a cliché. His life experiences flow like a river of wisdom with his words. The Journalist, teacher, mentor, and author says “My talk, ‘The Home Stretch: A Spiritual Journey’ is a collection of choices and challenges in lives where business cards no longer matter, and pre-existing conditions do.”
Exploring the “human condition,” Nimmer says “I have to listen to more music,” a message meant literally and metaphorically. Nimmer reflects upon a time when he and a larger group of buddies would go fishing up in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. Now he says the group's numbers have been cut in half.
Following his own advice, Nimmer and long time friend Don Shelby, another well known Minnesota journalist, will head to the south rim of the Grand Canyon this summer and descend the Kaibab Trail to the bottom. Nimmer jokingly says, he hopes that Shelby and he can make it back up and out the next day.
In short Nimmer says, “I like to refer to this part of life as the last quarter mile. If you haven’t figured it out by age sixty five, you’re missing the boat.”