View photos of the action from today's competition by visiting NSGA.com/2017photos.
Flame of Fitness Ignites 30th Anniversary Games
Bo Carwyre of Birmingham has 91 reasons to celebrate. That’s because it took that many years before the track and field athlete was given the honor of being the torch bearer to set the cauldron ablaze that signaled the opening of the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana.
The lighting, punctuated with dazzling fireworks that entertained athletes, family members and local citizens, capped off the Flame Arrival Ceremony held at the Uptown District next to the BJCC hub of activity for The Games.
Bo was handed the torch by Melissa White and Melanie Coultas, twin sisters from the local area who will compete in swimming. Others who carried the torch included Essaw Scruggs and Jim Merritt representing Humana, and David Galbaugh, Vice President of Sports Sales & Marketing at Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau. The evening entertainment also included fire dancers and live music.
Mayor William Bell led his monthly community walk prior to the ceremony and helped welcome visitors with opening remarks at the Flame Arrival Ceremony. Jeff Speegle, Sports Anchor at ABC 33/40 served as the emcee. View both events in the 2017 Photo Gallery here.
Let The Games Begin!!
Games Daily Recap
There’s No Reining in Marion Lisehora
Marion Lisehora never hesitates to jump at a chance to try something new, whether it is basketball, volleyball, softball, track and field, swimming, gymnastics…or diving off a 40-foot platform into a tank of water on the back of a horse.
Marion is 85 and has no plans to slow down. She is coming to Birmingham to compete in pickleball at the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana, where she hopes to add to her collection of 300 medals. She has been in The Games since 1993, but entered her first pickleball event in 2015 in Minneapolis, where she won a bronze in women’s doubles.
“I love the game,” says the resident of Millsboro, Delaware. “I’m addicted! I play 20 hours a week, sometimes twice a day. Wave that little red flag in front of me, and I’m gone.”
Marion says she was one of the few lucky women of her pre-Title IX generation who had the opportunity to compete in team sports, such as basketball, as a high school student in Rockville, Maryland. She was surprised and disappointed when she couldn’t find a similar athletic outlet in college. The need for physical activity led her to her to join a Gymkana Troupe, which introduced her to gymnastics, and to her late husband Tony.
When Tony and a friend decided to check out a diving competition in Atlantic City, she tagged along for fun. As a result of that trip, Marion was asked to become a jockey at the horse diving show on Atlantic City’s Steel Pier. She spent the next four summers leaping off a 40-foot tower into a tank of water while sitting on the back of her horse named Dimah.
Most of us could never contemplate making such a dive, but Marion discusses it matter-of-factly. She performed her first show without a single practice dive, which she says was a bit scary but it all quickly became routine. “I did it seven days a week with four or five shows a day, so it became automatic,” she says. “It was just something you did.”
The former physical education teacher’s tone changes to one of passion and excitement when she talks about the decades she has spent competing, training, creating local sports leagues and teaching others the benefits of making good health a priority.
Marion says sports has taught her bigger life lessons that she has tried to instill in others. She sometimes runs into former students who were part of a Gymkana Troupe she started while working as a teacher. “Those kids…it almost makes me cry because they all remember that troupe,” she says. “It is one of the biggest thrills of my life. I hope I have been a positive influence on the young people I taught. It’s more than kicking a ball. I want to teach about life and responsibility, teamwork and caring about others. That’s what’s important.”
She speaks with pride about the academic and athletic successes of her own five children and grandchildren. She notes that all 14 grandchildren will graduate from college and all excelled at a variety of sports, just as her children did. Her daughter Diane is also a pickleball player and is a Senior Games participant. Marion and her daughter discovered pickleball together about six years ago and still share a passion for it.
“I had no racquet sport experience,” she recalled. “I played sports all my life and had good eye/hand coordination, but I could not hit a backhand the first time I tried pickleball. That was my motivation. I was going to beat that! I couldn’t wait for the next week to work on my backhand. I was caught up in it immediately. Now I have a really good backhand, and I love the game.”
She is grateful for the fact that she has enjoyed excellent health, which she attributes to a life of letting common sense be her guide.
“I have never dieted and never will-everything in moderation,” she asserts. “I never smoked or drank. I do drink lots of water and try to eat things that are healthy like fruits and vegetables, but I don’t count calories, and I do treat myself from time to time. I’ve always been a big believer in exercise, but not in terms of sit-ups and pushups. I want to get exercise in doing something that is fun. If it’s not fun, it’s hard to get motivated. Pickleball is fun!”
She encourages young people to learn and stick with healthier behaviors and stay active all their lives.
“Fit it in, make it a priority, and make it fun,” she says. “It is one of the most important things you can do. Stick with it, it’s a lifetime thing. So many people just sit on the couch when they retire because they think it is time to rest, but inactivity will take your life early. You have to keep going. I feel about the best I ever have.”
Marion says she enjoys competing at the Games because of the camaraderie and fun and the opportunity to compete with those in her age group. “I thrive on competition, and I want to play with people who are the best of the best,” she says.
And is she looking for a new adventure or sport to add to her long list?
“If it shows up, I’ll be ready to do it,” she says with a chuckle.
By Ellen Nason, NSGA Contributor
Traffic Update – Interstate Exit Notice
Alabama Department of Transportation is undergoing improvements to the interstate system near the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center. Motorists traveling to the BJCC should note the closure of the 17th Street exit. Northbound motorists will be detoured to exit 125B onto 22nd Avenue. Exit 126A to Carraway Boulevard is another alternative.
Allow extra travel time for congestion during rush hour periods due to this closure. Additional routes and information are available here. For traffic alerts and updates, follow @5920bridge on Facebook and Twitter.
The Village Health & Wellness Expo - Hub of Activity for The Games
The Village Health & Wellness Expo in the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center is the headquarters of activity for the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana. Start your visit at Athlete Check-In to receive your athlete credential and bag, then load up on Games goodies at the merchandise booth.
Stop by the Humana footprint for interactive activities for all ages. Take the first step toward better health with CollaboRace. As participants walk on treadmills in the Humana area, the company will donate to a senior health-related organization based on the distance traveled or amount of steps taken. Visitors can also pose for heroic shots and animated GIFs to redefine what a “senior moment” means. Attendees can share stories about their wellness journeys at the “When I Started” Video Booth. These stories will be made into short videos and sent to participants. The photos, GIFS and videos can be shared on social media. Visitors will also be able to receive a free health readout that lets them know how they are doing based on their specific health goals.
Continue promoting your health with a Senior Athlete Fitness Exam (SAFE). Conducted by physical therapists, SAFE exams evaluate cardiovascular risk factors, strength, flexibility and balance. SAFE participants also have the opportunity to attend fitness clinics after their screenings. These clinics will provide instruction in exercises tailored to help prevent injury and enhance performance.
In the Demonstration Area, try out corn hole or jump in a tai chi session. Don’t leave The Village without checking out the NSGA 30th Anniversary Exhibition to view special memorabilia from the past 30 years of Games! Each day will bring new activities and special guests, so pick up a copy of The Village Daily flier for the most up to date information and schedule of events.
“30 Champions” Honorees Include Two 2017 Athletes
Two elite senior athletes, Philippa “Phil” Raschker and Jerry LeVasseur, have already earned honors greater than a gold medal before they even enter play in the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana.
As part of our 30th Anniversary celebration, NSGA selected “30 Champions of The Games” to honor those who have made the greatest contributions to the creation or growth of the Senior Games Movement. Most of the honorees are founders, organizers and longtime NSGA volunteer board members and officers, and our ten-year Presenting Sponsor Humana also made the list. Several individuals have also been Senior Games athletes, and two are competing in Birmingham.
Phil Raschker, of Marietta, Georgia, was called "The "Master of All Masters" in a 2011 ESPN.com story. The evidence proves the accolade has merit: the German-born American has set more than 200 world and national masters track and field records, winning 368 U.S. masters titles and 85 gold medals in WMA World Championships in sprints, hurdles, jumps, and multi-events since 1980. She also holds 18 number one positions (plus 35 other rankings) in National Senior Games Top Ten event records spanning four age divisions. Another reason NSGA honored her as one of the 30 Champions was the role she has played as an ambassador for Senior Games in extensive media coverage.
Perhaps the best tribute to her dominance is that Phil is the oldest-ever finalist for AAU’s prestigious Sullivan Award which annually honors the best amateur U.S. athlete. The kicker: she was named a finalist twice, in 2003 and 2007. “It’s hard to feel bad when you lose out to Michael Phelps and Tim Tebow,” she says.
Phil suspended competition in 2013 to handle family matters, and despite a recent knee procedure, she will begin her comeback at age 70 in Birmingham. Even with her history, she was apprehensive before her qualifying events. “I hadn’t really trained and had no idea how I might do, being out of it for this long,” she says. “You always think you can do it, but it wasn’t that easy, especially in the 200 meter race. But I made it.”
Jerry LeVasseur, now 80, has won well over 1,000 track and road race events in local, national and international competition since becoming a senior athlete. At the World Masters Games in New Zealand this past April, the resident of Brunswick, Maine earned silver in the triple jump and bronze in both the steeplechase and 1500 meter race. In Birmingham, he will compete in the 80-84 division in triple jump, 800- and 1500-meter, and the 5K and 10K road race events.
As his 2014 Personal Best athlete feature “The Show Must Go On” details, Jerry barely survived a horrendous circus tent fire at the age of seven in which his mother perished and he was severely burned and his hands disfigured. He overcame the experience to enjoy a successful run as an accountant, husband, father, and ultimately as a senior athlete.
Jerry was selected both for his athletic prowess, and for his longtime volunteer service to others, including being an elected member of the NSGA Board of Directors for five years. “I considered myself to be the voice of the athlete on the board, and it was a rewarding experience.”
The 30 Champions of The Games is just one of many features, including vintage videos and athlete memories, that you will find on a special 30th Anniversary section at NSGA.com/30anniversary.
2017 National Senior Games All-Access Pass
All athletes will receive an All-Access Pass to some of Birmingham's best restaurants and entertainment in their athlete bags. Local attractions featured include Birmingham Originals Restaurants, The Birmingham Barons, and rising stars of Birmingham's brewery scene. Athletes may use the card at any of the participating establishments during the duration of The Games, June 2-15. Visit www.nsga.com/gamesdiscounts for a full list of participating restaurants and breweries. Additional cards for guests of the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana may be purchased in The Village Health & Wellness Expo for $5. Get ready to enjoy the best Birmingham has to offer!
Humana Game Changer: Magaret Olawaye, 75, Chicago, IL
Margaret Olawoye has never been a “watch and see” kind of woman. After discovering racquetball, she found that no one wanted to face an inexperienced player, which drove her to practice five hours a day until she was able to regularly defeat her doubters. Nothing can get in the way of her passion for fierce competition and love for anything sports-related – not even her bad knees or the broken wrist she got playing softball in the 2013 National Senior Games; she was back on the field the day after her cast was removed! The multi-sport athlete says she’s “like a little kid with sports,” and is preparing to compete in track & field and pickleball during her fifth National Senior Games.
Birmingham IN Guide App
Experience the Magic City like a local with the Birmingham IN Guide app! Browse extensive lists of top restaurants, shopping, attractions and events near you, then get there with in-app directions and reviews. Not sure where to go? Try a custom tour based on your interests, such as Foodies’ Delight or Shop ‘Til You Drop. For a spontaneous adventure, use the Invent A Day feature and shake your phone for a randomized day trip. The IN Guide app is available for download from the App Store and Google Play. Happy exploring!