View photos of the action from today's competition here.
Vivian Stancil’s Costco Connection
Vivian Stancil of Riverside, California was determined to make a change when doctors told her she might not live to see her 60th birthday. She was terrified of water, weighed more than 300 pounds and was legally blind due to a genetic condition.
Fifteen years later, Vivian has reinvented herself to be a competitor in the National Senior Games, a featured NSGA Personal Best athlete and 2016 Humana Game Changer, and has won more than 170 medals, mostly at local and state games. She has also drawn the attention of the Los Angeles Times, BET, and the London Daily Mail and many other media outlets.
Now, her inspiring example of courage and determination has been profiled in the June edition of Costco Connection, the monthly magazine distributed to tens of millions of Americans. You can find it on page 39 at this link. The mention of National Senior Games further establishes her contribution as an ambassador for the Senior Games Movement.
When she’s not training, Vivian runs the nonprofit foundation that bears her name. “I teach swimming lessons to seniors, to veterans, to the blind, and to children,” she explains. “We have so many people drowning, and I want to teach them how to survive. It involves the Riverside Fire Department, the County of Riverside, and a few private people that sponsor me to offer this at no cost to anyone who wants to learn. We take them as young as a year old up to 80.”
During her race on Monday’s opening day of swimming competition at the Birmingham CrossPlex, Vivian had the whole arena erupting in cheers every time she touched the wall. Many people came up afterwards to congratulate her. She was beaming and took time to speak to every person who approached her.
When asked what this means to her, she says, “I’m not as fast as everybody else, but I want to be able to finish what I do. I’m loveable to the other people. They’re my family. I love them. I look forward to seeing them every time I come”
By: Ashley Williams and Del Moon
Photo: Ashley Williams
Games Daily Recap
Watch Out, I’m Coming for Ya
Cyclist Kathy Petrillo is no stranger to winning, having dominated her state in recent years and earning two gold medals at the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana. The silver medal that came in the women’s 55-59 division of today’s 10K cycling time trials was not the color the 2016 Florida Senior Games Female Athlete honoree wanted, but it was still a great accomplishment among a field of 28.
Today’s race challenged the Jupiter, Florida native who is more accustomed to dry, flat courses. Rain held off for the early morning races at Oak Mountain State Park, and the slick course presented an added element of worry. Given that, she is satisfied with today’s second place finish.
“You know you train, and then you just go out a do the very best you can,” she observes.
Kathy has been active her entire life. She began competing in triathlons at age 16 before deciding to focus solely on her cycling. Kathy is a natural on a bike, and her dedication to the sport motivated her to continue riding throughout her years. “I just love being out on a bike,” she says.
Entering the 55-59 age division, Kathy considers herself a “baby senior” and people who know her can’t believe she is already competing in The Games. This is likely due to her strong build and seemingly endless, infectious energy. She jokes that she is addicted to endorphins and her goal is to stay active and competitive.
Being active comes naturally the professional wellness and nutritional consultant. Kathy believes in discipline, taking care of your mind, and staying active at all times. “Nutrition is key. It’s really all about balance,” Kathy says, smiling behind her tinted cycling sunglasses. “I do love life.”
During the Florida Senior Games, she set records in the 5K and 10K cycling time trials for her age group. Today Kathy completed her ride with a time of 17:16. Although she is “bummed” to finish second to Jane Fyffe of New York, she is confident in her technique and preparation for The Games.
“There’s always tomorrow,” she warns her competition, “I’m coming for ya.”
By: Caroline Watt
Marathon Pioneer Kathrine Switzer to Speak at COA
Marathon pioneer Kathrine Switzer will make a special appearance at the Celebration of Athletes on June 9. Kathrine overcame obstacles to be the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in 1967. She made headlines this past April for returning to run the Boston Marathon 50 years later at age 70. After her infamous 1967 race, Kathrine went on to complete more than 35 marathons and won the New York City Marathon in 1974. Kathrine has influenced the running world as an author, speaker, TV commentator and founder of the Avon Running Global Women’s Circuit.
Kathrine will run the 10K at the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana on June 10, wearing her iconic bib number #261 from the Boston Marathon. NSGA extends special thanks to Presenting Sponsor Humana for making Kathrine’s appearance in The Games possible.
The Celebration of Athletes will kick off at 7 p.m. in Legacy Arena. Be sure to represent your state in the Parade of Athletes. Athletes will gather in the courtyard of the BJCC beginning at 6:15 p.m. Don’t miss this 30th anniversary celebration!
Fitness Helps Athlete Bypass Crisis
Only four months after quadruple bypass surgery, basketball player Jim Culbertson is back to compete in the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana. Jim was diagnosed with a silent heart attack on February 7 of this year, and surgery followed three days later.
Though the recovery process is different for everyone, the average rate of recovery is between six months and one year. Jim is proudly beating the odds by being almost completely recovered in less time. “I’ve been an athlete all my life,” Jim says. “The doctor said if I hadn’t have been that physical, my recovery would’ve been much longer.”
The 67-year-old had symptoms of a heart attack for about a year, experiencing numbness and stiffness in his arms. He now uses his knowledge of silent heart attacks to help others prevent them. “I’ve had people come up to me and tell me something that has happened to them and I ask about their symptoms,” he explains. “Two people that came to me, both basketball players, went to specialists outside their doctors. Sure enough, they had the same blockage that I had.”
He believes his rapid “rebound” was helped by his 46-year career in construction “Because I have a small construction company, I bypassed the hospital physical therapy program because I’m lifting bags of concrete,” said Jim. He lives an active lifestyle in both his work and home life in northern Virginia, and credits his dedication to health and fitness for his speedy recovery.
Jim has been with the Land of Waterfalls men’s 65+ basketball team since 2015. They took home gold in the 2015 Games, and six of the players are back for a second shot at a win. “All the guys are great people,” he says. “You just can’t beat that. It’s really a blessing just to be out here.”
Most of the men on the team played basketball at the college level, including Jim, who played at North Carolina Wesleyan College. He says he has kept up with the game his whole life, and loves basketball as much as he did on day one. “I love the smell of the gym,” said Jim. “When you walk in the gym now, it’s no different than when you were in high school or college.”
Though Jim’s recovery has put him on the sideline more than in 2015, his attitude reflects his wisdom and team attitude. “If my contribution is doing nothing but being a cheerleader, then that’s my roll.”
By: Madison Lathum
DeEtte Sauer Overcomes Health Issues, Wins Elusive Gold
After years of winning state titles and tantalizingly close finishes, DeEtte Sauer has finally tapped the wall first after several years of being a familiar face in National Senior Games competition.
“It feels absolutely incredible. I mean, it’s something you work for forever,” she says after winning gold in the 75-79 400 IM on Monday. However, the 2013 Personal Best feature athlete’s reasons for celebrating go far beyond earning a shiny medal after persevering through a recent medical scare.
The 75-year-old Houstonian began swimming at 58. In fact, she couldn’t swim across the pool the first time she tried. She wanted to quit right then, but says her coach told her, “Just keep your mouth shut and do what I tell you! No whining. No complaining.”
DeEtte credits swimming with saving her life on multiple occasions. When she first started swimming, she lost 100 pounds in one year. In December 2016, DeEtte encountered health problems so serious she wondered if she would ever recover. “I almost died in December. I had a ruptured aneurism inside my body. I didn’t even know if I would ever swim again or walk again, or anything. And so this is just amazing. They said my entire body was failing, but my heart and lungs were so strong and it kept me alive. I owe so much to swimming.”
Besides the health benefits, DeEtte also loves swimming because of the people she’s met and the places she’s been along the way.
“The people I swim with are incredible,” she says. "Every day at 5 o’clock in the morning, we’re in the cold pool and they’re such stellar human beings. They encourage me. I’m the oldest one on the team, of course, but they treat me as an equal.”
DeEtte embraced her competitors after they finished. In the cool down pool, they chatted about the race. DeEtte explains the 400 IM is the most grueling swimming event, and jokes Michael Phelps quit it because it was too hard.
“For the rest of my life, I can say I’m a gold medalist in the National Senior Games!” she exclaims, grinning from ear to ear.
By: Ashley Williams
Pickleball Power Couple
When they first competed in the National Senior Games in 2015, David and Kay Redding had no idea they would end up taking home the gold. David, a pro tennis player and college tennis coach in Arkansas, won the gold medal in the men’s 50-54 division. He went into the mixed doubles bracket with lower expectations.
“Since Kay was a relatively new player, I felt like we had no realistic chance,” said David. “But as the tournament progressed, she started playing really well.” Kay’s confidence level rose, and suddenly, the pair was close to sealing the victory. “We won our first match, then our second match, and I said that if we kept playing like this, we have a legitimate chance to win the tournament,” says David. “It was probably the best we ever played together.”
Their inspired play had a crowd supporting and cheering them on, along with their children and a young granddaughter. “For them to be there, it was great,” says David. “I don’t know if we can top that.”
“It was really super special,” Kay agrees.
The couple found playing pickleball as a way to spend some more time together. “She has said that if she was going to be able to see more of me, she needed to learn how to play,” said David. “We decided that this would be something we could do together.”
While they enter 2017 as the reigning champions, David and Kay have reasonable expectations. David recently started a new job as a tennis coach at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas and has not had much time to keep up with his pickleball skills. “Coming into this tournament, neither one of us have played very much, so we’re not thinking we’re gonna win it. But we’re gonna try to go as far as we can,” says David.
They have agreed to continue playing and competing with each other in the National Senior Games as long as they can. “We could have 30 more years of this,” David says. “I know, right,” exclaims Kay. “I’m in for it!”
And they sealed the agreement with a fist bump.
By: Madison Lathum
Humana Game Changer: Cory Hartbarger, 90, Asheville, NC
Cory Hartbarger has been throwing shot put, discus and javelin since he returned from WWII at age 18 and discovered that he was a natural. Shortly afterward, Cory played professional baseball for the Philadelphia Athletics’ farm system in North Carolina in 1949. His various jobs throughout his life included state trooper, mail carrier, life insurance salesman, assistant coach for the football and junior varsity basketball teams at Northern Michigan University and athletic director at Webb School, a private prep school in Tennessee. Although Cory has had several health concerns, such as heart surgery, the removal of a tumor in his lip and arthritis in his knees, nothing can stop him as he vows to keep moving. Cory will compete in discus, shot put and javelin at the 2017 National Senior Games.
Bostonian Volleyballer has Enjoyed a ‘Wicked Good’ Senior Games Ride
No one would guess 80-year-old Bostonian Marilyn Sicurella is old enough to have attended the last nine National Senior Games. Some people claim to be the best at everything, but this volleyball player’s humility is immediately apparent. “I have been very fortunate in terms of good health, luck, and avoiding serious injuries during my career,” she says.
Marilyn gives her healthy lifestyle most of the credit for keeping her well. “I try to eat healthy, stay active, and get plenty of sleep, plenty of sleep is definitely the big one,” Marilyn adds with a laugh.
Despite the excitement surrounding the 30th anniversary of The Games, the 1997 Games in Tucson remain closest to Marilyn’s heart. “It’s lovely here in Birmingham, but 1997 in Tucson, Arizona, was special because that’s where this entire journey started (for me),” she remembers.
When asked where she’s from Marilyn, proudly exclaims, “Boston strong!” Her favorite part about The Games this year has been the strong Massachusetts contingent of eight volleyball teams at The Games. “We have Mass Appeal,” Marilyn jokes, referring to the name of a fellow team from their state.
By: Stephen Porier