2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana Daily News

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Games Daily News - June 17, 2019

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Records Already Falling Fast at 2019 Games

In its first three days, the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana has already seen 58 of its records fall in two sports – 32 in 5K and 10K cycling time trials, and 26 in swimming events.

The Games, being held through June 25 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, boasts an all-time high participation of nearly 14,000 athletes competing in 20 medal sports.

Track and field has completed the first of five days of competition, and results will be posted as they are verified.

Find a summary of records to date by following this link


 Kirsten Cummings is Back Playing Basketball Like She Never Left the Court

Kirsten Cummings has earned many titles throughout her lifetime, including pro women’s basketball player, coach, and executive director of the San Diego Senior Games. However, she hasn’t been able to call herself an athlete since her retirement at age 36. That all changed this year at the 2019 National Senior Games of America presented by Humana.

“I’ve always wanted to play, always,” says Kirsten about The Games.

Due to rules on pros competing in amateur sports, Kirsten could not play until 20 years after retirement from the professional league. After her retirement, Kirsten was at a loss with what to do. She learned about seniors playing basketball at a local gymnasium from her mother.

“There was this gym filled with 50+ women playing basketball. Immediately I got goosebumps,” explained Kirsten, who was only 42 at the time. The players asked if she would coach them.

“They didn’t know who I was, they just thought I was a tall, 6-3 player standing in the doorway. I said sure I would help them,” Kirsten continues.

What really makes Kirsten’s achievement becoming one of the best women’s basketball players in the country truly remarkable is the fact that she was born deaf. She was the first deaf player to become a first-team All-American as she excelled on her top-ranked Long Beach State team before enjoying 14 high performing years as a professional basketball player, displaying her talents here and in six countries.

Throughout her life and playing, she has learned to adapt and shirks off any idea that it has been a disability. “I’ve learned to lip read and speak well enough that it has not been a problem for me,” she says. “I don’t ask for or need any special treatment.”

While this is Kirsten’s first year competing in the games, she has been coaching her teams at the NSGA since 2005. This year though, the teams she was coaching decided she should focus on her playing.

“I am very excited, I can show my skills, but it is much more than just winning a game or competition, it’s about showing what you can do,” says Kirsten.

Kirsten’s team, the San Diego Seabyrds, has won all of their games as of Sunday, June 16.

Story and photo by Gabrielle Hockstra-Johnson

Jumping off Buildings and Starting Blocks: Stuntman Turns Swimmer

There aren’t many similarities between professional stuntmen and master swimmers, but Hubie Kerns Jr., of Pacific Palisades, CA lives a life not possible without both.

Hubie has hundreds of stunt credits for TV shows and movies including Scandal, Fear Factor, Mission Impossible and even has four stunt credits on Jimmy Kimmel Live! But today, it was Hubie’s swimming prowess that took the limelight, and in a big way:  Hubie crushed the 100-yard butterfly race with a National Senior Games record-breaking time of 1:05.55.

Hubie swims regularly, but hasn’t competed in The Games in nearly a decade. He returned to because he and three team members from his home swim club all aged up into a new division this year. Though they are all competing individually, they decided to come to Albuquerque together and show off their swimming abilities to a new set of competition.

Hubie told The Games Daily News that his stunt work is what encouraged him to get back into swimming after a long break.

“I took a 33 year hiatus from swimming after college, and I was getting out of shape. Doing the stunt work, you’ve got to stay in shape, and I thought, ‘I’m going to get back and swim,’” he recalls. “I had such a great time, I’ve been competing ever since. Now my competition career is longer as a master than it ever was when I was young.”

Ironically, the 100-yard “fly” is not the race Hubie usually swims, but he was up against significantly higher altitude than at home. “I normally would swim the 400 individual medley, but with the altitude…the 100 butterfly was hard enough,” he says.

For Hubie, the reason for swimming comes down to fitness, enjoyment and satisfaction, and perhaps that is the key to his success.

“I like it. I swim because I want to. It’s enjoyable. You get to socialize.  I come to these events and get to see different friends I’ve met over the years from across the United States,” heobserves, “Even the workouts are like social hour.”

Story by Tim Harris

Sisters Compete Against Each Other in Shot Put for First Time

“Just show up” was the motto this year for sisters Linn Polk-Dunton and Sani Polk-Withers, who competed against each other in the women's 60-64 shot put for the first time at the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana.

The 62-year-old from Pine Valley, California has seen plenty of gold in her senior athletic career, but placed third in the shot today. However, she was happy just to be competing again after surviving two bulging disks last year that prevented her from training. In fact, Linn is lucky to even be competing at all, having undergone a spinal fusion when she was 15 after a gymnastics accident.

“I didn’t think I was going to be able to compete again,” Linn says of her recent setback, holding back tears. “But because of great chiropractors, motivation, and basically being covered up in KT tape, I was able to come out this week and do what I love. This is truly my happy place.”

“Being here at the National Senior Games encourages you to stay motivated and active,” Linn expresses. “It is fun to spend time with my sister and the camaraderie here is always just great. I love the atmosphere and watching the athletes during their games.”

While the two are enjoying being together, there is some good, wholesome competition between the siblings. “Linn motivates me towards my goals and gives me a good chase,” said younger sis Sani, who didn’t place. “It’s all in the fun, but we do get competitive. I’ll be out of her age group next year, and it’ll be my time to shine, we will still inspire each other to do our best.”

In honor of Father’s Day on Sunday, the sisters both wore “Team Dad” T-shirts, knowing their late father was their greatest supporter and would have been thrilled to see them competing. Their mother, who passed away in 2008, also competed in the National Senior Games and was a world-ranked shot putter. As reported in Linn’s 2013 NSGA Athlete of the Month feature, the elder sister uses her mother’s implements to train and motivate her to continue in the Senior Games Movement.

“It is truly inspiring and the culture is just amazing because it really shows the dedication all the athletes have in living a healthy lifestyle, Linn concludes. “We plan on competing when we’re 80.”

Story and photo by Christina Fitzsimmons

Winning is Just About Participating to Darrell Dempster

There is no stopping Darrell Dempster, 90, from achieving his personal goals this year at the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana. This Naval Academy graduate and published author continues to surprise himself and others by competing in several events at The Games.

“I have always had goals in life and I am lucky that I can keep reaching mine,” Darrell says.

Darrell was raised on a farm in Kansas at the time of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression before enrolling into the U.S. Navy. His narrative book Dead Broke accounts his journey of life during this difficult time.

After graduating from the Naval Academy, his early service was on an aircraft carrier and a destroyer. Later, Darrell served on the aircraft carrier Ranger for two years before he retired as a Captain in 1981.

“To be in the Navy I had to be very physically fit, but after I got to a certain age I wanted to start something that I could still compete in,” Darrell says.

Darrell made his first mark at the Maryland Senior Olympics in 2005, earning a gold medal in singles and doubles racquetball in his age bracket. Darrell is a multisport athlete, winning several gold, silver and bronze medals in shot put, discus, hammer throw, weight throw, long jump and race walk.

“You don’t always win and it is difficult for some to be satisfied with just participating,” Darrell says, noting that he believes in Maryland’s Senior Olympics slogan; ‘To Participate is to Win.’

While Darrell has many medals and wins to be proud of, it is his participation and the journey that keeps his body and mind healthy. Darrell proves that staying active leads to a life filled with better health and new friendships.

Story and photo by Hayley Estrada

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