2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana Daily News

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Games Daily News - June 23, 2019

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In this edition:


Triathlon Challenge: Dave Campbell’s Hard Work Bests Younger Divisions  

Triathletes between ages 50-89 took on the challenge of a 400-meter freestyle swim, 20K cycling track and a 5K road race.triathlon at Cochiti Lake Saturday as the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana wound into its final weekend.

It’s expected that the youngest age divisions produce the overall winner, but 62-year-old Dave Campbell of Auburn, CA powered through with a chip time of 1:09:10.8, followed closely by fellow Californian Derrill Stepp, 57, of Los Gatos  at 1:10:31:2, and Ross Rembac of Scottsdale, AZ won his 50-54 group coming in third overall at 1:11:17:8

This is Dave’s first National Senior Games, which also includes participating in the 5K and 10K road races. Two decades ago, Dave admits he wasn’t in good shape at all. He couldn’t breath after walking up the stairs, he couldn’t swim or ride a bike up a hill, nor could he run around his local lake.

“Triathlon seemed like a fun sport and I live near a lake,” Dave recalls. “I’ve been training my tail off for a year and a half to represent California. I got a new bike and just gave it all I had. I am ecstatic! I don’t think I’ve ever won an overall before.”

Dave says that he focuses on exercising for his health so he can live a more fulfilling life; racing and competition is a fun celebration that goes with it.

“I see some of these amazing people in their 80s and 90s out here and hopefully I can be one of them someday,” Dave says.

Story by Seairra Sheppard

Triathlon Relay Makes a Splash in 2019 Debut

Encouraging fun and participation was the goal of adding team triathlon to supplement individual competition at the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana. The experiment worked, with 20 teams participating in the event on Saturday, June 22, at Cochiti Lake.

Stanley Leventhal, 57, from Rosemead, CA competed in the swimming portion of the tri relay with team Fit N Fifty. Stanley  is a 30-year swimming veteran who has competed in multiple open-water races throughout his career.

“The elevation was a big difference,” he comments. “The [swimming] distance is short but the elevation makes it a lot harder.”

Despite the difficulties, Stanley was able to gain something from this experience.

“My teammates are from Kansas and Arkansas, getting to meet different people through this is incredible,” he says.

Some teams have more natural chemistry than others, like Mich & OR Best, a women’s team comprised of two sisters and a good friend.

“Best part [of the triathlon] was having my sister here from Michigan doing it with me,” says Laura Jackson, 62.

Physical challenges can arise for athletes when preparing for such a rigorous event and Linda Marx, 64, was no exception.

“I had shoulder surgery last year, so just being able to come out and swim was fun,” notes Linda.

While the competition is serious, so is the camaraderie between athletes.

“I love the diversity of ages here, everywhere you go is an incredible senior,” says Linda. “I now have 14,000 new friends.”

Some athletes prefer conquer all three legs of the triathlon as an individual. Joe Kassa of Albuquerque, NM, is one such participant. Joe, who is competing in his first National Senior Games, won the men’s 50-54 bronze medal with a time of 1:18:29.8.

“The hardest part for me was the swimming, I always forget to kick my legs,” Joe says after the event. “I started as a relay member because I struggled with the swimming portion but wanted to push myself.”

Congratulations to all the athletes who completed this daunting course.

Story by Vincent Pensabene

Former WNBA Star Simone Edwards Returns to Coach in National Senior Games

Proving that basketball is more than just a sport, the Nova United Solid Gold women’s 60+ basketball team returned to old passions at the 2019 National Senior Games Presented by Humana.

This year, the reconstructed team from Virginia brought back their coach, former WNBA star Simone Edwards, who helped lead them to a silver medal at The Games in Cleveland in 2013.

“I was so happy they wanted me to come back,” Simone says. “When you have a team with all this heart and this passion, you know that they want it. They are so respectful, no attitude. They know that I only want the best for them, which helps me to be a better coach.”

Simone, who was known as “the Jamaican Hurricane” as a pro, not only shares her basketball skills with the team, but also the motivation, determination and strength that she has collected through her incredible journey. According to her website, the 6-4  former WNBA center grew up impoverished in Kingston, Jamaica. In high school, Simone was offered a full scholarship to play basketball at an American college, the only thing she needed to do was learn how to play.

“This was my way out and I couldn’t give up because I was thinking about my mom and how I want to change other kids lives. That’s my motivation,” Simone says.  

After a year of practicing barefoot on the hot Jamaican asphalt, Simone succeeded at Seminole State College in Oklahoma before playing Division I ball at the University of Iowa. In 2000, Simone signed with the Seattle Storm and remained with the WNBA team for six seasons, winning a championship in 2004, before her retirement two years later.

Proving that anything is possible, Simone and co-author Jobi Tyson wrote Unstoppable: A Memoir of Adversity, Perseverance & Triumph. Simone has continued to inspire not only athletes but everybody who dreams of becoming something bigger, encouraging them to push through their toughest times.

The Nova Solid Gold basketball team has shown that their love for the game is why they play, but their love for each other and their coach is equally important. Coming from diverse athletic backgrounds, these women have transformed their lives by playing basketball, as featured in the award-winning documentary feature film Coming Back to the Hoop.

“The journey doesn’t stop; we have a friendship for life and I have nothing but love for all of them,” Simone says of their relationship.

Story and photo by Hayley Estrada

Media Volley: Carol Klenfner is Spreading Senior Games Message

For years, she helped some of the country’s biggest rock stars spread their music as a savvy public relations professional. Today, she spreads a message to stay active and overcome life’s challenges with a paddle in her hand.

A native New Yorker, Carol Klenfner, now 74, didn’t start playing table tennis until the age of 69. As revealed in her 2018 Personal Best athlete profile, Carol worked as a publicist to the stars in the ‘70 such as Elton John, Aerosmith, The Eagles, The Rolling Stones and more.

Adversity is what brought Carol to the sport of table tennis in the first place. The road to greatness isn’t always paved with gold, but she indulged in the key step of learning from adversity to come out more capable in the end.

“Optimism and never giving up,” she told the Games Daily News are some of the keys to being a successful athlete. “I found that I have a ‘reservoir of toughness’ that sometimes I still forget about, but I have to call on it when I’m playing.”

Since her Personal Best story Carol has been featured in numerous national publications and major local media in New York. One TV news feature even won a regional Emmy award. The hits just keep on coming, as she joined marathon legend Kathrine Switzer for “satellite media tour” interviews with dozens of media outlets the week before The Games. “Katherine is just lovely,” Carol says. “She reached out to me to have dinner the night before our interviews, which is such a smart thing to do when you want to have smooth communications.”

Carol’s rating has increased from a 470 at the 2017 National Senior Games to a 751 in Albuquerque, and there’s no signs of stopping. “It’s never too late to start to learn,” she said, adding, “To keep learning.”

She wants to see her rating break 1,000. “I’m going to do it. It’s gonna take a while, and it’s gonna take some work,” she said.

Carol is competing in the women’s singles table tennis competition. She won her first round of games and struggled somewhat to maintain her competition face, letting a brief smile out as she glanced to her “fan club” on the sidelines. She went on to win all but one of her sets of games, to advance to the next round of play.

“The National Senior Games is a wonderful experience. It’s great to be in the company of so many athletes who are just grateful and delighted to be here and compete,” she adds.

Story and photo by Tim Harris

Dick Johnson’s Gold Streak Weathering Bumpy Road

As reported in the 2018 Personal Best profile of Dick Johnson, he has made a remarkable transition from tennis to pickleball and has won all of the “majors” in his new sport with the quirky name. He credits his new sport with saving his life after escaping diabetes through diet and his sport activity.

Now 78, the Boise, Idaho resident has fought through numerous injuries throughout his life including a back fusion, which caused him to be inactive for 20 years, two knee operations that he recently had in January, along with muscle and wrist tears.

He enters the National Senior Games for the third time with recent wins and medals in the U.S. Pickleball Open despite the surgeries and a nasty spill diving for a ball at a tournament last year that left bruises on his face.

If that wasn’t enough, he has been fighting off flu-like symptoms leading into his matches this week. “I’ll do the best I can, but this is bad timing to happen,” he explains with a hint of exasperation. “I’m going to play my doubles matches, but I don’t think I can cover the court for singles. But you keep going and do your best.”

Dick was introduced to pickleball when he lived in Arizona. Some friends encouraged him and his wife to come out to their retirement community, but they always declined because they had thought, “there was just old people playing bingo.” When they first visited the facility, they were shocked to see how active all the seniors were and he found a new sport he could play.

Before pickleball, Dick had played tennis since he was 14-years-old and was one of a very few to compete and win medals in the U.S. Open for tennis and pickleball. He was also awarded the Pickleball Rocks! Male Player of the Year in 2018, which was the very first time an elder has won. But his grit and determination to power through adversity and still find ways to get to the medal stand is equally impressive.

Dick and his wife, Lawana, have four children that also play tennis and pickleball. They’ve also begun to teach their 15 grandchildren and five great grandchildren tennis as well.

“I love the personal challenge playing pickleball gives me. It keeps me motivated and helps me improve my skills.”

Story and photo by Christina Fitzsimmons

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