Our tour continues to show variety both in our athlete stories and in the guests that come out to support our message. In addition to honoring Bob O’Connor of River Forest with a “Personal Best Award,” our Chicago press conference at the swank Ritz-Carlton also celebrated the rock and roll theme of the National Senior Games Presented by Humana taking place in Cleveland. Grammy winner and Chicago area native Jim Peterik entertained us with several of his hit songs, most notably the iconic sports anthem “Eye of the Tiger.” Just as importantly the rocker, now 62, spoke of his own fitness challenges and said he thinks our athletes and the National Senior Games are cool.
Peterik socialized and posed for photos with Illinois athletes in attendance and told stories to the audience between songs that also included “Burning Fire” from Rocky IV (Survivor), “Vehicle” (The Ides of March), “Hold on Loosely” (.38 Special). He expressed his strong connection to NSGA’s mission to re-define the meaning of personal best and spoke of his passion on the subject.
“So many people need this message, to have that encouragement when you’re past the age of 50 that you can keep going, and even get better,” Peterik said as he introduced his show-
closing acoustic rendition of “Eye of The Tiger,” the iconic theme song from the 1982 movie Rocky III. “That’s the personal best message and I love it.”
We have clips of Peterik’s performance and the presentation on our Youtube channel. Click here and enjoy.
67 year old trackster Bob O’Connor’s perseverance in overcoming a catastrophic Achilles injury in 2001 to return to the National Senior Games earned our attention to profile him in
Chicago. As our Personal Best profile explains, O’Connor, who is a psychologist, had to “psyche” himself up to learn to walk again and refuse to accept his first doctor’s advice to hang up his spikes. He also coaches and officiates youth sports.
“I’m very humbled. You could talk to a thousand other senior athletes and get a great story from each of them,” O’Connor said. “As we age it’s important that we’re able to embrace some natural limitations that occur, and turn them into challenges instead of something more negative.”
More than a dozen Illinois athletes going to the National Senior Games also asked to stand and be recognized by Jennifer Phillips, incoming coordinator for the Illinois State Senior Olympics held annually in Springfield. Phillips expressed how proud Illinois is to be the first state senior games to be organized and pledged to take it to new levels. Other speakers included noted physiologist and athlete Dr. Terry Nicola (who helped O’Connor return to competition shape) and Dr. Fred Tolin, Humana’s VP of marketing for Illinois. Peterik surprised Tolin when he told him during his show that his family is with Humana and how his wife of 42 years had recently had hip replacement surgery and they were pleased with how they were treated.
Speaking of recognition, we surprised Peterik after his performance when NSGA’s Del Moon presented him with a one-of-a-kind “NSGA Eye of the Tiger Award” which acknowledges he is achieving his own personal best on every stage of his life. Peterik spoke of overcoming weight issues and keeping fit now for life. “I love to rollerblade and work out regularly,” he told us. “Activity is a big part of my life and it’s all for one thing- to be able to go onstage and kick it. I was born to do this. I don’t want to go running around in the audience playing in people’s faces and run out of breath!”
The rocker made a new fan out of one senior athlete. After the program, 81 year old triathlete Dorothy Sinson emailed us this message: “The NSGA get together yesterday was very special. It’s not my kind of music, but it is now!”