The Games Daily - June 9, 2017
View photos of the action from today's competition here.
Spotlight on The Games
The spotlight shone on track and field at the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana yesterday. USA Today Humankind and Today.com were on site to showcase the amazing athletic efforts on display!
Games Daily Recap
The Celebration of Athletes is Here!
Don’t miss the Celebration of Athletes, a highlight of The Games, this Friday, June 9.
PARADE OF ATHLETES: 6:30 p.m. - Staging begins in the courtyard of the BJCC.
CELEBRATION OF ATHLETES: 7 p.m., BJCC Legacy Arena
HIGHLIGHTS: Marathon pioneer Kathrine Switzer, singer Pat Boone, entertainment by Marc Rubenn, and the premiere of a special NSGA 30th Anniversary mini documentary, “The National Senior Games: 30 Years of Fitness, Fun and Fellowship,” narrated by Olympian John Naber.
Pass It to Me...and Me...and Me
Pass It 2-Me is a catchy name for a men’s 80-84 basketball team. It’s an even more clever name when you realize that it refers to three brothers on the same team.
John Twomey and his brothers, Dan and Tom, grew up on a farm in upstate New York, forging a bond through hard work, strong family ties, shared values and the love of basketball. Life took the brothers in different directions, but the bond remained strong. They are together again, making new golden memories on the basketball court at the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana.
Twins Dan and Tom and will celebrate their 81st birthday today. They won a gold medal in the 3-on-3 event in Houston in 2011, but John, 83, was not able to play with them. The brothers wanted to try one more time to win gold together as team Pass It 2-Me.
“We wouldn’t be here (in Birmingham) if we hadn’t wanted to win gold together,” says John. “Winning the gold is the focus but only if it is gold for all three of us.”
The trio has always valued health and wellness, and attribute their continued vitality to physical activity, healthful diets and strong relationships. “It also helped that we picked good wives,” Dan chuckles.
Tom says he limits his intake of red meat and avoids sugar, and points out that all three still play basketball regularly several times a week, often with much younger opponents. “You have to decide who and what you want to be,” Tom adds. “It’s your decision.”
“It’s a high price to pay if you don’t do it,” says Dan, who bikes regularly in addition to playing basketball.
“It’s how you want to be – how you feel about yourself,” John says. “You can be a couch potato or active and healthy. I want to be able to get up every morning, get out of the house, help someone else, volunteer. I love everything I do.”
All three brothers last played together as a team at 2007 National Senior Games in Louisville, Kentucky. They didn’t win a medal, but gained a shared favorite memory.
“We had 43 family members and friends with us,” says Dan. “They were all decked out in silly hats and it is a great memory. Any family event is important, but when it means something to the grandkids…it’s special.”
The fan club with them this year includes Dan’s son Matt, a video producer who was inspired to launch a documentary entitled Winning at Life. Beyond featuring his father’s team, the project explores whether the continued fitness, determination and vitality demonstrated by the Twomey brothers is attainable for all aging adults. His camera crew captured play action as well as comments from other senior athletes explaining what winning at life means to them.
When people begin to age, “It’s not time to put up your feet – it’s time to challenge yourself and keep a positive outlook,” says Matt as he focuses the camera on his father and uncles who are pushing themselves physically and mentally to achieve a shared dream.
It appears the Twomey brothers found gold a long time ago, passing down a true treasure to future generations.
By: Ellen Nason, NSGA Contributor
A New Life in the Spotlight
Julia Hawkins was the main attraction among many signature moments at the Samford University track on Thursday, and not just because she is 101 years old.
When the gunshot sounded for the 50 meter heat that combined 90-94, 95-99 and the 100+ age division Julia held lone possession of, onlookers assumed that she would do her best to plod to the finish line. Instead, the white-haired sprinter shot off the line and left all of the other runners behind, save for “Great Eight” athlete Dottie Gray, who made a valiant effort but ultimately got left in the dust.
Julia sported her gold medal post-race with a gold flower crown to match. Following her medal ceremony she proudly but humbly made her way through fans around the track.
“I’m still astonished,” she relates, admitting that she had no idea that she was winning during the race. The crowd rose loudly to their feet, cheering for all of the elder women who seemed to be doing the impossible. “It was a fun day.”
Before her track star days, Julia was a school teacher, stay-at-home mom, and cyclist. Recently, she has been writing down her life story based on meticulous journals. She routinely recorded her daily life until she reached her 80s, the same age at which her parents passed away. Though she had no clue then, she now knows that her story had only just begun.
“Marry a good man, that’s the first thing to do,” Julia says with a wag of her finger.
Julia started the day in a less than grand fashion, losing her athlete credential and was worrying she wouldn’t be let in the gate to compete. Now family, friends, and other athletes all want their chance to meet the star. To punctuate her achievement, a crew from USA TODAY Humankind captured video and posted Facebook Live reports. The same crew had earlier covered the women’s 90+ shot put competition, focusing on another “Great EIght” athlete, Ann McGowan.
At home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Julia enjoys gardening, attending book club, and going out almost every night with her friends. When asked if they think she’s crazy for doing this at her age, she replied “Some of them do,” with a laugh. “But a lot of them are enthusiastic and tell me ‘Of course you can do it!’” Julia Hawkins will be back to tackle her first 100-meter dash this Saturday at 9 a.m.
By: Caroline Watt
Amanda Scotti: Breaking and Making the News
Track star Amanda Scotti has plenty of gold medals, but she calls 2017 her transition year. Prior to the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana, Amanda spent just one month training. Today, she raced her way into a somewhat uncharacteristic second place, finishing with a time of 7.780 behind Erma Thornhill. As publisher of The National Masters News, she is well aware of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
Amanda attended college in Oregon on a track and field scholarship before transferring to Auburn. During yesterday’s practice, she was startled to recognize a familiar voice from her past, a track coach from Auburn. “I really never thought I would be back in Alabama,” she says. “It’s great.”
After college, Amanda thought her running career was over, until a fellow mom introduced her to masters track competition. This couldn’t have come at a better time for the Folsom, California resident, who was having a difficult time finding friends who preferred sprinting to long distance. Thrilled to be back in spikes, she called all of her college teammates. Almost 25 years later, national masters events and National Senior Games have given Amanda a second chance to compete in a sport she loves.
“Getting back into it was easier; staying healthy is the hard part,” Amanda says.
Unfortunately, she suffered a knee injury in 2011 that took her off the track for a while. When her body is healthy, she spends typically 2-3 days at the track and several days in the gym. Amanda is the current NSGA record holder in the Women’s 55-59 50-meter and has Top Ten finishes in 100- and 200-meter.
“The older you get the more time you have to leave for recovery, it’s a recipe you can’t change,” Amanda says. “You get to a point where you are just so happy you can do it.”
Amanda juggles multiple roles as a mother, runner, and publisher of The National Masters News. She was also elected to the USA Track & Field Masters executive board, which oversees the rules and records of meets across the country. The workload is tough to balance, but she says being able to train and run makes the hard work worth it.
“Most people out here aren’t college athletes anymore. They have families and stories, but that’s part of the fun,” Amanda says. “Their sports career alone is amazing, but it’s incredible just to hear about their lives.”
The future looks bright for Amanda. This year she entered a new age group and is excited to measure her success there. Down the road, Amanda would like to be an Official for USATF. “I just want to do it as long as I can.”
World Records Set: Thursday’s track and Field action produced many other stellar performances, including two world records set by Curt Davison (men’s 90-94 hammer throw) and by 98-year-old Hollyce Kirkland (women’s 95-99 400 meter event.) Click on the link at the top of this page to view complete daily results.
By: Caroline Watt
A Softball Family
Sudden Impact 2-9, 50 and Over, and All In are more than opposing softball teams; they’re a family.
The women are united by the state of California and their love of the sport. All three teams packed their bags for Birmingham in hopes of a spot on the medal stand at the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana. Though on different teams, they travel as one proud entourage.
To showcase their state pride, the group created “California Strong” wristbands to wear during games. “We all play with each other and against each other in Southern California. It’s become a real softball community. So, when we came to the National Senior Games, we decided we wanted to get these bracelets to show our unity,” Linda Franco explains as she holds up her wrist. “Because we are California Strong, and that’s really what it’s about.”
The Sudden Impact 2-9 team member continues to share how the rivals bonded, “Over the years as we’ve played with and against each other, we’ve just become a softball family.” Linda explains that while they are out to win on the field, they love each other off of it.
An example of this family attitude is the special addition to their jerseys. Sudden Impact 2-9 is playing with extra heart this year after losing beloved team member, Vivian, to cancer in December. The players’ jerseys are proudly adorned with a small patch that reads, “Forever in our hearts 2-9” (Vivian’s number).
“It’s a great tribute to Vivian. Since we’ve been wearing the patches, we haven’t lost, which has been really nice. We owe it all to her,” says team member Patty Affriseo. Patty is proud to be a member of such loving group of women, and credits Vivian with their late success.
The “California Strong” wristbands serve as a physical testament of the close relationships the teams have built. They will get down to business and compete over the next seven days to see who flies back to California with a coveted gold medal. Good luck, ladies!
By: Ashley Williams
Batter up! Birmingham Barons Play June 9-15
Take a break from competition and watch the Birmingham Barons at Regions Field. The Barons battle the Mobile BayBears June 9-13 and the Jackson Generals June 14-18. Show your 2017 National Senior Games All-Access Pass for $2 off admission. Get tickets and more information at barons.com.
Just Keep Swimming
At 17, Cindy Januszewski’s life suddenly changed. The young girl was on a double date when a driver ran a red light and t-boned her vehicle. The near-fatal accident gave Cindy a head injury that required many months of rehabilitation.
Though the recovery process was long, she found an outlet for which she is forever thankful: swimming. “If you know anybody that’s grown up with an injury, put them in the water,” recommends Cindy.
Cindy has always been at home in the water. As a sophomore in high school, she swam on her varsity swim team in California. Today, she uses swimming less as rehab and more for fun and exercise. “My dad always says I’m 99 percent better,” she laughs.
Teaching water aerobics classes in Inverness, Florida, keeps Cindy active and in the pool. She also competes on the Hilltoppers swim team.
Cindy credits Hilltoppers coach Gregg Tye with improving her skills so much that she now competes on the national level. “He knows what he’s talking about,” says Cindy. “He watches every stroke.”
At age 50, Cindy is competing in her first National Senior Games. Her friend, Kathleen, encouraged her to get into The Games. “Kathleen got me all signed up and wanted me to do the senior nationals,” says Cindy. “If it wasn’t for her getting me to do it, I don’t know if I ever would’ve.”
Cindy competes in multiple events, including the 200-yard freestyle, 100-, 200- and 400-yard individual medley (IM), 100-yard breaststroke, and the 50-yard fly.
Her husband is here to cheer her on along the way. “He’s been a really good helper,” says Cindy. “He’s here to root me on.”
Cindy loves The Games, and plans to continue competing. She encourages everyone to swim, touting its benefits for people of all ages and skill levels. Swimming helped her recover from a traumatic time, and her gratefulness is evident. “I am just so thankful that I can do what I do,” says Cindy. “I am gonna swim until I’m 95!”
By: Madison Lathum
Humana Game Changer: Zoltan “Z” Zsohar, 70, Dallas, TX
Zoltan “Z” Zsohar has been a cyclist for 30 years. His determination to stay healthy started in his early 30s when he vowed to change his life around and lose weight by following a strict diet. Since then, Z lost over 50 pounds and has competed in 10 marathons. After he developed arthritis in his knees and was no longer able to run, he began focusing on cycling and annually participated in the Hotter “N” Hell 100 in Wichita Falls. Z checked off one of his bucket list items in 2011 by riding the mountain stages of the Tour de France during the tour. He continues to cycle even after a crash in 2016 led to him breaking his collar bone and a few ribs. Z will compete in the 10K Time Trial, 5K Time Trial, 20K Road Race and 40K Road Race at the 2017 National Senior Games.