The Games Daily - July 10, 2015

 2015 Games Photos - 2015 Games in the News - 2015 Games Results

100 Meter Dashed

by Cara Desmond and Dan Piering

Bob Whildon had the standout performance among standout performances in the 100 meter events at Thursday’s track and field competition at St. Thomas University as he smashed the NSGA all time record for men’s 80-84 100 meter race with a time of 14.71. The previous high mark of 15.33 was set by Harry Brown in 2011.

Other records set in the 100 meter race today include:

  • Women 75-79: Kathy Bergen, 76, of California
    Time for 100m dash: 16.47, beating the previously held record of 16.66 by Irene Obera in 2009
  • Men 90-94: Melvin Larsen, 91, of Iowa
    Time for 100m dash: 19:01, beating the previously held record of 19.28 by Champion Goldy in 2007
  • Men 95-99: Harold Bach, 95, of North Dakota
    Time for 100m dash: 24.44, beating the previously held record of 25.79 by D. Paul Miller in 2013
  • Men 100+: Fred Winter, 100, of Michigan
    Time for 100m dash: 42.38, becoming the first man over 100 in Senior Games history to complete the 100m dash

Additionally, Bob Lida, a 79-year old from Wichita, Kansas, took gold in the men’s 75-79 100 meter race with a time of 14.39, capturing the seventh-best slot in NSGA history. He did not beat himself in the category as Lida holds the top two spots set in 2013 and 2011. Lida also has NSGA records in the men’s 75-79 200 and 400 meter races. He set these records during the 2013 Games, breaking his own
 records set at the 2011 Games. World-wide, he also holds five world records in various running events.

What motivates Lida to train so much? He described his first Senior Games experience when he was 60 and got fifth in the 200 meter. “I just said ‘This won’t happen again. This won’t happen again.’ I remember that race more than any of them.”



Barbara Gicquel: “It Has to Be Gold”

by Andrew Ruffing

History books state that the California Gold Rush ended a long time ago. Don’t tell that to Barbara “B.J.” Gicquel, 75, from Salinas, California, who continues to mine “precious medals.”

Gicquel won the gold medal in the women’s 75 to 79 age group in the 20 kilometer cycling race held on Wednesday at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds as part of the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana. She also mined gold Tuesday in the 40 kilometer race, which will join two gold medals won in the 2013 Games. This is impressive since she has only been prospecting as a cycling competitor since 2002, but she has made the most as this year marks her seventh National Senior Games.

Earlier in her life Gicquel, a psychologist and marriage counselor, played other sports - high school basketball, volleyball, swimming. For many years she raced horses in endurance competitions. She didn’t turn to biking until 1997. She’d been a smoker for 30 years, quitting in 1988, and wanted a way to keep her lungs healthy. The aerobic exercise of biking was the right prescription.

Twice she got into bike accidents, in 2008 and 2012. The first one left her with a titanium rod from her left knee to her ankle. This frequently slows things down at airport security checks, but it hasn’t slowed Gicquel down as she set cycling records the following year.

Gicquel settles for nothing but the best, and neither sweat nor fractures diminish her competitive spirit. “My goal has to be gold,” she said. “You know, I don’t have a choice anymore. It has to be gold.”

John Tatum: From Foggy Bottom to Twin Cities Gold 

by Eric Todd

John Tatum of Washington D.C., a longtime favorite with fellow senior swimmers, took the gold Thursday in the 50-meter Freestyle and 50-meter Breaststroke during the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana at the University of Minnesota’s Aquatic Center.

Being a top competitive swimmer at age 96 is a great accomplishment, all the more so because he says black kids growing up in the Foggy Bottom area of Washington, D.C. in the 1920s and 1930s could not use the public pools. “I never had any structured swimming classes as a young person. There were no pools for us so we’d just swim any place we could,” Tatum said.

Tatum taught himself how to swim around the age of 10 and admits he picked up some bad habits. “Swimming in the Potomac River is different than swimming here; you never put your face down,” Tatum said. He recalls, with a laugh, that a swim coach told him about 12 years ago he needs to “unlearn all the bad things about the way you swam.”

Tatum is excited to be visiting the Twin Cities for his first time. He says the area is beautiful, and is especially impressed with the size and beauty of the University of Minnesota’s campus. “It's just wonderful, it’s overwhelming,” said Tatum.

This marks the seventh National Senior Games for Tatum. Yesterday’s gold was hard earned as he faced stiff competition from silver medalist Howard Hall, 95 of Frankfort, Kentucky, and Tom Milroy, 96 of South Dakota, who took bronze.

Both Tatum and Hall have been featured athletes in NSGA’s Personal Best health and wellness initiative. Read their stories and many others at

Tatum commented that the swampy area in Foggy Bottom where he was not allowed to use the public pools is now the site of the U.S. State Department. He is amazed to think about the changes he has witnessed in nine decades.



3 Questions with Jerry LeVasseur, 77, Maine, Competing in Road Race, Track and Field


What’s your first impression of Minnesota? What do you want to see while you’re here?

I’m on the National Senior Games Board, so I was here last year. I love it. There’s great pubs! I want to go to the art museum and maybe hear the symphony. I heard them last time I was here and they’re really nice and Orchestra Hall is a neat place.

What’s so special at National Senior Games for you?

It helps people stay active and healthy as you age and live a better lifestyle through competition.

What’s the greatest benefit you get from being a senior athlete?

To be a senior athlete you have to stay fit. I’ve had four cancers in the last five years and I’m still here, I think because I’m still fit. I started when I was 55 so I’ve been doing this for 22 years.


Extra Innings for All

Softballers get themselves and others back in the game
by Matt Oleszczak

Some 30 years after giving up baseball, Bill Altman started a senior softball league in San Antonio, Texas. Now, that league itself is approaching the 30 year mark. With 34 teams and the largest membership of any senior softball league in the nation, it’s an accomplishment Altman can be proud of.

“I didn’t know anything about slow-pitch until ’87,” Altman said. “Then I heard the [Texas] Senior Games were coming to San Antonio. And I thought, why don’t we form a team?’” Since the league’s inception, he’s taken part in five national tournaments. His team hasn’t won one yet, but their younger counterparts in the league have shown promise. “They go to these tournaments and they’re winners—winning big tournaments. The 60+ and 65+ team have won national ones.” Altman’s influence and inspiration to so many earned him recognition as an NSGA Personal Best athlete in 2013.

The San Antonio Seniors Softball League (SASSL) has even inspired the formation of other leagues. These leagues joined to help form the Alamo City Travelers team for the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana. Joining Altman on this team is his Ken Weber, of Kerrville, Texas.

Weber helped start a new league when he and four others grew tired of all the traveling involved in the SASSL. Speaking about how to start a league, Weber said, “Somebody has to take a hold of the group, you have to publicize in the community, and start recruiting at senior centers, health clubs, churches.” Altman added, “If you got an organizer willing to put the time in, if there are enough players, you can do it.”

Weber said, “Just get the word out. First year we had three teams, second we had four, last two years we’ve had five teams in a town of 23,000 people. That’s pretty good, but we ought to have eight teams. That’s our goal.”

Altman and Weber agree, age shouldn’t have to be a barrier. “A lot of seniors have played ball before. And for one reason or another they just quit years ago. You got to get them back into the sport,” said Altman.

Weber noted that some seniors have knee injuries or similar issues. But noted there are courtesy runners who can help them with the base-running and that “if you can get them to the field, you’ve got 90% of the battle won. It’s just getting them out there.”

Thursday morning, the Alamo City Travelers lost their first game of the day, 2-7. Weber just has to remember his own advice, “Don’t ever get discouraged. Sometimes you feel like, ‘let’s just chuck this. You’ve got to keep after it. Because every time there’s a down, there’s a big up that comes after.”

Bonus Tracks

Oh, to be 100 again!
by Cara Desmond
On Wednesday, the oldest athlete in the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana faced off against another elder competitor as the 100+ age group javelin throw was videotaped by NBC Weekend TODAY Show cameras. As one might expect, John Zilverberg and his younger opponent Frederick Winters attracted quite a crowd of reporters and photographers, all wanting to talk with the only centenarians in track and field.

Zilverberg is a World War II veteran and a retired cattle breeder. This year, in addition to javelin, he is competing hammer throw, discus, and shot put, plus fitting in time for bowling singles. In 2010, he was inducted into the South Dakota Senior Games Hall of Fame for his achievements.

His love for competition keeps bringing him back each year. Two of his daughters came to watch him compete in the javelin throw on Wednesday, all of them dressed in matching shirts that said “Oh, to be 100 again.” In August, Zilverberg, of South Dakota, will celebrate his 102nd birthday.

He got his start in track and field forty years ago, when he wanted to see how he could compare physically among other men his age. “Frankly, field and track, I knew nothing about it. So I studied their techniques. And in the seventies I got nothing…and now in the two-thousands, I’m getting gold,” he said.

Joining him at the games were many of his children and grandchildren, all wearing shirts that said “Go Fred!” on the front. Winter said he loves being able to travel with his family and bring them all together.

Winter spoke about his time in the army, his college years, and even his favorite books from a high school English class. He said, “You know, they say when you’re a hundred, you lose track of some of that stuff. But I hold on.”

At the javelin event, Winter took gold and Zilverberg took silver. However, when they faced off again at the discus finals on Thursday the tables turned and gold belonged to Zilverberg. Friday’s shot put finals will determine who has bragging rights until 2017.

Veteran (and Veteran) Tracksters of Note

By Cara Desmond and Dan Piering
There were two other elder tracksters who have been recognized nationally and internationally for their achievements that the Daily caught up with during Thursday’s track and field action at St. Thomas University. Both also distinguished themselves serving our country.

In 1968, Tom Lough competed in the modern pentathlon (an event that involves fencing, a 200-meter freestyle swim, show jumping, pistol shooting, and a 3200-meter cross-country run) at the summer Olympics in Mexico City. Then in 1969 he was stationed in Vietnam, and was later awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service. Now at the age of 72, Lough continues to enjoy the rush of track competition, taking a silver medal in the men’s 70-74 1500 meter event and just missing the podium with a fourth place finish in the 800 meter.

91-year-old Connecticut native Raoul Rodriques put in a silver medal effort in the men’s 90-94 long jump event Thursday. In 2014, after suffering a heart attack, it looked as if though Rodriques would not be able to compete this year. However, his overall physical fitness allowed him recover quickly and will his way back to the 2015 Games.

During World War II, Rodriques received a near-deadly leg injury. “He had to fight back to even be walking. They thought he was dead,” said his friend, Dan O’Donnell. Because of his injury, Rodriques decided to pursue academics and became a high school shop teacher. Years later, after the lower part of his foot was amputated, he started his athletic training. “My children inspired me,” he said.

He still runs 800 meters a day and will spend up to 20 hours training each week. In his time competing, he’s won more than 100 medals, including a silver in this years’ long-jump, and was named the Connecticut Master’s Games 2014 Athlete of the year.






Saturday’s Empower Hour to feature President’s Council Director, Member

Athletes who gather to share ideas at the second Personal Best Empower Hour Saturday, July 10 at 3 pm will enjoy hearing the perspectives of Shelli Pfohl, executive director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, and PCFSN Council Member Dr. Stephen McDonough.

The interactive program, to be held on the Goodman Group Stage at The Village: A Health and Wellness Expo and Athlete Experience, will feature several athletes who have been featured in NSGA’s Personal Best health and wellness initiative. Leurene Hildenbrand, Donna Gonzales, Larry Johnson, Jane Kaiser, Bob O’Connor, Mike Adsit and John C. Taylor are expected to swap stories and spark conversation about how we all can better inspire and encourage others to get on the fitness path and pursue individual Personal Best lifestyles.

“We do not view this as a program showcasing only our recognized Personal Best athletes,” NSGA CEO Marc T. Riker explains. “We want each and every athlete and visitor who attends to feel part of the program and invited to share their own stories and ideas during the hour.”

Pfohl, who visited The Games in 2013 and is eager to see more action this year, will share a brief update on progress being made by the Council to advocate senior fitness. McDonough, an avid runner who once climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, came to The Games to watch 95 -year-old fellow North Dakotan Harold Bach compete in track and field.

Door Prizes will be awarded at the end of the fun hour of sharing.

The Village: There Are Mind Games Here Too

The 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana are good for the body, but every day at The Village: A Health and Wellness Expo and Athlete Experience, there is plenty to feed the mind as well.

Consider Perry Castillano, who spoke on the Goodman Group Main Stage yesterday. Castillano is the director of strength and training for the Minnesota Twins. His job is to oversee the year-round conditioning of mostly 20-something professional athletes, in whom their teams have invested millions of dollars. He showed video of the Twins’ conditioning facility at their spring training home in Ft. Myers, Florida. He called it the “most unbelievable facility in professional sports.”

So what does the conditioning of a 25-year-old shortstop earning millions have to do with senior athletes? Castillano said whatever your age, if you are interested in fitness you need to find ways to make your body move, all the time. He said it’s important to know your medical status, to be aware of what you can’t or shouldn’t do as well as what you can do.

Today, one of the compelling talks on the Goodman Stage will be at 10 a.m. Dave Nimmer will present “The Home Stretch: A Spiritual Journey.” Nimmer says it’s a collection of choices and challenges in lives where business cards no longer matter, and pre-existing conditions do. A former prominent Minnesota journalist and journalism professor, Nimmer now writes for Good Age Magazine.

Senior Games Pioneers Receive Distinguished Servic...
The Games Daily - July 9, 2015
01 September 2019
Athlete of the Month
Alice Walker, 87, Chester, South Carolina Editor’s Note: NSGA is a partner to promoting National Falls Prevention Awareness Day each Septemb...
16 August 2019
Athlete of the Month
David Salazar, 69, Cedar Crest, New Mexico NSGA’s official highlights video from the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana sought t...
15 July 2019
Athlete of the Month
Bob Shannon, 66,  Alameda, CA and  Jeff Johanson, 65,  Arnold, CA It’s not that unusual for senior athletes to know others from their youthf...
25 June 2019
News and Events
Press Releases
Track & Field elite Kathy Bergen leads the way with eight high marks ALBUQUERQUE, NM, June 25, 2019 - As the 2019 National Senior Games ...