Photo Gallery | Results | Games in the News | 30th Anniversary
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Veterans Thrilled to Play Non-Ambulatory Sports at National Senior Games
As we reported in the June 4 edition of the 2017 Games Daily News Online, NSGA received a grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs to help disabled veterans cover event registration and travel costs to participate in non-ambulatory event categories for bowling, horseshoes and shuffleboard that were added to National Senior Games in 2015. Some have been regularly participating in the Veterans Golden Age Games, which are a qualifying Games member of NSGA.
As a result, eight veterans, including two women, are participating in non-ambulatory sports at the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana. We caught up with several and heard the same feeling of excitement about being in The Games.
“Oh man, it’s indescribable. It’s been great to go to the Golden Age Games, and now I’m at my first Nationals,” says Sam Thomas of Dublin, Georgia. The 69-year-old lives at a VA facility, and was disabled during Army tours of duty in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. A fellow vet, Ricky Brand, lives there and both took the opportunity to go to The Games to bowl and compete in shuffleboard. Ricky’s wife Gale tells us Ricky cannot speak due to aphasia. “My husband loves bowling,” she says. “He and Sam are best buddies.”
Steve Aoyagi also served in Vietnam and is thrilled to come down from Des Plaines, Illinois to be in the 65-69 shuffleboard competition in Birmingham. “I wouldn’t have even thought about shuffleboard four of five years ago, because I have a disease called spinal bulbar muscular dystrophy, and these last few years it has progressed real fast,” explains Steve. “But now I’m doing a lot of games that are less physical, but involve a lot of thinking and defense and strategy. I love it!”
Sixty-year-old Michael Hieronimczak of Killeen, Texas is a Gulf War veteran who is thrilled to be at The Games to bowl and slide discs on the shuffleboard court. Mike loves the Senior Games extending them a chance to compete because “it helps us stay active instead of just sitting around the house and not becoming couch potatoes.”
Steve sums up similar feelings expressed by the others about the camaraderie and fellowship found at The Games. “Everyone is here to have more of a good time. It’s nice to win a gold or a silver medal but that’s not the first reason for being here. We’re here to have fun.”
By: Gracie Murray and Del Moon
Games Daily Recap
Two Questions With 5K Road Race Athletes
The Games Daily staff thought it would be fun to get inside the heads of the athletes competing in road race events at the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana. Here’s what they found:
L to R: Vanessa Bogenholm, Ray Peif, Mike Schipper, Larry Shaffer, F. Barron.
What favorite song do you listen to when you run or train?
“El Paso by Marty Robbins! [Laughs] That song has been my favorite song since I was 5 years old. I guess it’s because I was really happy and had no worries in life when I was that old!”
-Vanessa Bogenholm, 50-54, Los Gatos, California
“Oh no, I never listen to music while I run. I have to be aware for mother moose and calves, and the brown bears and cubs on the path!”
-Ray Peif, 55-59, Fairbanks, Alaska
“I listen to country music every time I run. My favorites are Miranda Lambert, Lady Antebellum, and Darius Rucker.”
-Mary Astrop, 60-64, Virginia
Do you have a superstition connected with your racing routine?
“I never run in anything that’s new. I always wear something I’ve worked out in.”
-Mike Schipper, 55-59, Lakewood, Ohio
“I’m very particular about how my number goes on. Sometimes I’ll spend 15 -20 minutes getting it square. Then I put my shirt on and it’s not square! I played baseball in high school, so maybe that’s where the superstition comes from.”
-F. Barron,50-54, Macon, Georgia
“I don’t eat anything, so I don’t get sick because I get so nervous.
-Larry Shaffer, 70-74, Georgia
Two Michigan Athletes Realize ‘Wish of a Lifetime’
Bill Brownson and Everett “Ev” Beemer of Holland, Michigan have been living a dream come true at the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana. No, they didn’t haul in a load of medals, it’s much deeper than that. They are just happy to be in Birmingham having the time of their lives together.
The two were neighbors who met while both of their wives were in grave health. The two became close friends and helped each other through their common experience of caregiving their spouses, and then to console one another when both died within a short time of each other. In the process, the men discovered that both had also lost children at an early age. Their bond deepened as they helped each other through loneliness to find the encouragement to bring happiness and joy back into their lives.
Bill, 88, is a lifelong athlete who participates in Michigan Senior Olympics and had managed to make it to Nationals 15 years ago to throw javelin. Knowing that the activity provided some therapy for his well-being, Bill helped Ev, 85 return to throwing shot put as the younger man had done in high school. They both mused about going to the National Senior Games, but the dream seemed distant for two men living on fixed incomes.
Enter Wish of A Lifetime, a non-profit foundation that provides grants for seniors to realize their dreams. Both were nominated for their wish by an associate at their Brookdale senior living community. Since 2010, Brookdale, who operates facilities around the country housing 100,000 residents, has partnered with Wish of a Lifetime to provide wish grants to more than 800 seniors.
Bill and Ev’s wish was granted, and the pair were registered and travel arranged. “It was hard to believe,” Bill says. “We both feel very thankful to do this.
Their story caught the attention of the media, as a crew from TODAY.com was at the track stadium to catch them in action. The story is expected to appear online soon.
To make their trip even more special, Michigan Senior Olympics selected the men to have the honor of carrying the state flag in the Parade of Athletes entrance into last Friday’s Celebration of Athletes. “When we heard about this, it just made sense to do something extra to celebrate that two athletes from our state were getting this assistance,” says Becky Ridky, executive director. “Ev is a Michigan native, so we are proud to help him and Bill have an unforgettable experience.”
By: Del Moon
It’s Wayne’s World
“Every day is a good day.”
So says Wayne Rosenthal, retired brigadier general for the Air National Guard and softball devotee. He carries this philosophy on life due to a near-death accident during his military service.
“We were down in Gulfport, Mississippi for a flight exercise in 1986,” he recounts. “Normally you are five miles out when you get turned over to the tower. Well, we got turned over inside of three miles.” His voice quickens and a spark comes into his eyes as he describes the details of how his airplane touched the tail of another aircraft in front of them, causing his plane to veer underneath the other.
“The airplane is 65 feet long, and the sequence of the seats to eject is one second apart,” he continues. “I went out [ejected] at 15 G’s. The time between when I pulled the handle to when I hit the ground was six seconds.” Wayne wasn’t exaggerating when he called this a “near death experience.” His story is exciting, but nonetheless horrifying. But he has long since put it into perspective.
“I’ve had more take-offs than landings,” he jokes.
Wayne flew F4’s in the Air Guard for eighteen years. He now enjoys his retirement and lives an active lifestyle. A family man, Wayne has kept busy devoting time to America’s pastime. “I’ve coached baseball for 25 years, and I ran leagues for age eight and under.” He has raised and coached three grown sons of his own who still live close to Wayne and his wife in Morrisonville, Illinois.
Due to years of military service and his hometown reputation, Wayne was encouraged to run for the Illinois House of Representatives. “So all these people knew me. I wasn’t involved in politics, but they voted for me because they knew me,” he says. “I represented the people and reflected their values, which makes it really easy,” says Wayne.
Wayne left political office to be the director of the Department of Natural Resources in his home state. Growing up on a farm in Illinois, Wayne developed a love for the outdoors. He spends most of his time farming and tending to his hunting preserve on his 1,000 acre farm.
Just coming off a double header win for the Springfield Railsplitters, Wayne was in good spirits. “I’m just happy to be able to go out and play. This is the sixth tourney that we have gone to. It’s a lot of the same guys. It’s an opportunity to still get out and play.”
By: Gracie Murray
It Takes The Villages
The Villages is a super-sized retirement development in Central Florida between Ocala and Orlando. Its popularity has steadily increased, making it the fastest growing community in the United States, boasting a population of more than 157,000.
Each year, The Villages, also known as “Disney World for adults,” has its own Senior Games and sends a large contingent to the Florida State Games and The National Senior Games. The number is so large that in 2013 and 2015 that The Villages Daily Sun newspaper has sent a reporter and photographer to follow its residents’ competitions. In 2017, with Birmingham in driving range, a record number of 218 athletes are participating from The Villages area. With Florida’s total number at 868, the community represents 25 percent of the state’s athletes in national competition.
“Pretty much every sport they have up here, Villagers are competing in,” says Tyler Breman, a journalist for The Daily Sun. Tyler says the paper’s distribution is currently more than 55,000.
Other athletes notice the mass of residents competing from the sprawling community that features many organized sports clubs, 63 recreation centers, 540 holes of golf, and more than 100 miles of golf cart paths and a climate that allows for year-round activities.
“I love this assignment,” Tyler says. “To get to travel and see them compete – and do well – against other athletes around the nation is incredible.”
By: Caroline Watt
Humana Game Changer: Hiro Moriyasu, 70, Los Angeles, CA
Hiro is a strong believer in embodying “no pain, no gain” to stay young and describes “challenge” as his favorite word. As an avid table tennis player and runner, Hiro is accustomed to setting and achieving goals despite any health obstacles in his way. He started playing table tennis at the age of 16 in Japan, where his team ranked within the top 16 nationally. A muscle injury didn’t deter him from running the Boston Marathon, which he did twice after recovering. Hiro keeps busy by alternating between exercising and tutoring students in English/Japanese. Hiro will compete in table tennis and the 5K road race at the 2017 National Senior Games.