Torch Meets Fireworks: National Senior Games Kick Off With A Bang
by Andrew Ruffing – Photo by Mikailn Rae Perry
The 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana officially started in grand style when the torch appeared over the Mississippi River as athletes, supporters and fireworks fans cheered Saturday night.
Minnesota tennis and track and field competitor Cal Schadel, 86, lit the cauldron on the Third Avenue Bridge at 9:30 p.m. after being handed the torch by 71 year old triathlete Pat Lillihei who arrived from the shoreline.
To add a touch of authenticity to the spirit of the flame, the torch was designed by champion Senior Games pickleballer Jack Nortz. The torch traveled by Amtrak on a five-city “whistle stop tour” on its way to The Games, including Washington D.C., New York City, Cleveland, Chicago and Milwaukee. The Cauldron Lighting was followed by the annual “Red, White and Boom” community fireworks display.
The Flame Arrival Ceremony sponsored by AstraZeneca Diabetes at Nicollet Island Pavilion was preceded by free family activities and live music at Mill Ruins Park and Father Hennepin Bluffs Park.
Attendees listened to welcoming comments from Minnesota Local Organizing Co-Chairs Susan Adams Loyd and Dave Mona, and Humana’s Field Vice President of Contracting in Minnesota Paul Zenner.
National Senior Games CEO Marc T. Riker highlighted how the National Senior Games and the Twin Cities are a great fit. “The Twin Cities has been ranked No. 2 in the 2015 American Fitness Index of the American College of Sports Medicine,” he said, “so one of the fittest communities in America will host the fittest senior athletes. We think that deserves a medal!”
Seniors Are Off to the (Road) Races
by Andrew Ruffing – Photo (left) by Benjamin Moris – Photo (right) by Shannon Neilon
Athletes participating in the 10K Road Race event were some of the first out of the starting blocks for the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana.
Seniors from across the country woke up early Saturday to meet and race each other at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul, beginning at 8 a.m. Some had simple goals for the race. Joe Barger, 90, from Austin, Texas said he had one simple goal: “Finish.”
The competitive spirit was evident. Wanda Gau, 53, from Little Falls, Minnesota said this is her first time being in The Games. She said she has been running for 10 years and said, “I’d really like to see how I stack up against the others in our country.”
Some seniors had their own goals and motivations to participate in The Games. Triathlete and Road Racer Karen Newman, 54, of South Burlington, Vermont, said The Games are an “Olympic movement for seniors.” She said they’re an opportunity to keep getting better and challenge themselves despite their ages. A cancer survivor who will speak at The Games’ Personal Best Empower Hour on Monday, Newman said, “We all have so much courage, we just need to be tapped and then find out how brave we really are.”
Minnesotan Polly Frank, 68, said she was “honored to run with these people.” She said she originally started running because she was an alcoholic and running helped her stop drinking. She said “if it wasn’t for running, I’d be dead.” One of her goals was to make her grandson proud of her.
Frank had something to say to younger people to motivate them in the future: “Love yourself enough to take care of yourself so that you can run in a race like this. You only have this life.”
Archers Aiming for the Bullseye
by Cara Desmond – Photo by Jessica Gallagher
With bows ready, more than 120 athletes gathered on the fields at St. Thomas Academy on the Fourth of July for their first official day of archery competition that will extend to nine days. Archers shot with compound release bows, one of five styles athletes can compete in at the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana.
Friday gave the bowmen (and ladies) a practice round, and then all athletes compete in a scored round on Independence Day. The top four archers from each age division will next shoot a second round to determine the winners.
83 year old Jack Cason, who has previously won two gold medals in The National Senior Games, is expected to proceed to the second round on July 5. This marks his fifth year participating in The Games. He spoke highly of his fellow athletes. “You meet a lot of nice people, and you look forward to seeing them at the next Nationals.”
The oldest archer at the event, Charlie Edwards, 96, is the only competitor in the 95-99 age division. He stumbled into the sport three years ago when he met Cason in an elevator at their retirement home in Springfield, Virginia.. “He had one of those cases and it was a funny shape, and I asked what it was,” Edwards said. “I borrowed a bow and some arrows and I loved it.”
After shooting six arrows at a target, the marksmen walk the length of the field to get their score and retrieve their arrows. The competitors help each other pull the arrows out and, when a shot misses its mark, they search for missing arrows in the grass. One archer, Lori Buenger said, “The best thing I like is the camaraderie. We’re all competing, but we all help each other.”
Who Are You Calling A Mall Walker? – Athletes Participate in a Mall-Walk Promotional Video
Smiling each step of the way, 71-year-old Pat Lillehei ran her way around the Mall of America, interacting with several other athletes. She sprinted past 81-year-old basketball player Edwina Dennis, and ducked under a volley between 66 year-old tennis players Tim Burke and Dave Matthews.
But it’s far from just fun and games for these athletes. Pat and the others were filming a promotional video for The 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana, in which they’re all competitors.
The entertaining video produced by Humana features National Senior Games senior athletes turning heads and defying stereotypes at the Mall of America. Views on social media are growing daily as people like and share the whimsical one-minute video.
“It was tons of fun because I’d never done that before,” said Lillehei about the experience. “The people working on the video were very professional, and knew what they were doing. They were also very spontaneous, and kind of invented things as they went along. They had a ton of ideas.”
This is Lillehei’s first National Senior Games, and she’ll be competing as a triathlete and a swimmer. “To enjoy life, you need to be ambulatory, and need to move through it,” she said.However, it wasn’t until 2008 that Pat started competing. After her daughter asked her to ride in a cycling fundraiser for multiple sclerosis, Pat began doing triathlons. Family has always been a focus for Pat. “I do this to play,” she said. “And to water-ski with my grandkids.”
3 Questions – Jerry Gammill, 72, Washington State, Competing in 10K Road Race
By: Amy Adamle
What’s your first impression of Minnesota? What do you want to see while you’re hear?
I’m glad it’s not as hot as I thought it would be and not a lot of mosquitos. I’m primarily just here for the competition.
What’s so special at National Senior Games for you?
It’s keeping people healthy and active. You also make a lot of friends competing.
What’s the greatest benefit you get from being a senior athlete?
I’m the defending gold medal winner for 70-74 age group and I’m hoping to repeat. It helps me stay healthy and fit.
Bringing You The Daily News – The People Behind the Cameras and Keyboards
By Dan Piering
Every day you read the 2015 Games Daily News that, documents the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana. You look at pictures and ready about sports, athletes and events, But where are all these stories and photos coming from?
Throughout The Games, a team of nine reporters and 14 photographers and videographers are working hard so that every morning you can read about fellow athletes, both online and in the print Daily distributed in the Village. The reporters are students or recent graduates of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. The photographers and videographers are from the Brooks Institute of Photography in Ventura, California. This is the first year the University of Minnesota has been involved; the Brooks Institute is now covering The Games for the fourth time.
For these students, covering The Games is part of a class or internship. In the case of Brooks Institute, Zachary Kelly, a visual journalism student, noted that “each student had to submit a series of 5 to 20 images. Then we were chosen from those submissions.” Each day, the students are given a list of assignments throughout Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Bloomington, where various athletic events take place. “It’s a very different type of internship,” University of Minnesota Junior Amy Adamle said. “It’s short but engaging, and they really throw you in. I think that’s what I like best about it.” Editors from faculty of each University then edit the drafts of each assignment. After they are edited, they go to staff in the NSGA Media Center, where they are reviewed once more, and then published.
“The online Daily News provides information and features to both athletes and participants, as well as to friends and family around the country,” said Del Moon, the NSGA Communications and Media Director. “The purpose is provide an impression of the spirit of competition and camaraderie that makes The Games so unique. We also enjoy the energy, enthusiasm and enterprise exhibited by these bright young professionals.”
Judo Kicks Off Competition
The Minneapolis Convention Center featured a blur of throws and slams to the mat when Judo made its National Senior Games debut as a demonstration sport yesterday.
“We’re ecstatic to be here! This is a natural,” said Corinne Shigemoto, COO for USA Judo, the organization that fosters the sport nationally and builds the U.S. Olympic Judo Team under the United States Olympic Committee. “We’ve been an Olympic sport since 1964, and we have many adults who pursue judo well into their senior years. “Once a black belt, always a black belt.”
SAFE Screenings Popular Among Athletes
By Joey Erickson – Photo by Marie Eriel Hobro
For the third time, the National Senior Games is offering the Senior Athlete Fitness Exam (SAFE) screenings.
Becca Jordre, M.D., a board certified Geriatric Specialist and faculty member at the University of South Dakota, developed the screenings as a way to connect with senior athletes. Jordre arranged for local physical therapists and physical therapy students to offer the SAFE screenings during The Games in Minnesota. “They just want to interact with the senior athletes,” Jordre said.
Although the SAFE screenings have been busy, they are getting a positive reaction from the athletes who have completed the activity. “We did almost a day’s worth of tests [Friday] morning,” Jordre said.
SAFE first appeared at the 2011 National Senior Games presented by Humana. It’s a research activity intended to promote continued health and wellness in senior athletes. The screening looks at four areas of athlete health: cardiovascular health, flexibility, strength, and balance. It takes about 20 minutes to complete and athletes can receive their results by email.
SAFE is located at The Village: A Health and Wellness Expo and Athlete Experience sponsored by AstraZeneca Diabetes.