Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Let the games begin...


For several years we heard friends, Dalya and Paul, talk about the Huntsman World Senior Games, where they won many gold medals in Square Dancing.  Then Beth mentioned friends who went every year to play pickleball, and our (Howard’s) interest became piqued.  Howard is a jogger, has been for many years, slow and steady, consistent, running 5 miles 2 or 3 times a week.  Pace seldom varies unless a few lbs. or altitude sneak up.  We are “sea level” people!  But engineer that he is, figured the law of averages, thermodynamics, or whatever, was in his favor. There can’t be many participants in his age category; 75-79.  Ha…

Howard...my hero!

So we started doing some background checking.   The World Senior Games was founded by John H. Morgan, Jr. in 1987 as an international senior sports competition for folks 55 and older.  He and his wife, Daisy, both agreed that the Golden Years were better when good health and physical fitness became a way of life, not an occasional hobby.  In 1989 Jon M. Huntsman, President of the Huntsman Corporation, became the Games’ principal sponsor after recognizing that the Games not only fostered lifetime fitness, but also expanded Utah’s economic vitality.

Now, 26 years later, this huge event, held annually in October, attracts 10,000+ athletes from 65 countries.  Thousands of volunteers and sponsors come together to put on a spectacular series of events, starting with the Opening Ceremonies held at Dixie State College (soon to be University).  Sports categories range from bowling, to volleyball, triathlons, road races, track and field, cycling, golf, swimming, to yes, square dancing and pickleball, and held at very impressive sports complexes throughout the greater St. George area.

We had no intention of missing the Opening Ceremonies that had been rained out 2 years ago.  This beautiful night unfolded with  heartfelt pride, joy, and super entertainment, starting with the parade of athletes, then great music and dancers, even skydivers landing on the Hansen Stadium field. The guest speaker was Morgan Shepherd, NASCAR  racing legend.  Words of welcome from the mayor, the Utah state governor, and Huntsman’s son, David, were enlightening and inspirational .  By far for us, the Flag Extravaganza, representing dancing flags from all 65 countries, was the most spectacular.  The night ended with the torch bearer and lighting of the cauldron, then a major fireworks display…..WOW!

Parade of Athletes

Skydiver lands...in a blur!

Super entertainment

Flag extravaganza...65 countries!

Fireworks finale!

Howard has two events, the 10 and 5K road races.  The 10K was held in beautiful Snow Canyon.  The drill was to drive Howard out to Ivins; about 9 miles away from the Temple View RV Park where we were now staying, and drop him off for the shuttle ride up into the canyon.  Knowing that at his pace it would take him about an hour and a half to complete, and with the race starting at 8:30 a.m., I needed to be back before 10 a.m. for his finish.  Giving myself plenty of time I decided to drive up to Snow Canyon for some shots of Howard running in that colorful red rock background.  A few runners came by, but no Howard.  

It’s getting close to 10 so I drove on to Ivins only to find that the road had been closed and I had to park several blocks away.  I grabbed my camera and headed for the City Park, where runners began crossing the finish line…but no Howard.  I heard sirens and realized I had left my phone in the car, and hurried back.  OK, long story short, I panicked and was about to go looking for him, when finally he arrived.  I later found out the race had been delayed by half an hour.  We went on to enjoy the great breakfast and awards presentation.  I should add that in Howard’s age category there were a few sprinters who finished in under an hour!  We’re impressed and a bit overwhelmed by these super seniors.

Yay Barbados...love their country!

Dancing Trinidad!

And they're off...

Go #271!

Seriously?

79, Gold Medal..but who's counting!

The 5K was held a few days later at the Confluence Park along the Virgin River Trail System.  Now this was fun!  There was lots of food, music, and dancing, with that great group of folks from Barbados, where we traveled last November, and our lady friend from Trinidad whom we met two years ago.  We also met a lady from San Carlos, near our town of Half Moon Bay, in San Mateo County.  She was participating in the 5K while her husband was off playing softball.  He is 72 with pancreatic cancer which recently spread to his liver.  After so many chemo rounds, what kept him focused was returning to play his beloved game of softball.  

Sitting with a group during breakfast, exchanging stories, I was asked which event I participated in. Oh no events, just here for support; official fan, you know!  Well, how old are you?  Hmmm....just turning 69 in a few days!  She was 79 and won the Gold Medal with a time of 32:32! Yeah, there was the race and it was super, but this event was somehow more personal.  Hmmm...I'm thinking maybe swimming?

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