SportsEvents Magazine

SEP 2017

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Page 38 of 59 September 2017 39 t SPORT Report "We had over 10,500 register for the 2017 Games in Birmingham," Riker said. "Our partnerships with the City of Birmingham, Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau and Knight Eady proved to be a successful combination in producing a very successful and memorable event for the 30th anniversary of the Games." Sauer said you don't have to be an elite athlete to participate in Senior Games. Those who are interested can simply get involved in whatever is offered near them, in whatever sports they like. During the two weeks of competitions, 800 events are contested within 19 medal sports, ranging from track and field to archery to pickleball, one of the most popular competitions. "There are swimmers just starting out that are going to Senior Games, just like I was 20 years ago," she said. Sauer said a blind woman who started swimming because her doctor told her to lose weight comes in "dead last every time but gets more applause than anyone." That's because the Games celebrates participants for being there, she said. At a time when many older adults are experiencing a poor quality of life, Sauer said being active offers an alternative. But she understands that lack of energy and enthusiasm. At 40, Sauer weighed 240 pounds. "I kind of thought life was done. I felt old. I thought 'There's not much more.'" That was before she stepped into the pool at a recreation center near her Houston home. "I feel much more engaged in life now," she said. "When I was overweight, I lacked vitality. Swimming has given me so much of that. "I get to feel young again," she said. "I want other people, as they are aging, to have as much fun as I'm having." And that's what Senior Games is all about: motivating senior men and women to lead a healthy lifestyle. There is still time to train and qualify at the local and state levels. The next National Senior Games are in 2019 and will be hosted by Albuquerque, N.M. As Baby Boomers mature, organizers expect to see growth in the Games over the next several years. "We are in the early process of researching and learning of potential host cities for 2021 and beyond," Riker said. Participants are required to qualify in one of 53-member Games in the year before the National Senior Games are held. Local programs are run through city recreation centers, YMCAs and other sites such as Jewish community centers. Those who would like more information about programs nearby can visit the National Senior Games Association website: As much as she loves competing and winning medals, Sauer gets more from swimming than just the physical and mental challenge. It's also a social activity. "I love my teammates. I love my coaches. They are very knowledgeable and very vested in me. They want to see me be successful," she said. "Some of the people I swim with are 20 years younger than I am but we are equal in the pool." As it happens, taking a leap into the pool helped her step out in other ways, too. She is more active with her three granddaughters, and she volunteers as a mentor to high-risk high school students and as a tutor at a Hispanic community center. "I don't want to be invisible. And I'm not," Sauer said. n ABOVE: The Twomey brothers competed on the same 80-plus men's basketball team at this year's Senior Games. BELOW: Running icon Kathrine Switzer is pictured on the left at the finish line of the 10K at the 2017 National Senior Games, held in June in Birmingham, Ala. She was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as a numbered entry 50 years ago and was the keynote speaker at the Games' Celebration of Athletes.

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