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Utah Leads the World in Senior Games  
By Dian Thomas

It seems like I have heard about the Huntsman Senior Games in St George for ever. Never did it cross my mind to go and participate until I went to China for a month and watched how healthy and fit the seniors are in China . I told a friend that in the four weeks that I was in China, I could not count on one hand seeing five overweight people.

It seems to me that being healthy is just a way of life for the Chinese. When you walk down many streets, you see two or three pieces of outdoor exercise equipment on the streets for people to use while they are waiting for a bus or just out for a stroll. In Beijing alone, there are 14 million people and 10 million bikes. If you saw my articles about China you will know how amazing and healthy seniors are there. Here is a link to the article that I wrote about a park I went to in Beijing. I came home from China a "Born Again Health Advocate", hence a trip to the Huntsman Senior games was soon on the list of things for me to do this year.

The games are held every year during the first two weeks of October and over 10,000 people come to participate, while a thousand volunteers help with the games. I heard that there were over 23 countries that were represented in the games this year. Over 100 people came from Barbados alone. There were 311 softball teams. While I was in St George for the games, I did not see a baseball diamond that did not have a game with seniors playing.


Over 100 Athletes from Barbados


Athlete waving to the crowd

Here is a list of the sports that one could participate in. As you read the list, check out the ones that you could do, if you are over fifty and come and join me next year. There were archery, badminton, basketball, bowling, bridge, cowboy shoot (that sounds fun),cycling, golf, horseshoes, lawn bowling, mountain biking, pickle ball, race walking, racquet ball, road races, softball, square dancing, swimming, table tennis, tennis, track and field, triathlon, volleyball, and walking tours.

For me it was one of the most exciting things I did this year. It was just fun to see so many active seniors. An opening ceremonies kicked off the two weeks of events. All of the athletes marched in carrying a flag.

I am marching with the Athletes

Lining the track to greet all the athletes were hundreds of kids from the community holding helium-filled balloons with their messages tied to strings all ready to let fly.

Balloon and kids lining the track

Kids had message for each balloon

The program was filled with exciting events all the way from a marching band from Las Vegas to a flag dance of countries and the lighting of the torch.


Flag dance


Lighting of the torch

I heard one participant say it felt so much like participating in the Olympics. The fun thing for me to watch were all the different ages of healthy people still enjoying the good life. I met a man from California who had been coming for over ten years. He was 84. He told me that he lives right under the Hollywood sign in LA. He called himself the "Hollywood Man". After a bike event, I followed him back to St George in his Jeep Wrangler with two bikes on the back. He may have been 84, but he could have passed for sixty.

For me, I chose to participate in the cycling events. There were over 300 cyclists form 50 to 85. We had four different events, one for each of the first four days of the games.

Have bike will ride

Got my # and ready to head to the events

My first event was a bike ride up Snow Canyon . For you who know St George, you will know that you have to be in great condition and not really heavy to ride all the way up the canyon. The ride climbs 1000 ft in 3 miles. I lined up and was soon off to ride the race. About half way into the race, I had to get off and walk. I must say that I did not see anyone else walking. As I walked up, I saw two men on the side saying, "You can do it, keep going.” I stopped to thank them and they gave me cold water. I made friends with them and they were at all of the rest of the events for the week cheering me on.
As I was walking up the steep hill, one rider patted me on the back while he said, "Keep going you can make it." What I learned was it is not the speed that you go, but just that you are in the race.


Making special friends at the game

One other a day a lady came up to me and said, “I would love to participate but I know that I would be last.” Since I was last of all the women that day but still got a gold metal in my category, I smiled and said, “It is OK to be last, because today I was last and got a gold medal too.” That was because I was the only one to show up in my category that day. Even though I was the last rider, all the time that day people cheered me as I rode by the grand stand. I did not care what place I was in. I was just excited to be there as four years ago I would not have been able to ride, as I was 95 pounds heavier than I am today.

I do not know how the medals work in all the different games, but in biking it was great because I was only one participating in the 60 to 64 category, and there were 3 levels of awards. There was the pro, then the semi pro and then the recreational. I was, of course, in the recreational. At the end of the week, I was the over all winner in my category receiving one bronze medal and three gold. It will get tougher next year as I have to move up to the semi pro.

Celebrating receiving metals

Great to win gold

To be honest with you, I did not go to win a gold medal. I went to get more healthy and to motivate myself to keep on track for good health. When I was a kid, I was just healthy naturally. Now I see that I must work for it, and the Huntsman Senior games is a wonderful place to go and work at health, meet people from all over the work, and just have fun.

Come join me next year and have fun playing.

   
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