When most of us think of athletes, we see exuberant young people with chiseled bodies pouring their hearts and souls into competition. That image is certainly on display this month at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
As we get older and our bodies start to ache, most of us are content to transition from participant to spectator. But for some brave and hearty souls, an innate desire for competition simply doesn’t allow them to surrender to the hands of time. That’s what’s so intriguing about the Brazos Valley Senior Games that starts Thursday and concludes Sunday. Hosted by the City of College Station, the event is affiliated with the Texas State Senior Games Association.
The number of participants has more than doubled this year, with 401 athletes between the ages of 49 and 88 scheduled to compete in track and field, swimming, basketball, cycling, golf, volleyball, tennis, a road race, pickleball, disc golf, horseshoes and washers. Among the competitors are 348 out-of-towners — including one from South Dakota — and 133 women.
The most popular sport? Pickleball, with 112 entries.
At the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, Houston’s Jim Gerhardt (pictured at left in last year’s Senior Games) placed 11th in the triple jump. Now almost 85 years old, Mr. Gerhardt is still thrives on competition and will be participating in the discus, hammer throw, javelin and shot put.
But Mr. Gerhardt is far from the oldest athlete competing in the event – 10 others are older, including 88-year-old Baker Shannon, also of Houston. Mr. Shannon is entered in seven swimming events.
The Brazos Valley Senior Games are another shining example of the city’s burgeoning presence in the athletic tourism industry, which has become a significant economic driver in our community.
If you want to take a break from cheering on Team USA in Sochi, check out some of the senior game action at various venues around town. Click here for a schedule of events and other details.