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Olympics offer area seniors chance to compete, feeling of camaraderie

Local seniors are giving new meaning to the “golden” years by going for the gold in the 2011 senior Olympics.
Beginning the last week of May, seniors ranging in age from 55 and up took to the pools, bowling alleys, walking tracks and gymnasiums all across the area for the regional division of the 2011 senior Olympics.
More than 100 seniors from across Northeast Tennessee participated in the events, with 12 coming out of the Jonesborough area.
The events are organized by senior centers all over the region including Jonesborough, Johnson City and Kingsport.
Seniors can pick the events they would like to participate in and first, second and third are awarded medals.
Those placing in the top three are then eligible for the next phase of the competition with the statewide Olympics. State winners then move to the nationals which this year will be held in Houston.
The events that make up the Olympics range from swimming, bowling, javelin, discus, shot-put, bowling, golf, distance competitions, basketball and tennis. Events can be entered individually or in doubles, or mixed doubles categories.
Joan Miller, director of the Jonesborough Senior Center, helped raise the interest of the Olympics for several Washington County seniors this year. She said she would like to see the annual event gain importance not only on a local scale, but a national scale as well.
“The Olympics are a collaborative effort for senior centers all across the area,” Miller said. “This is a national competition and it just isn’t publicized like it should be.”
Events are broken down by age categories in five-year increments.
If competitors are participating in a doubles event, the youngest of the duo will place the team into that respective age category.
This time around, several different venues in Washington and surrounding counties hosted the events, such as Meadow View Park in Kingsport, the Johnson City Senior Center, Dobyns-Bennett High School, East Tennessee State University, the Kingsport Senior Center and Freedom Hall.
In the past, the events were hosted locally, with the seniors participating with other members of their various local centers.
The change to make the Olympics an area wide event has only increased the level of competition and camaraderie.
“I try to get more encouraged to participate,” Miller said. “When I came here, we just had local games; first, second and third place went to regionals, which was the overall area. We wanted to get more of our membership involved so the local games were cut out.”
Miller sees these events as great opportunities for seniors all over the country and believes it is a way for them to represent their respective senior centers.
“I want to get more seniors involved, a lot of our local people don’t want to go to Johnson City and play, but it is important that everyone represents their center,” she said. “We really want to get the word out. It is a fun time for everyone participating, win or lose.”
More importantly though, according to Miller, the Olympics keep seniors active, and not just during the week of events. Many train all year for the Olympics, Miller said.
“The games provide great camaraderie because some of them are in competition together every year. It is really something that every one of them looks forward to,” Miller said. “Just because you are 75 or older, you still like the competition, the thrill of winning. It helps everyone stay healthy and fit.”