Friday, July 8, 2011

Snapshots of our Athletes

At our visit to the National Senior Games, we took some time to meet some of the participating athletes and their families...

Edward Hands & Bill Seabergh – Vicksburg, MS – Table Tennis Doubles, 65-69 – All it took was a little convincing from his friend Bill Seabergh for Ed Hands to take his table tennis to the next level. Both athletes had played table tennis before, but it was Bill’s idea that the pair compete as doubles in the National Senior Games.  Both athletes are so enthusiastic about playing that they have organized their own club in their hometown of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Bill, a race-walker as well, was joined by his wife Janey who competes in the 65-70 swimming age bracket. “I love the energy, this vivacious energy,” Janey said, describing her experience of the games. “None of these people say ‘I’m too old for this’.” Edward’s wife, who was also there, said she plans on competing in archery at the next National Games

 Norma Jean (Jeanie) Shipman - Topeka, KS – 5K Roadrace, 65-69 – Decades ago, Norma Jean Shipman experienced the hardest thing a mother could undergo – the loss of her husband. Loosing somebody is one of the hardest things to cope with, but “Jeanie” Shipman found something positive to direct her energy toward. “I thought hey, I can get a pair of tennis shoes and run up and down the street,” she said, recalling how she started running. She now runs with her daughter and college-aged granddaughter in local races. “I enjoy it a lot- I really like seeing all the old people out here that care about their health and being active,” she said of the Senior Games. This is her fourth time at the Senior Games.  After winning third place her first time at Lafayette, LA, she was injured her second year and competed right after chemotherapy treatments her third year.  Accompanied by her husband, she considers this fourth trip her comeback year.

 Frank Farrar – Britton, SD – Cycling/Triathlon, 80-84 – Cyclist and triathlete Frank Farrar kept warm this winter by training, regardless of the nine feet of snow they had in his hometown of Britton, South Dakota. An athlete in the senior games since 1987, Frank is convinced of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. “I’m a great believer that exercise will extend your life. It’s a great cure, and probably the best medicine there is for your life,” he said, knowing that he is a testament to the truth of his statement.

 Joseph Hawkins – Fort Washington, MD (D.C. Suburb) – Table Tennis, 60-64 – The National Senior Games in Houston is the first for Table Tennis competitor in the 60-64 age bracket, Joseph Hawkins. “I began playing table tennis when I was 13, played for four or five years in the circuit, continued off and on for many years and took it up seriously when I retired in 2004,” Joseph said. He and his wife are staying with some friends in Houston. “We have some very gracious hosts, our friends have given us a royal treatment. “ Joseph is most impressed by the championship skill at the senior level, “It’s inspiring to see what’s possible as you age into your senior life.” Joe was very happy to have made it to this year’s National Games that he’s determined to return. “It’s been a fantastic experience, it’s been high class, quality, and I really look forward to next time. (Below: Joseph with his Brother)

George Felix – Waco, TX (Team from Waco & Temple) – Basketball, 55+ - George Felix and his basketball team from Temple and Waco, TX are at their third National Senior Games this year. A basketball player since he just a kid and up through college, George thinks the best thing about the Senior Games is the comradery between the athletes. “You would think that a bunch of competitive people would be at each other’s throats – because everybody’s very competitive, but when the game’s over, everybody’s friends,” George said.  “It’s sort of amazing to think that people come from all over the country to participate in it. We’ve met a lot of people from all over the country- the same guys we met four years ago in Louisville we played against two years ago and played against this year.”  George’s father, a former Senior Athlete himself, has been more than supportive. He happened to be visiting his son six years ago during the Texas State Senior games when George’s team won the 50+ championship, qualifying them for the National Games held in Louisville, Kentucky.  George said his dad and his dad’s wife enjoyed it so much that they went with the team to Louisville, had a great time, and wound up joining George and his team in California. Naturally, they came to Houston to show their support this year.  “It’s sort of like a family reunion every two years,” George said. “It’s a fun family experience and it just makes it that much better and that much more fun.”

 Judith Dewey & Joan Ferguson - (Indiana) – Tennis, 60-69 – Identical twins Judith Dewey and Joan Ferguson both picked up a tennis racket when they were very young. “We’ve played together about sixty years;” clearly they have one of the strongest bonds of all the doubles teams.  Having started the Senior Games in 2003, the National Senior Games in Houston is their fifth national games. “We enjoy going to all the different places and seeing sites.” In San Francisco they enjoyed seeing the redwoods at Muir Woods, north of the city. In Houston, they look forward to heading south to Galveston Island and visiting the Houston Aquarium.