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Cleveland Hosts National Senior Games

Jul 18, 2013
Originally published on July 19, 2013 9:31 am

As many as 10,000 athletes from across the country — ranging in age from 50 to 90 plus — are gathering in Cleveland, Ohio, to compete in the 14th National Senior Games.

The games, which get underway tomorrow and run for two weeks, include competitions in 19 sports, including cycling, swimming and track and field. There’s also badminton, bowling and Bocce ball.

From the Here & Now Contributors Network, David C. Barnett of WCPN reports on a how a few of the participants are preparing for their events.

Reporter

  • David C. Barnett, reporter and producer for WCPN in Cleveland.
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

As many as 10,000 athletes from across the country ranging in age from 50 to 90-plus are gathering in Cleveland today for the 14th National Senior Games. The games start tomorrow. They will last for two weeks and feature 19 sports, including cycling, swimming and track and field. There's also badminton, bowling and bocce ball. From the HERE AND NOW Contributors Network, David C. Barnett, of WCPN, has the story.

DAVID C. BARNETT, BYLINE: Sixty-five-year-old Jeannie Rice of suburban Cleveland ran her last marathon in Boston on April 15th.

JEANNIE RICE: About the 24th mile, I fell. I lay there for a couple minutes, and all these runners are going by. And it really - I was just so angry that happened.

BARNETT: Rice finished the race, but her celebration was a short one. About an hour later, two explosions brought the Boston Marathon to an abrupt close.

RICE: That was a very scary moment.

BARNETT: Rice said she's looking forward to her next race this coming week at the 2013 National Senior Games, held this year in Cleveland. The biannual sporting event debuted in St. Louis back in 1987, drawing 2,500 athletes. Greater Cleveland Sports Commission CEO David Gilbert says more than 11,000 seniors are registered for this year's games.

DAVID GILBERT: We have more athletes coming to Cleveland than were in London for the Olympics.

BARNETT: The senior athletes compete in 19 Olympic-style events. Everything from 10K runs and swim meets, to pole vaulting. David Gilbert says preparations for the Senior Games aren't all that different with a few exceptions. For example, special arrangements have been made with local hospitals to deal with potential cardiac issues, and not everyone's on Facebook.

GILBERT: We've had to deal with this demographic, while they're getting more so, not being as up to speed on social media, so more reservations and registrations are coming in on paper, things like that. But those are really minor things. Other than that, it really is taken a lot of what we've done, just on a larger scale.

(SOUNDBITE OF BICYCLE GEARS)

BILL CLONINGER: We've got 10 in the back and two in the front.

BARNETT: Sixty-three-year-old Bill Cloninger is looking forward to the cycling competition. Pulling a sleek racing bike from the back of his SUV, Cloninger has spent the past few weeks honing his skills in Cleveland parks. Just three years ago, Cloninger says he was very much a sedentary senior. His bank job had him sitting at a desk eight hours a day.

CLONINGER: Back in 2010, my weight had ballooned. I was - I weighed 265 pounds, and I was 60 years old at the time. I said, I've got to do something.

BARNETT: He started walking regularly, worked out at the fitness club and then took up cycling. He's since lost close to 100 pounds.

CLONINGER: One of the things that is fun, I go riding on occasion with some guys from work in their 30s. And when they are huffing and puffing, trying to keep up with me, and I'm not breaking a sweat yet, it makes it all worthwhile.

BARNETT: Meanwhile, Jeannie Rice is looking to get in four more marathons before the end of the year.

RICE: I'd like to do 100, but I feel like I don't have a whole lot of time left.

BARNETT: Rice says she's bothered sometimes by the fact that she's 65 - can't quite get her head around getting old. But she's evidently doing something right.

RICE: Sometimes I go pick up my grandkids, you know? Some people think I'm mom.

(LAUGHTER)

BARNETT: It seems a life of physical activity is keeping the years at bay. For HERE AND NOW, I'm David C. Barnett in Cleveland.

HOBSON: And up next, Netflix makes history at today's Emmy nominations. That's coming up. HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.