2004 NOVA Senior Olympics
Follow Hurricane Ivan
By Jackie Bong-Wright
Aftermath of Hurricane Ivan
The opening of the Northern Virginia Senior Olympics (NVSO) was postponed one day for Hurricane Ivan, which raged through parts of the area and hurt trees and houses. Notwithstanding the damage, seniors 50 and better were ready to start competing the next day in the Falls Church High School stadium. The Park Authorities, Departments of Parks and Recreation Services in the region as well as the Prince William County Area Agency on Aging were co-sponsors.
Two dozen committee members volunteered to organize the event and a hundred organizations and individuals contributed generously to make the Olympics happen. Del Wilson, chairman, declared the NOVA Olympics open officially at 1:00 pm. Carmen Vest sang the National Anthem and Jackie Bong-Wright, Ms Virginia Senior America 2004, welcomed the hardy 600 contestants. She said, “Whether you get the gold, the silver, the bronze or nothing at all, you are all winners.” Jackie added, “Success is not how high and fast you reach the top, but how high and fast you bounce back when you hit bottom.”
Outdoor competitions include track and field, shot put, standing long jump, softball hit and throw, tennis, miniature golf, horseshoes, frisbee throw, pickle ball, and golf. Indoor games such as ten pin bowling, basketball, table tennis, swimming, duplicate bridge, chess, backgammon, canasta, mahjong, line dancing, and yoyo have no fewer applicants.
Let the Games Begin
On a windy but sunny Sunday, September 19, 84 year-old Carla Convery carried the Olympic Torch and ran past the spectators who had gathered for the event. Carla started competing in 1980, when she was 60, after retiring from her restaurant business. The 100-pound Carla, fragile but strong, comes from Como, Italy. She migrated to the U.S. as a WWII bride after marrying an officer from the U.S. army who had fought to liberate Europe. She is a member of the Masters Champion Track & Field Club and the recipient of over 1,000 gold and silver medals. She has been competing at local, state and national levels in track for the past 24 years, running five times a year. Struck by a “shingles” break out, she was advised by her doctor not to strain herself this time. So she signed up instead for the softball and frisbee throw, and also the canasta competition.
Not giving up after a stroke that kept her in physical therapy a whole year, 83-year-old Florence Boye bounced back and completed a 800-meter walk in nine minutes twelve seconds. Her perspective on life was to stay young. She said, “Age is a state of mind.” Her daughter, Pat, added, “Mom was determined to get better and enjoy life. She is very persistant.”
Dante Simbulan, a Filipino-American who immigrated to the U.S. 24 years ago, received gold medals in the 800-meter walk, the 3-mile walk and the standing long jump on opening day. The 74-year-old Dante has seven children and eleven grandchildren, and has kept himself fit. A retired professor of political science, he started athletics in college, training in boxing, gymnastics, track and field. He joined the Senior Olympics in 1976 and has received 38 medals so far. He enjoys walking or running three to five miles in the park or wooded area near his residence.
Another contestant, Josephina Smith, 58, from the Philippines, received two gold medals for her 800 and 1,500-meter race walk in the women’s category and in her age group. She came to the U.S to work for the World Bank and retired after 25 years, but feeling young at heart, decided to go back to work at United Airlines as an administrative assistant. In 1999, she did her first 26.2 mile marathon in 6 hours 8 minutes to raise funds for the Leukemia Society. She has done four so far with her volunteer group and has raised $3,000 to $5,000 each time.
Josephine learned the technique of improving speed in walking and has coached one to two teams of 15 each once a week for four months. She says that in speed walking, you cannot run, only walk fast. The technique is to put your front foot forward and land on your heels. You push off on your toes with your back straight, bend your arms at right angles close to your body while pushing your elbows back. Your hips should move forward, not sideways. Beginners start training at 4 miles until they reach 20 miles. On average, slow walkers walk 4 miles in one hour, Josephina concluded, but they increase their speed with training.
Another 800-meter walk gold winner is Alease Brooks, 70. A native of Virginia, she taught physical education for 20 years for high school students. She has kept herself active playing tennis and golf and has been running for the past 15 years. She is a regular member of the line dance and singing group, and teaches exercises for seniors at her retirement center for independent living. She is a recipient of numerous awards for outstanding performance in teaching and for her volunteer services in the community. She is a happy grandmother of five ranging from 17 months to 17 years.
Ten Days of Competition and Fun for 50+ Athletes
Amateur or professional athletes, including those with disabilities, who have reached the “Age of Wisdom” can participate in as many events as they like in the 25 categories mentioned above, in their age group and gender group. A nominal registration fee of $7.50 for the first event and $1.00 for each additional event, or financial assistance if needed, allow them to compete as individuals or in teams. Different high schools and recreation, retirement and community centers hold these events.
Judy Massabny, Communications officer at Senior Adult Programs in Arlington and publicity chair of NVSO said, “The philosophy of the Senior Olympics is to provide seniors an opportunity for competition and fellowship through athletic, recreational and social events. It promotes health, fitness and psychological well-being for senior adults by offering participation, self-improvement and achievement.”