Huntsman World Senior Games – St. George, UT
I’ve been having a difficult time summarizing this event. Hence why I’m posting this on Thursday and not on Monday. I fear everything I want to say about the Huntsman World Senior Games will come off cheesy or overenthusiastic. I trudge forward knowing full well that I may sound like a pageant contestant with my inspiring tale, and may even mention world peace.
We arrived in St. George, Utah with low expectations. We knew we were attending an athletic event billed for seniors and quite frankly thought there would be a few participants who were half-heartedly playing sports. When we arrived at the Dixie Center, the center of the games for two weeks each October, we found that we were not surrounded by Betty Whites and Bob Barkers, but rather people from all over the world, and several of whom were in better physical condition than either Mark or myself. In fact, I approached one Canadian female volleyballer after the team’s silver medal finish to ask, not about her digging or spiking like a normal “sports writer” would, but about what she does to stay fit (power walks 3 miles each morning, does planks, sit ups and push ups in the evening, coaches volleyball, bikes, and hikes).
That’s the special thing about Huntsman World Senior Games: these athletes maintain health and fitness as top priority well into their golden years. With approximately 10,000 competing athletes (all 50+), the Huntsman World Senior Games are proof that getting older doesn’t have to lead to inactivity.
True, most athletes donned joint guards or physio tape, and the smell of sports creams emitted from the sidelines, but beneath the braces and layers of Bengay was the competitive attitude of champions. We saw men and women of all ages getting physical in their games; checking, yelling, and digging as if they were twenty again. Ninety-one-year-old Harold Bach broke a record for the Games, running 50-meters in 10.95 seconds!
Regardless of the competition though, we also saw uncanny camaraderie and courtesy between competing athletes. Players were complimenting their opponents, apologizing to their teammates when something went awry, and generally letting bad calls by referees roll off without too much opposition. Most importantly, all of the athletes were making new friends from across the globe.
The mission of the Games to promote worldwide peace, health, friendship, and fun was fully realized from my spectator’s view.
The games last for two weeks, and we were able to make it to four days that we packed as full as possible. We watched men’s and women’s soccer, softball, bowling, volleyball, and pickleball and were left wanting more senior athletics!
Here’s a recap of some of the events we were able to catch:
One thing about St. George that we noted almost immediately is that the recreation facilities are outstanding. We showed up to an amazing field holding 4 soccer fields, a crazy-fun playground with water toys, and 4 softball fields, all immaculately maintained. It was just one of the various sports facilities that hosted events across the city.
We sat down to catch the end of an ongoing soccer game. The goalies were yelling and the forwards were busting their buns to move the ball down the field. No one too shy to head the ball either, players crashed together with the ball in the air. Everything looked like your average soccer game, until you got closer and realized these weren’t teenagers, but women in their mid-50s.
The first team we sat down to watch was Motor City Classics, from Michigan (which will be a recurring theme), who was playing Lone Star Strikers from Texas.
In speaking with the players post-game they described how continuing to play sports later in life has been an enjoyable experience allowing them to travel with teams, keep up with their kids, and meet new people.
We caught a men’s 75+ game. The “Olde D’s” (from Detroit) were trying their hardest to keep their lead over the opposing team. We were impressed by the sheer amount of players on each team. The game tended to be offensive, with batters finding perfect holes that the outfielders couldn’t cover. Lots of runs were scored on both ends.
Then, we watched another team warm up, turns out, also from Michigan. Butch’s Salsa Bombers cranked balls, ran quickly, which yielded them the gold medal in the 55+ Major division.
At the Dixie Bowling Alley, I quickly became obsessed with Jean, a woman who scored a whopping 247 (and a full 100 points more than my own highest game ever). I watched her hit 5 strikes in a row. Watch her go!:
At the local high school (which had sports banners of their high school aged athletes draped in the gymnasium…but this is all together another story) we watched the Global World Cup. The only event with an entry fee, we watched an invitation only international playoff for the gold medal. First, Russia played Canada and the winner would play Brazil.
Canada and Brazil faced off in the final. Both teams were great competitors, but Brazil was fierce. Watch this woman’s serve:
Sweeping the series with 3 quick games, Brazil claimed the gold.
Pickleball. I mistook this event for “pickle,” and thought I was going to see a game from my childhood. Nope. Pickleball is America’s fastest growing sport and when talking to one player, it’s easy to see why it’s particularly popular among an older crowd:
“I used to play tennis, but the game just became too hard on my body, so I started playing pickleball. It’s a bit slower, but requires much of the same skill and I enjoy it!”
So what do two people in their late twenties get out of attending an event for people their parents’ and grandparents’ ages? The commitment to continue to lead an active lifestyle and aspire to be as physically fit as many of these players. In 23 years, I aspire to be back in St. George competing in the triathlon in better shape than I am today. I am completely inspired in a way I’ve never been before, which I hope isn’t confused with being cheesy.
Check out more photos from the event in our photo gallery.