It’s been nearly two months since the cupping of the Olympic torch in London. The athletes, spectators and media have long since migrated back to their home countries. The Olympic spirit has gone cold for many, but competition is just heating up for those participating in the Oklahoma Senior State Games.
Opening Saturday and running through Oct. 17, the games allow athletes ages 50 and older to compete in a variety of events including archery, cycling, swimming, basketball, tennis, and track and field. More than 400 competitors are expected to take part.
“We’re very pleased to be able to host these athletes,” said Wendel Whisenhunt, director of Oklahoma City’s Parks and Recreation Department. “These seniors are a testament to the importance of fitness at every age, and embody the can-do spirit we all strive for.”
The Senior State Games may not be as rigorous as the Olympics, but they’re a lot tougher than one might think. Its participants are serious about the competition. John Stroup, a 65-year-old swimmer, will be competing in eight events and hopes to set a state record.
“It’s always good to see everyone each year,” Stroup said. “There’s a social element to the games that I enjoy, but make no mistake about it: I’m here to compete.”
This year’s games will take place at 20-plus venues throughout Oklahoma City. Athletes whose times meet the qualifying standard for national competition in their age category can advance to next year’s National Senior Games in Cleveland.
“There really isn’t any place to compete after you’ve reached a certain age,” said Douglas Paulsen, coordinator of the games. “That’s why this event is so important.”
In addition to plenty of healthy competition, the event also offers the Games Gala, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-themed party from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive. Tickets are $20.
Whether it’s for the social aspect or the competitive spirit, the Senior State Games gives participants something to look forward to each year. Stroup said he wishes more people knew about it and participated.
“Is it harder at 65 than it was at 45?
Of course,” he said. “But for me this is more than just staying active. I’ve got a lot going. The reason I can do what I can at my age is because fitness is a serious part of my life.”