Age is Just a Number to Athletes Competing in Pasadena Senior Games

Published : Thursday, May 16, 2019 | 4:57 AM

From powerlifting and basketball to table tennis and beyond, more than 1,200 athletes aged 50 to 99 go for the gold during the 27th annual Pasadena Senior Games, which run through July 14.

Age is just a number to these seniors athletes, many of whom compete on a national level in their age bracket across almost 30 competitive sporting events.

“These remarkable athletes are shining examples of the benefits of an active lifestyle that embraces health and vitality,” said Akila Gibbs, executive director of the Pasadena Senior Center. “Every year the Pasadena Senior Games promotes healthy lifestyles for older adults through education, fitness and the spirited competition of sports.”

Take Leonard Leventhal, who at 90 is taking on the challenge of the power walking competition.

“My son got me into this and I enjoy the challenge, actually,” Leventhal said. “I enjoy trying to keep moving. It definitely has health benefits but I really have been fortunate. Considering my age, I’m really fortunate, I have no major pains.”

Leventhal walks on the trails where he now lives in senior housing in Fullerton. He is training, walking at least 15 to 30 minutes every day. The power walking competition takes place in June and, encouraged by his 57-year-young son Stanley, Leonard continues his winning ways.

Sarah Sneider who manages the track and field categories for the Senior Games said it’s fun, but it’s also serious work to be a winner.

“Just like a professional athlete trains year-round, our seniors train year-round too,” Sneider said. “These are the type of people you want to be with because they’re enthusiastic about life.”

Sneider said she didn’t plan to run the track and field category of the games, but after working in the powerlifting arena, she took on additional duties.

For many, participation in the Pasadena Senior Games represents an opportunity to try something different. And while golf is not necessarily an unusual choice in sports for seniors, adding competition element takes the sport to a new level.

Harry Bobbitt of Pasadena said he’s gotten access to some golf courses he normally wouldn’t be able to play because of the senior tournaments.

“The objective is of course to increase the number of people playing in this tournament,” Bobbitt said. “But golf is something you can play your whole life.”

Most people are in it to win it. It’s a competitive crowd of Baby Boomers. But the side perks are not so bad either. Since Bobbitt plays in the national senior games as well, he got to compete in a qualifier at Stanford University Golf Course.

“I looked into it and the qualifier happens to be one year and then the National Games is the following year,” Bobbitt said. “So it turned out, lucky me, the National Games were at Stanford University on their campus. The only way you can play there is if you are either alumni or a guest of an alumni or a student. So in 2009, I got a chance to play three rounds of golf there. And a practice round.”

“While hoping to take the gold themselves, competitors cheer each other on,” said Annie Laskey, director of events at the Pasadena Senior Center and manager of the Pasadena Senior Games. “It is inspiring to see them encourage all of their fellow athletes to reach for their personal bests.”

Among the many medalists at the 2018 Pasadena Senior Games were Robyn Utu for the women ages 50 to 54 discus throw and Donald Hubbard for the men ages 90 to 94 50-meter freestyle swimming.

“It makes you feel like a kid again, there’s camaraderie [that] happens and when people race we cheer each other on,” said Dot Wong, a virtual youngster in her 50s (compared to some other competitors). She’ll race in the bicycle competition.

“It’s really empowering to be with these people,” Wong said. “I’m amazed and it goes to show you that being active throughout your life or getting into it as you get ‘more golden,’ reverses the feeling of getting older.”

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