During June 19 to 22, more than 1,700 women and men over 50 years of age will be in Columbia to participate in the 2008 Missouri State Senior Games. The purpose of the Games as stated in the MSSG Registration Book is to offer an Olympic-style sports festival for older athletes that will:
n Provide an annual physical fitness event to promote social, competitive, athletic and recreational activities for older adults;
n Promote and create an interest in lifetime sports, recreation and physical exercise as a means of enhancing one’s quality of life;
n Create an awareness of the abilities and capabilities of older citizens;
n Foster an amateur athletic network of participants, volunteers and sports enthusiasts throughout Missouri that encourages and promotes healthier lifestyles; and
n Create private, as well as public support for physical fitness and amateur athletic training.
In a recent conversation with Senior Games coordinator Russ Stott, I asked what he thought attracted most senior athletes to the Games. He replied: “I think all of our senior athletes enjoy competing with people their own age, but one of the main motivational factors is the camaraderie experienced by both old and new friends during the course of the Games.”
This is a common theme expressed by several of my friends who come to play in this well-coordinated, well-managed event.
MSSG entrants can compete in more than 25 sports and games ranging from shuffleboard to soccer. Most of those activities are recognized by the National Senior Games Association, thus making MSSG winners and runners-up eligible to compete in the 2009 National Senior Games to be held in the San Francisco Bay Area on Aug. 1 to 15, 2009. The qualifying activities are: archery, badminton, bowling, cycling, golf, horseshoes, race walk, racquetball, road race, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis, tennis, triathlon, track and field (14 activities), basketball, softball and power volleyball.
Stott said a key to the successful operation of the Games is the cadre of volunteers who provide year-round planning input, financial support and key technical assistance for the various events. The Senior Volunteer Committee co-chairs are Columbians Pat and Gary Fox. Sponsors who make the Games possible are KOMU, Missouri Lottery, Show-Me State Games, Audrey J. Walton, Isle of Capri Casino, MU, City of Columbia, Missouri Beef Industry Council, Mediacom and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
Examples of the outstanding seniors who participate in MSSG are:
n Phil Brusca, 81, of Maryland Heights is the consummate senior athlete. The former MU thrower won the shot put, discus, hammer and weight throw in his age group at the 2007 MSSG competition and finished second in the javelin. In the shot competition, he set a national record for his age group (80 to 84) with a throw of 35 feet, 6.5 inches. Phil achieved that stellar performance despite the fact he had serious abdominal surgery in the months just preceding the Games.
n Dick Cochran, 67, of Lake St. Louis was a two-time All-American discus thrower while at MU, from 1956 to 1960. He also represented the United States in the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, bringing home a bronze medal. Dick’s 2007 MSSG winning discus throw in the 65 to 69 age group was 42 feet better than second place.
n Ed Curtis, 86, of Columbia has been competing in the Missouri and Kansas Senior Games for 18 years and has accumulated approximately 200 medals, of which 80 are gold.
n Bob Bryant, 69, of Columbia is a very versatile athlete who lettered in basketball and track at Central Methodist College, where he was also a star football quarterback. In 2007 MSSG competition he won the 50-meter dash, the 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1500, the long jump and the triple jump in his age group. He was second in the high jump and fourth in the javelin. Because of recent knee surgery, Bob will miss this year’s Games, but he promises to be back next year.
n Joe Crowson, 80, of Columbia played basketball on the 1946 University High School team and also played one year at Westminster College prior to service in the U.S. Marine Corps. In later years, Joe was one of the best senior tennis players in U.S. Tennis Association Missouri Valley Section competition, and he reached the quarterfinals of 65-69 age group tennis singles play at the National Senior Games held in Tucson, Ariz. His other MSSG events include football and softball throwing events, table tennis, billiards and basketball free throws.
n Blanche Deal, 92, of Marshall is still a champion bowler in state tournaments and leagues. She has been teaching bowling to grade-school children for the past 11 years, in addition to competing in the Show-Me State Games. She has been bowling for 50 years and is proud of her gold medals and golden memories of bowling in the Senior Games.
Blanche, and all other Senior Games participants, provide living proof of the senior athlete’s motto: “It is better to wear out than rust out.”
Bill Wickersham of Columbia is an adjunct professor of peace studies at MU and former instructor of health, physical education and recreation.