COLUMBIA — The Show-Me State Games might not be the London Olympics, but to thousands of Missouri competitors both young and old, the sporting extravaganza has become fuel to ignite their competitive flames.
The Missouri Senior State Games took place the weekend of June 8 to 10 and was the first of the Columbia event's three parts. The second set begins Friday, starting with team sports. The night will end with the Audrey Walton Opening Ceremony, which is open to the public and starts at 7 p.m. at Hearnes Center.
Competition will continue throughout the weekend before wrapping up Sunday night. The third and final part of this year's event is set for July 27 to 29. A complete schedule of events can be found on smsg.org.
The games are open to people of any age that either live, work or attend school in the state of Missouri, or hail from a state that does not offer a similar event, such as Illinois.
To participate requires merely showing up at an event that has open registration, filling out a form and paying an entry fee via cash or check, said Emily Lorenz, Show-Me State Games Marketing and Media Coordinator.
“I think people ought to go out and try one thing,” Columbia resident Pat Carl said. “I do it to push myself. If I start feeling too comfortable in life, I will do something to push myself. That’s kind of why I started doing the Show-Me Games and even the Iowa Games: to push myself.”
Carl, a golfer who also competes in pickleball, plans to return to the event for a second year to compete with her grandson. The pairing represents a growing trend in athletes testing out the games and finding a reason to return.
Numbers for this year are still being tabulated, but Lorenz said her staff expects a showing close to the 26,000 that participated in last year’s games.
The event featured just about 600 participants in 1985, the year the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Health teamed up with MU to provide an Olympic-style sporting event to the residents of Missouri. Lorenz said the inaugural year, which her staff jokingly referred to as “The No-Show Games,” seems a long way away from where the competition is now.
Lorenz attributed part of the popularity jolt to the expansion of dates and sports that can accommodate so many personal schedules. But the driving factor, she said, is a community’s love of "Olympic-style competition."
“I know a lot of people are getting excited this year about the London Olympics,” she said. “It’s obviously a smaller scale, but we’re kind of a taste of that Olympic spirit right here at home.”
The competition balances its variety of more than 40 sports between popularized team competitions, such as basketball and football, and smaller-scale, individual sports, such as archery and pickleball.
Lorenz said she has seen contestants as young as 3 and as old as 86 come out to compete, and hopes to see such diversity again this year.