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I Know I Can Overcome Anything
In August of 2009 at the age of 49, I had just finished up one of my best Track and Field seasons ever. I had won the State Games of America national titles in the 110 meter high-hurdles, 400 meter intermediate-hurdles and 1500 meter Race Walk. I also won silver medals in the long jump and triple jump). Three days later I’m in the hospital with a 105 degree fever and am diagnosed with an auto immune disease called Sjogrens disease.
For the next 16 months my mouth is not producing saliva, my eyes and nasal passages were dry as a bone, I have numerous fevers that put me in the hospital, I lost my immune system 3 times for 3-4 months at a time, I'm in terrible pain in my entire body, I lost the use of 4 fingers in my right hand (trigger finger condition), I develop neuropathy in 3/4 of my body, I'm on numerous medications including prednisone, I get kidney stones every 3 months, I gained 30 pounds, etc.
In December of 2010 I wake up one morning and I have my immune system back, my neuropathy is gone (and neuropathy just doesn't go away), my energy had returned! (In November of 2010 I went off all of my medications and switched to auto immune system vitamin therapies and an anti-occident drink).
I cautiously began Track and Field and swimming training. I changed my diet, drank buckets of water daily, slept more, modified my training, and kept taking my auto immune system boosting vitamins and a high anti-occident drink.
In 2011 I won 77 medals in 8 track meets and won my age division in 3 events (1500 meter Race Walk, 3000 meter Race Walk, and 5000 meter Race Walk) at the Huntsman World Senior Games. In 2012, I won 156 medals in 14 track meets. I also set 24 state, invitational, national and World records. In addition I earned 2 USATF All-American Awards (sprinting and Race Walking) and was named the Utah Amateur Athlete of the Year.
At the 2012 Huntsman World Senior Games I won the Age division and "All Around" titles in the 1500, 3000 and 5000 meter Race Walking events and the Bronze medal in the 50 meter dash. Other highlights of the year included: having a standing long jump of 9 feet 7.25 inches (North Idaho Senior Games), swimming the 25 yard freestyle in 9.99 seconds (Wyoming Senior Winter Games) and running the 50 meter dash in 6.23 seconds (Western Colorado Senior Games).
Since the age of 41, I have won over 600 medals. I still have my Sjogren's disease problems: the lack of saliva, dry eyes, etc., but I know that I can overcome anything. It is never too late to try and win.
I PROMISED HIM I WOULDN'T GIVE UP!
My name is Irma M Lookermans and I have lived in St. George for 26 years. I love this town. We have the best climate for health. I lost my husband 4 weeks before the 2012 World Senior Games. He was training for his bike ride on the Bloomington trail. He had a massive heart attack. His name is Jesse R Corwin. He had registered for the Road Race through Snow Canyon and the Criterium at the old airport. Unfortunately, he didn't make it. He was 80 years old.
As for myself, I play tennis. I always promised I will go on for him. And I did! I didn't win a medal but I DIDN'T give up. While I was playing I broke my foot but I played on, no matter what pain I felt. I had to do it for HIM. Thank you.
Irma M Lookerman
P.S He was the Games’ best promoter. He would always send the entry books to all his friends and family. He wanted everybody to participate.
MY FIRST SIX YEARS AT THE HUNTSMAN SENIOR GAMES
My first two years of playing softball in the Huntsman Senior Games were as a player for someone else. I decided to start my own 60+ team because I wanted to choose my players for character and ability so we could have a lot of fun in Utah.
I started out trying to get all Oregon players, but most of the guys I asked were already going to Utah with other teams or couldn’t make the trip. So I used the Huntsman World Senior Games website (TeaFinder) to find players which turned out to one of the fun parts of putting a team together.
I contacted players and started a team called the Mittfits. No it’s not the misfits; a lot of people make that mittake.
On my 2012 team I had players from Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Utah and Alberta, Canada. In the past I have had players from Florida, Texas, Montana, Missouri and Michigan. A lot of them went to other teams for different reasons. Some went to 65+ teams, some to higher division teams, some just didn’t like the way I managed, and some I didn’t ask back. No matter what the reason, it is fun to see some of my ex-players each year in October.
I have assembled a great bunch of 60+ year olds. The proof is in what some people have said about the Mittfits. In 2011, after a game one of the players from the other team came over and said that we were the nicest bunch of guys they had played against in a long time. This year one of our umpires after a game said he’d like to umpire all our games. One of the board members at the manager’s meeting told me that he and some of the others think that we have one of the best names for a softball team. As we were getting ready to have our picture taken for winning the silver, somebody from another team told one of my players that we should win the sportsmanship award.
Most of the players from 2011 came back for 2012. I already have 11 of the 14 guys from 2012 saying they want to play again in 2013, so I should have the same great team attitude in 2013.
When I started this team I always said, that win or lose we are in St. George to have fun and winning would make it more fun. Well this year was more fun. We won our first medal (silver medal in the C division) and it truly was even more fun winning. So I believe I am living up to what the Huntsman World Senior Games are all about: having fun, good friendly competition, meeting old friends and making new friends.
Thank you Huntsman World Senior Games for 6 great years, 2 as a player and 4 as a player/manager, and looking forward to spending many more Octobers in your wonderful town.
I just got through watching the movie “For Love of the Game” with Kevin Costner. I want to tell you the story of my husband who also loves the game----baseball/softball. I have been married to him for 56 years and during all of those years he has played baseball for the first two years we were married and then switched to fast pitch softball for about forty years plus. He was the best hitter in the Salt Lake City Metro Softball League for years and was presented the Hall of Fame award. Most of the times he came up to bat he hit home runs. He loved the pressure of having the bases loaded and coming up to bat and hitting a home run/Grand Slam for all of the players on base, including himself to score. I watched this happen very often.
I was always so proud of him. Even before we were married he played all kinds of sports both in Jr. High and in Highschool. He lettered in baseball, basketball and football in his Highschool years. Ball to him was his life. He had a natural ability to excel in all sports. We went to many tournaments during our early years of marriage. When the children came along we took them with us to tournaments. The car we traveled in was always filled with music and laughter. We had many fun family trips. The grownup kids now remember these trips and say it was the most fun they ever had. They were always proud of their Dad and his accomplishments he made in the games.
Later in life as fast pitch softball seemed to die down and we moved to Arizona, he began to play slow pitch softball. Under the pressure of one of his real good friends he surrendered and went out to play slow pitch. Again, he was one of the best hitters.
He had real bad knees and had to have a double knee operation in 2009. It took quite a while for him to get ready to play again but he endured and started playing slow pitch softball again. He was hitting home runs and simply jogged, not ran, to the bases to home plate. Later, as he got older he wasn’t hitting many homeruns but was hitting the ball up to the fence and made it to first base and a runner would run for him the rest of the bases.
Due to a very serious illness of mine, he was unable to finish his knee rehab and this altered his running very much. But, he continued to play and hitting the ball to the fence and only running to first base. He was still enjoying playing. Then this year, his Carotid Artery became clogged in his neck and he had to have surgery to get it cleaned out. The surgery went well but the next day he could not move his left leg, foot or toes.
He had a stroke.
After numerous hospital stays due to other health problems he has, he began in-patient rehab at a hospital. He stayed there for a week and then came home and started outpatient rehab. His goals are to be ready to play ball again. He has worked really hard and still in rehab three times a week. The rehab personnel are trying to get him ready for the Las Vegas World Tournament in early October and then on to the Senior Olympics later in October in St. George, Utah. This Page 2 man is determined to be ready!
His leg is not back to normal yet and he is still limping and using a cane. The determination and goals he has are keeping him focused on getting better so he can “play ball again”. He just turned 74 and this will be his 9th year at the World Senior Games. I thought you might like to hear this story and be aware of what kind of athletes are competing in the Senior Olympics.
I, as his wife of 56 years am very proud of him. Still, we are not sure if he will be able to play ball, but he is giving it a real good try. He wants to get better and return to playing ball for a few more years. He is working very hard to accomplish this.
Noteworthy: In 1996 Larry had a 7-way by-pass on his heart. It is simply a miracle that even though he has conjestive heart disease along with some other serious problems with his body, he has continued to “play ball” throughout his lifetime. I think ball has simply saved his life.
Yours truly, Betty D. Morgan Wife of Larry E. Morgan, Mesa, AZ
My name is Frances Flatau. In April of 2007, I first heard about the Huntsman World Senior Games. I was playing in the Maryland Eastern Shore Senior Games and someone mentioned it. My tennis doubles partner and I discussed it and thought it might be fun to participate.
In July of that year (before we registered) I was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. Well - there goes the Huntsman World Senior Games. I had surgery and then 9 months of Chemo and radiation. By April of 2008, I was again playing in the Maryland Eastern Shore Senior Games, with a PICC line in my left arm, when my partner and I began talking about going to St. George again. When I was declared cancer free in June of 2008, we decided to participate.
This was our celebration of life. I am looking forward to my fifth year at the Games and my five years since my diagnosis. I try to be an advocate of positive thinking in the face of cancer and the importance of keeping up exercise and competition.
Journal Entry of Keith Jackson Kunz – Saturday – September 1, 2012 – By Keith Jackson Kunz
About the time I turned eleven, I realized that I enjoyed playing basketball and tennis more than softball or jumping around the block on pogo sticks. I have eight siblings, one older brother, two younger brothers and five younger sisters. I was mom’s smallest baby but ended up the tallest at about 6’ 2”. Mom encouraged us to practice the piano and our other band and orchestra instruments before going out to play.
At first, basketball was more fun than tennis for me. I played basketball for East High in Salt Lake my sophomore and junior years. I was able to make money starting in the 4th grade as a janitor’s helper. As a teenager, I was able to cut lawns to make enough money to pay for my own shoes, music lessons and a few extras like army surplus skiis, a Flexible Flyer sled and a Spalding Poncho Gonzales tennis racquet. I still have the sled and my first tennis racquet. I was 19 years old when that first racquet was last used for quasi--competitive play.
I was a member of the 53rd Army Band at Fort Ord California after my basic National Guard training. Among my few earthly possessions, I had a wood clarinet, a Selmer Bundy tenor sax and my Spalding racquet. A fellow bandsman, Dwight Marchant, was also a tennis player and a good LDS friend.
Army haircuts were $0.25. Tennis balls were about $2.00 for a can of three. I broke the original racquet strings and Dwight put on new ones for me. They were natural gut. I never played enough to wear out more than one Kingwood calf leather grip.
I served a thirty month LDS mission to North Germany. I got married to the most beautiful girl in the world and worked very hard to earn BSEE and MSEE degrees from the University of Utah. Life comes at you fast. We have seven children, two boys and five girls. The first was born in 1969 and the caboose was born in 1987. I had a successful career as a scientific software developer working for companies like Evans and Sutherland and Hewlett Packard. I was also successful for twenty years as an independent software consultant developing large systems for growing companies like Nelson Laboratories in Salt Lake.
About the time I turned thirty, I realized that weight management was going to be a lifelong struggle for me. By the time I turned fifty five (1999), I knew I would have to lose weight or die too young. Tennis became a more important part of my life in about 2002 as I was doing some serious dieting. I joined the Salt Lake Tennis Club. I played several times a week. I played a few tournaments.
Katherine and I have traveled to Hawaii many times. I always take my racquets. My favorite places to play are the Makena Tennis Club and the Kapalua Tennis Gardens on Maui. Over the years, however, I have found that one of the most important aspects of tennis is to find the right partners. I have been most fortunate to have been able to meet some of the finest people in the world through my tennis associations.
I played the Huntsman Senior Games tournament for the eighth time last month. I had to take a break in 2008 because I was involved with arduous chemotherapy for (stage II high risk) colon cancer. In 2010 I had surgery for thyroid cancer and had radioactive iodine therapy. But, I played at the HWSG anyway. For me, it was a significant personal victory just to be able to play.I have learned that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. That year I gave myself the nickname of GammaGuy.
I love tennis because it’s so much like music. Your performance is never quite perfect. But, you get to the point were it can be of benefit to all of those who are near and dear to you. We, at latest count, have twenty grandchildren. I play tennis partly to remind me that every day is a gift. Every friend is something precious, to be cherished and encouraged and supported. I retired from my profession as a software developer in September of 2010. It’s hard to believe that two years have flown by since then. I’m striving to keep a balance in my life between the needs of my children and grandchildren, my wife and the demands of LDS church service. My children call me superman. My tennis partners call me ‘The Rocketman’. My wife calls me irreplaceable. Unfortunately, I wasn’t wearing my hearing aids when she said it. So, I thought she said, “Your ears are replaceable.” I just finished paying for my fourth set of new hearing aids, however, which are state-of-the-art remote mic devices. Now, I should be able to hear the sound of the ball hitting the sweet spot and the whisper of a let and what my opponents are saying under their breath.
I love the game. I love the people that play it. I love the places it is played. I’ve always loved to solve difficult problems. Tennis gives me what I need, a way to solve problems without sitting at a desk. I love math. Tennis gives my brain an escape hatch where it can compute to the max and not have negative health side effects. I love to be able to play to the best of my ability.
Hello to everyone and welcome to St. George for another year at the Huntsman Senior Games! My name is Rhonda Bigelow and it is my first time to participate as an Athlete in the Huntsman Senior Games but my second in participating as one of the Event Sponsors! My story is about Nicole, my oldest daughter of my 5 children.
Nicole was 9 months old when diagnosed with Neuroblostoma Stage 4 cancer. She is now 29 years old and a fit survivor of this deadly disease. I was 21 when she was diagnosed and for 4 1/2 years she endured radiation and chemotherapy. She endured treatment of several different experimental drugs and we watched her successfully battle blood infections several different times, almost losing her to two of them. As her mother I stayed positive for her and our family as we knew we may not win. God had a plan for her and a plan for both of us. Doctors pronounced her clean of the cancer at the age of 9 1/2. After a 5 year wait and repeated doctor visits to assure she was doing well, she was cured.
Through all this I ran. I ran to keep in shape, to help with stress relief and for confidence. The confidence I needed to know I was strong and like my young daughter, a survivor. I ran 2 to 3 miles a day then entered my first 5k and placed 2nd for my age group at 25! I ran and entered more and did well for my age. Nothing spectacular, but for me it was always winning. My 4 kids often rode along with their bikes pacing and urging me on! Nicole was always there, riding with me in the early morning before school. Then we rode bikes together and continued the fitness regime. That, I believe, is what inspired Nicole, who now inspires me. She started running several years ago and a few years ago started training for herself, then enterd her first Marathon, the Phoenix Marathon.
For her first race she finished in 5 hours and 20 minutes! How awesome after beating Neuorblostoma Stage 4 at 9 months of age and now at 29 completing her first Marathon! She has continued to compete and complete the "Mt. Hood to Coast" twice, the Vancouver Tri, The Eugene Tri, and many 10k and a few 5 k's. She will be coming from Portland, Oregon to compete in the St. George Marathon this year!
I am so proud of her as she runs to raise money for the American Cancer Society and a cure. My story is that she has inspired me. I have battled a herniated disk in my neck for the past few years due to horse riding injury and wanted so bad to run again. With chiropractor care, I am now running.
My husband Paul encouraged me to sign up for the World Senior Games to race and I did. My daughter Nicole after the St. George Marathon on Oct 6th, stayed and cheered me on to the finish in the 10K on Oct 8th as she did when she was younger. Afterward she flew back to Portland. It's amazing that now, 21 years later, I ran for her as I did when I was 21 and she ran the race of her life and is now a rare cancer survivor.
Rhonda Bigelow, Texas Roadhouse
I Thought My Playing Days Were Over
My name is Jim Rockstad. In 2005 I had a shoulder that was bone-to-bone and looked like I would have to give up racquetball--which I have played since 1974.
I was in a traffic accident in '91 which caused a trauma in my shoulder requiring surgery. I met up with Doctor Frederick Matsen at the University of Washington and said, "My goal is to play racquetball into my 70's". He had a new approach to fixing my shoulder which he called "Ream and Run". Instead of the plastic socket that was used normally he reams out the shoulder bone to accept the arm bone (with a chromium cap) and the body develops its' own cartilage over time. It sounded weird to me but I had no other choice.
He installed the replacement shoulder and I was hitting a racquetball in two months (with ice) and then playing the game in 5 months (although I was very weak).
Now, here I am playing racquetball better than I ever have (won a silver medal several years ago in St George and recently won a gold medal at the Washington State Senior Games in doubles 65-69). Additionally, I play racquetball 3 days a week for 6-7 hours and the shoulder is wonderful.
I have entered to return to St. George in October for my 7th time. I have consulted with over 30 patients for Dr. Matsen to tell them my story. Can't wait to compete again.
Thanks----see you soon,
I CAN DO IT!
Polio is a disease that in the US is rarely heard of these days. But back when I was young it was a killer. Fortunately, when it struck me at age 3 1/2, it was a relatively light case. I had an extremely high fever for days and when it was over I was left with damage to my left side.
My mother had been told that I would possibly never be able to walk well and I remember wearing special shoes. But as my mother always told people, "Pulleeeeze, don't tell Karen she can't do something because that is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. She WILL do it."
I was always a 'Tom Boy' and have been playing softball since I was about 8 in the Cleveland, Ohio playground system. I've been the only woman in some men's leagues, played on the local pub league in Buffalo, New York, for years and currently am the catcher for the 70+ Freedom Spirit of FL team.
While my left leg is shorter than the right, the foot almost 1 1/2 sizes smaller than the other and my back has a slight curve I am so lucky to be walking, running and still playing. I even hit a home run in a recent tournament and ran all the bases, albeit with a limp but "I DID IT"!!!
Thank You for making these games possible. You always do a wonderful job.
THE GAMES INSPIRE ME
A friend who had been competing in Basketball at the Huntsman World Senior Games for years told me that they had Racewalking and urged me to come. That was in 2009. I gave it a try and was glad I did.
I've competed three times now. Each time I compete in the three Racewalking events: 1500M, 3000M, and 5000M. I have really enjoyed the competition. Knowing I plan to come again next year keeps me working out all year long.
In 2010 I also tried the High Jump and the 800M run. I barely cleared 4'3", which is quite embarrassing since I'm 6'6" and should be able to fall over 5'0". I was dead last in the 800M too, but I did break 3 min 50 seconds and I was only 100 meters out of next to last. This year I plan to high jump again. I just turned 60 and I saw that last year M60-64 was won with a jump of 3'11" or so. Maybe I can get my first gold. Hah.
I've met many wonderful people at the Games. It inspires me to meet people who are over 60 or 70 or 80 and yet who are youthful in their outlook and still quite active.
THE GAMES GAVE ME HOPE
My name is Cesar Jimenez and I played Softball at the Huntsman World Senior Games last year for the first time. By itself, not that unique. However, I am battling cancer.
I had my chemotherapy treatment just one day before getting to Utah. I arrived a little sluggish as is usual after the "CHEMO". A couple of my teammates knew what I was going through and they encouraged me, cheering me on. When I went to check-in and met such nice people who welcomed me in a manner that made me feel at home, I became more relaxed and less worried about my feelings.
The thrill I felt when I marched with all of those other brave athletes in the Opening Ceremonies was just amazing. I felt so good out in St. George, Utah, that I actually cried one night. I did experience nausea and vomiting BUT that was nothing compared to the better feeling of competition and the feeling of being welcomed.
The restaurants and other businesses in St. George were also very friendly and that made my stay even better.
The best award that I received was the reward of being surrounded by athletes from all over the world and having them say to ME that I was a good player. For those that I shared my Cancer story with and they shared some of their own life struggles with me was also very touching.
As a Chaplain I have been trained to give others HOPE but I must say that because of the Huntsman World Senior Games and the great people involved in it, I was the one that experienced HOPE, a HOPE of getting Cancer FREE soon. The fact that I am still alive and writing this is the best story that I could ever write.
God Bless you all.
Chaplain Cesar Jimenez
HIGH QUALITY OF LIFE THANKS TO SPORTS
My name is Craig Davis. In 1986 at the age of 45 I went into my doctor for a physical exam. I was busy in my career and found little time for fitness. My blood tests showed a cholesterol of 586 and my triglycerides were 1500. An EKG showed coronary blockage. My doctor told me I was on a path to an early grave if I didn't make some serious lifestyle changes.
I started cycling and changing my diet. Cholesterol drugs were limited at that time. I started training for senior games cycling events. This year will be my 20th Huntsman World Senior Games. I have competed in 8 different sports and won medals in all of them. My health is great and my cholesterl and EKG are normal. At age 70 I owe my high quality of life to sports and fitness.
HOW THE HUNTSMAN WORLD SENIOR GAMES AND SOFTBALL SAVED MY LIFE
My name is Alexx Stuart and sports have always been my life. Beyond participating in everything, I had been an athletic director, a sportswriter, and, currently, a playwright known for sports oriented plays.
I thought I was in great physical condition, having walked at least 3 miles a day every day for the previous 4 years. I played racquetball
every Monday and participated in 150-200 senior softball games per year for the last decade. Being in such superb condition, I wasn't too worried about health insurance. I was covered by the Dramatists' Guild Policy, but that didn't amount to much: basically, the best they could do was if you lost a leg, they'd help you look for it. So when I got to the 2011 Huntsman Games, my first ever, playing with the Rockies (Phoenix) Over 60 softball team, I thought I'd take advantage of the Games' free health screening.
On the day of the championship game which we'd be playing in later that afternoon, I blasted through all the prodding and poking stations with nary a problem ... that is, until I came to the bood sugar test. The young woman doing my blood test looked at her glucose meter and decided it must be broken. It had registered 580. A reading should be under 150. Mine was a recording the likes of which they had never seen before. After an additional test an hour later of 586, a consulting doctor was called over.
She said, rather urgently, that I needed to go to the emergency room ... NOW! She couldn't understand why I wasn't in a coma. However, I felt fine. Having a typical male softball brain, I informed her that I had a championship game to play, that I wasn't going to let my teammates down, and that I wasn't going anywhere but to the fields.
I guess I showed her.
Battling the Hippocratic Oath and all wasn't easy. We finally agreed that I would go to the E.R. the next day when I returned to Phoenix. Long story short (I know, that ship has already sailed), I was diagnosed with diabetes on Oct. 8. The dominoes began falling: the E.R. sent me to a diabetes doctor who heard a heart murmur; she sent me to a cardiologist who found blockage in three arteries to my heart; and he sent me to a heart surgeon. On January 10, 2012, I had triple bypass heart surgery. My surgeon said I had been a ticking bomb waiting to go off, and if I hadn't been given some indication of some problem at the Huntsman Games, I might not be here today to tell you my story.
At present, my health is fine: my diet now does not include any hot fudge sundaes or mashed potatoes and I've said my good-byes to Dairy Queen and Baskin Robbins. On April 19, I was finally allowed back on the softball fields after 5 months off. And, I'm happy to say I'll be seeing you all at the Huntsman Games this October, a wiser and much thinner man.
Hello, My name is Barry Meisel from Spain. I have won previous gold medals at the Huntsmans Senior Games. please see my story in the link below. Thank you. http://www.euroweeklynews.com/news/costa-del-sol/86553-retired-ex-pat-heading-to-vegas-senior-olympics
First Time Bowler
I live in Portland, Oregon. Last year, 2011, when my husband, a 200+ scratch bowler decided to enter the Huntsman Senior World Games for the first time in the Bowling competition. I was eager to support him and looked forward to the trip.
I had no intention of entering the competition with my meager average. Jack's been the accomplished bowler in the family, hitting 803 last year in league play. He's also rolled multiple 300 games. However, since during many of our 55 years of marriage we had bowled together on a team, I decided to take the plunge and sign up too.
I considered my role as "supporter."
"Besides," I told myself, "No one knows me. I can be nearly invisible, no matter how I bowl."
On the morning of Bowling-Singles, we ate at one of St. George's many wonderful restaurants. I wanted to keep my salt intake down so I could get my fingers into the ball. I ordered . . . "Wheaties, The Breakfast of Champions."
God smiled at that!
He allowed me to qualify.
I continued to eat the Wheaties each day, and went beyond qualifying to earning a Gold Medal! I also qualified in Handicap Doubles with my husband, and we earned a bronze medal in that competition.
By the way, aside from the magic of "Wheaties" and the "Breakfast of Champions" partnership with GOD, there was no way to be invisible among a fantastic group of competitors that cared about everyone. Even me.
Jack and I met many outstanding people, event coordinators, and especially, the fine waitresses at all the restaurants. (In particular, the mornings at the Cracker Barrel) We are looking forward to a return trip.
With best wishes for another successful World event, I remain,
From Israel to St. George to play Table tennis?!
I started playing table tennis in my country, Israel, when I was a kid. I was good in all sports but my father directed me towards Table Tennis because one of his brothers who was killed in WW2 as a soldier in the Red Army was one of the best players in Poland. When I was 16 years old I played in the Israeli first division. My first coach was Giora Senesh, a former Hungarian player who came to Israel and was a member of the Israeli National Team. Giora is (88 years old, God bless him) the brother of the famous Hanna Senesh, a 16 year old Jewish girl who made it to Israel during the Nazi time and went back, parachuting into occupied Hungary to save Jews. She was captured by the Nazis and executed. Giora told me when I was 14 years old: in order to play table tennis you need three things: first, you need to position your body; I'll teach you how to do that, second, you need to learn the technique of the strokes; I'll teach you to do that also, and third, you need to play when your body is on one side of the table and your mind is on the other side; this you need to figure out by yourself...
At the age of 18 in Israel we go to the army for a few years. That resulted for me in a 10 year break in Table Tennis. When I got back, in the mid 80's, it was not the same game. Anti-spin and other funny rubbers were already in use, the importance of serves boosted and in Israel another thing happened: the old generation, mainly players who came from Europe after WW2 became coaches and a new generation of modern, fast attacking players were controlling our sport. By that time I was already a manager in the Israeli Ports Authority, married and a father, so I decided to make this my hobby.
Twenty-five years have now gone by. In these years I have played in 3 different clubs. My current club in Israel, Maccabbi Zichron Jacob, is one of the most active clubs in Israel. We have about 50 kids, some of them very good and about 25 adults some of them excellent players who would be rated over 2000 in the US.
My wife and I have family in California and in Florida so sometimes we come to visit them. My work also takes me from time to time to the States so I started to play in the US whenever I get the chance. I played in the US OPEN, in the California OPEN and I played three times in the Baltimore team event (great fun!).
This year I found out that I will not be able to make it to Baltimore so I started looking for another tournament I can enjoy and I came across the Huntsman World Senior Games. Soon enough I remembered that my wife and I have already visited St. George Utah in 1979 while we were on a trip in the US before we got married. At that time it was on our way to tour Zion and Bryce. I must admit it was not difficult to convince my wife to take this trip, one week with the family in California before the games and a few days in Vegas after and the decision was made.
More than that, I even managed to convince a colleague from my club in Israel, Yair Porges to join us in St. George. Ok, so I figured: I will take 2 single events (age and rating) 1 double event with my friend Yair and I will look for a lady to partner with me for the mixed doubles. I put my name on the partner finder and soon enough I found a partner: Gloria Cadavid from San Antonio Texas, so I am ready to go.
Now the adventure begins: we spent a great week in California, a few days in LA and a trip to wineries of Temecula Valley (beautiful!), a few hours' drive and we are in St. George. Well, nothing like we remembered! It is a big town now, checked into the hotel and went to meet my partners, Yair my friend from Israel who came directly here, and Gloria whom I met for the first time. Gloria came with her 2 sisters who live in Colombia; fortunately my wife was born in Cuba so the Spanish ruled the conversations (Yair and I understood very little.....).
The competition proved to be great fun. The atmosphere was excellent, very friendly (do not get confused, each and every player fought to the last point), ran smoothly by the professional staff and the charming volunteers, the venue was ok (there were some lighting issues, the barriers between the tables were not friendly and the floor a bit slippery) but the competition was great. Personally I made it into the semi-finals in the 2 individual events I participated, losing in both semi's and fighting twice for the bronze, losing one (the age event 55-59 to Moses Lan) and winning the bronze in the rating event (1600-1799 over George Taplin).
In the mixed doubles, Gloria and I made it to the final of the 50-54 group, after 2 matches we won 3:2 after being 0:2 down in both!, we lost the final 3:1 to Francisco and Sandra Mendez and won Silver. The medal ceremony was nice and the goodbyes were exciting, so after that we felt we earned a nice Vegas vacation.
So I was not the best player in the Huntsman Games but I surely made the longest way getting there...if I can handle the high resources necessary for me to come here again, I will definitely do so.