Local citizens strive for gold in senior olympic games

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 10, 2002


LULING – More than 6,000 senior citizens will compete for gold, silver and bronze medals in 27 different sports in the annual Louisiana Senior Olympic games. To first have a chance to compete in the statewide games, the seniors, anyone in the state 50 years old or older by Dec. 31, 2002, must qualify in their respective event during the district games.

The organization has divided the state into 11 districts, with the local district being the “Bayou River” district. The seniors in this area began their trek for the gold on the first of April and will continue their task until April 26. Those who make the cut, not only win district medals, but then advance to the statewide tournament held in Baton Rouge from Sept. 21-Nov. 2.

While some of the athletes chose events such as track and field, basketball, tennis and bowling, other events are offered for the less-athletic contestant. Still highly competitive, although not as athletic, medals are earned for such events as billiards and marksmanship.

“We have the whole gamut,” said Dusty Lyons, administrative assistant for the state senior olympics. “Throughout the state the five or 6,000 seniors are like a fellowship. They like to compete and the fun of winning medals. A lot of people travel to all 11 districts, from Shreveport to Lafayette, Lake Charles and New Orleans.”

The senior olympic games began 18 years ago with a little more than a few hundred participants and has grown to join with the biennial National Senior Games, which are held in various states. Similar to the summer and winter world wide olympic games, cities bid to hold the National Senior Games. Last year the games were held in Baton Rouge, next year they will take place in Hampton Roads Virginia during the last week of May and the first week of June 2003. As the seniors must compete in the district games to advance into the state games, the seniors who win gold or place high with a silver medal can advance to the national games.

“More than 20,000 athletes compete in the national games,” Lyons continued. “And they all bring an entourage of kids, grandchildren and other family. The grandchildren especially love to watch the grandparents.”

The LSOG is a nonprofit organization that works to promote physical fitness and an improved quality of life for people 50 and older through sports and physical training.

The games are open to any Louisiana senior for an annual fee. Both the state and district games are run by volunteers, with almost four hundred volunteers helping for the state games and two hundred working the district events.

Funding is possible through sponsorships from private industry and the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs, individual donations, membership and entry fees. All of the 2002 state events will be held in Baton Rouge, with some at Louisiana State University, the Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission facilities and Clicks Billiards and Don Carter’s All Star Lanes.

During the last eight national events, the number of participants has grown from 2,500 in 1987, to the expected 20,000 in 2003.