Sunday, October 31, 2010

Luis (Growing Up Optional)

Luis is one of our newer members in the class. It's been really nice getting to know him. He'd always refill his parking meter after class and stay later to chat with me about how class has gone that day. Luis writes about big, bold stuff. In the past few months, he’s shared about encounters with political figures he’s had and high-powered jobs he’s held. Last week, he wrote the story below - and check this out - before he started reading to the group, he placed a brown lunch bag in the middle of our table, saying that he had a little something in there to show us. Not until the end of his reading, did he open the bag to pull out two weighty cases. Guess what were in them? It’s the last thing you’d ever expect in a lunch bag: two Senior Olympic gold medals!! Oh yeah, you know our rowdy style - instantly our whole group started gasping and squealing.
Luis Fuentes
Growing Up Optional
October 21, 2010

“Growing Old, Mandatory. Growing Up, Optional.”  I love it.  This was the theme of the 2004 Pennsylvania Senior Games.  Every year the senior games are held in every state, and every two years they represent the qualifying finals for the National Senior Olympic Games.  In Pennsylvania, the games are held at the campus of Shippensburg University, and in New York, at the State University in Courtland. 

In order to qualify for the Senior Olympic games, one must medal in the top three in his or her state in the respective sport.  Starting at age fifty, and in five year increments, the various sports include track and field events, swimming events, tennis, basketball, triathlon, and cycling, just to name a few. If you were to ask me what my claim to fame is, I would have to answer, racquetball’s my game.  And, Senior Olympics is my name.  Since 1995 I have met and competed against an elite group of Senior athletes both nationally and internationally.

Over time, the participants and the sponsors have increased.  States bid for the Senior Olympic torch to be passed on to them.  The games have been held every two years in cities like San Antonio, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida; Howard Beach, Virginia; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Louisville, Kentucky.  In Orlando, Disney World was our major sponsor, and the park was opened exclusively to six thousand seniors until 2am.  All restaurants stayed open, all food was free, and all amusement rides were compliments of Mickey Mouse. Talk about turning the clock back.  We stopped counting seconds and were like children in a goodie shop.

In 2009, twelve thousand Senior athletes were welcomed by Stanford University in the city of Palo Alto, along with their sponsors and the Public Broadcasting System.  Six million dollars dropped into their economy.  Palo Alto opened its city and its heart and made our two week stay a memorable one.  My doubles partner, Joseph Famellette, and I placed fourth in the nation.

The Senior Olympic torch already has been passed on during the closing ceremony in California and will be in Houston, Texas for the 2011 games.  And, yes, after winning two gold medals, Joe and I already have qualified in the Olympic trials and will participate in racquetball.

Finally, as we speak, hundreds of Senior athletes are gathering at the Huntsmen World Games, held every October in Salt Lake City.  Last year, fifteen nations participated.  That’s a journey that I’ve got to make.