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December 23, 2013

Michigan Senior Olympics redefine ‘senior’ living

Athlete registration open through Jan. 6

By Jessica Strachan
C & G Staff Writer

METRO DETROIT — People enter the Michigan Senior Olympics for all kinds of reasons.

“We have all types of athletes: the seniors who continue to be healthy and continue playing the sports they love, the ones who train all year and take the games very seriously, and the ones who do it for the fun of it and just to beat their personal best,” said Michigan Senior Olympics spokesperson Becky Ridky. “It’s really inspirational to see these athletes out there because they aren’t the typical senior you think of.”

No one knows that better than Rhonda Terry, who sees it in her friend, neighbor and fitness pal, 70-year-old Cora Hill.

“Cora is awesome. She has proven that just because you grow older, you do not have to sit down in a rocking chair. She motivates me to exercise daily, eat the correct foods and stay positive,” she said, adding that they bike together, run half marathons and other races together, and train with Stone Steppers Running Group in Southfield. “At times, I forget she is a senior because she moves so fast and is so sharp, mentally. She is knowledgeable about current events and even has a smartphone — and can text like a 15 year old.”

As for the 2014 Michigan Senior Olympics, which mark 35 years, the events take place throughout Oakland and Macomb counties Feb. 8-13.

Events include: badminton, billiards, bocce ball, bowling, dancesport, hockey, pickleball, powerlifting, racquetball and table tennis. The Michigan Senior Olympics are open to anyone 50 or older.

Seniors, like Hill, turn up to put their passions and energy into action.

“I think running is important for many reasons, not only for living in optimal health — in mind body and spirit — but it helped me in a grieving process. … My son had passed away unexpectedly,” she explained.

Hill began running in 1996 and first started while out walking her dog shortly after her son had passed away, finding it comforting in ways, she explained.

She’s now become incredibly active, as a certified black belt and personal trainer, inspiring others. Hill has also placed in and won many 5k and 10k races — participating in 17 marathons total, including in Boston and New York, and 14 half marathons.

In 2011, she competed in the Michigan Senior Olympics for the track and field 800-meter run, 1,500-meter run and 5k road race, which qualified her to compete in the National Senior Games. She represented the city of Southfield at the National Senior Games in Cleveland over the summer, bringing back plenty of awards to be proud of, including the gold medal in the 800-meter run, silver in 1,500-meter run, silver in 4-by-100-meter relay, and an eighth-place ribbon in the 5k road race.

“I enjoy meeting a lot of people, and it gives me something to look forward to,” she said, adding that she was up training each day at 4:30 a.m., much to the dismay of her husband, when she began competing at the age of 55.

“He said, ‘Why do you get up so early to train?’ Even I thought it wouldn’t be as hard, competing against other seniors, but these people aren’t playing around!” she said with a chuckle. “People are really impressed, especially the younger people, to see these are really great athletes and the (Michigan Senior Olympics) has all aspects of athleticism.”

For seniors thinking of giving the Olympics a try this year, a few more weeks remain to meet the Jan. 6 online registration deadline, and Terry offers the motivation of her inspiration.

“(Cora) always says don’t worry about the next person; just do what you can do no matter how small it is,” Terry explained. “She always says we have to stay active at every age, and looking at her appearance, I plan to do just that.”

Terry, 51, competed in 2013 for the first time, running the 50- and 100-meter dashes, and leaving with a bronze medal.

Michigan Senior Olympics is a nonprofit organization promoting healthy lifestyles by organizing statewide games and sports competitions, as well as various health, fitness, nutrition and wellness programs.

There are many ways to be involved with Michigan Senior Olympics, according to Ridky: as an athlete, a member, a sponsor, a volunteer or a spectator.  For more information or to register, call the Michigan Senior Olympics office in Rochester Hills at (248) 608-0252 or visit www.michigansenior olympics.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jessica Strachan at jstrachan@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1108.