CLINTON TOWNSHIP — With their rackets and paddles in hand, 13 men and women from the Clinton Township Senior Adult Life Center medaled in this year’s Michigan Senior Olympics, qualifying them to represent Clinton Township at next year’s national games.
Hosted by Oakland University in June, the Michigan Senior Olympics gave adults 50 and older the chance to compete and medal in 20 sports, including cycling, track and field, golf, shuffleboard and archery.
The athletes from the Clinton Township Senior Adult Life Center took home 21 gold medals, 13 silvers and one bronze from the 2012 Michigan Senior Olympics in the sports of table tennis, pickleball, racquetball and badminton.
“It’s just an excellent example of healthy aging,” said Debbie McClellan, Senior Adult Life Center assistant director. “At any age, you can have goals and dreams, and they proved that. They worked hard, and they’ve accomplished their goals.”
The Clinton Township Board of Trustees recognized the 13 medalists during its Sept. 24 board meeting. While not all live in Clinton Township, all are members of the township’s senior center, which offers programs and activities for adults 55 and older.
“Some of the players are really good, and the competition at times is intense,” said Bill Starr, 56, of Clinton Township. Starr earned gold in doubles table tennis.
The medalists are eligible to move on to the 2013 Summer National Senior Olympics, which will run July 21-Aug. 6 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Starr’s doubles partner, Norm Williams, 81, has made it to the past two National Senior Olympics in 2011 and 2009, and after winning gold in doubles table tennis this summer, he will be going to the 2013 games, as well.
“(Table tennis) is basically my entertainment. I mean, I don’t bowl, I don’t golf. I play table tennis,” he said. “I enjoy going. It doesn’t matter to me whether I win or lose — I’ll play.”
At the nationals, players are matched based on their ages and skill levels. Each Olympian is first placed into pools, and those who emerged victorious from their respective pools go on to play the winners of other pools. Like the real Olympics, the competition can last days, depending on how well you do.
“It’s great, but it’s very competitive,” said Senior Adult Life Center sports and fitness coordinator Wanda Vasko, who won three gold medals in singles and doubles badminton at the Michigan games. Out of the past 20 years, Vasko has missed only three nationals, she said. “It’s such a wonderful experience.”
Vasko said competing in the Cleveland National games is something players can share with their grandchildren.
“It’s going to be so close this time. All you have to do is drive down to Ohio,” she added.