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Michigan Senior Olympics gears up for Winter Games

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published January 26, 2016

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ROCHESTER — Local seniors have been hard at work training to compete in the 2016 Michigan Senior Olympics Winter Games, which will be held Feb. 9-15 at various locations throughout Oakland and Macomb counties.

Michigan Senior Olympics Executive Director Becky Ridky expects approximately 500 participants, ages 50 and older, to compete in the Winter Games this year — which include badminton, bocce ball, billiards, pickleball, power lifting, table tennis, racquetball, ice hockey and dancesport, as well as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, which are new this year. Ridky said a new platform tennis clinic will be offered 1-3 p.m. Feb. 9 at Waterford Oaks County Park.

Seniors could register to compete in various events through Jan. 23, and all of the games, with the exception of dancesport, are free for spectators to watch.

“It’s definitely a great event to get people out and moving, and it’s also kind of practice leading up to our Summer Games, because this year our Summer Games are going to be a qualifier for the National Senior Games, which are going to take place in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2017,” Ridky said. “It’s just something to do during the winter months to get people out of their houses and having fun.”

Larry Pandoff, 65, of Commerce Township, will compete in the MSO’s power lifting event for his second consecutive year this winter. Although Pandoff has been lifting weights since 1985, he had not competed until last year.

“Last September, I was lifting about 100 pounds. … I started lifting pretty heavy, and I got up to 205 pounds. … That was an accomplishment for me. Then I competed and I really got involved. I really like the Senior Olympics for older people because it stresses health and physical fitness. People think you get old and you shrivel up, but you don’t,” Pandoff said.

Today, Pandoff has lifted up to 225 pounds, and he said he’s working toward 250 for the Winter Games.

“The atmosphere and the people are encouraging. Everybody cheers everybody on and encourages everybody to do their best. It’s a lot of fun,” he said.

But before the competition, Ridky said there is still a lot of work to be done — which she said couldn’t go on without the help of volunteers and sponsors.

The Michigan Senior Olympics is currently searching for volunteers of all ages to assist before and during this year’s events. Volunteers of all ages can be trained to assist with registration, check-in, T-shirt folding and scorekeeping.

“We probably need 50-75 volunteers. … People can sign up to volunteer on our website. I know right now we are in need of people to help scorekeep for badminton, and we are also looking for some people to help with our power lifting event, but we do have other openings on our volunteer schedule,” Ridky explained.

The Michigan Senior Olympics also relies strongly upon sponsors, Ridky added. This year’s major sponsors are Blue Care Network of Michigan, Crittenton Hospital, St. John Providence Health System, Oakland County Parks and Humana, but she said there are lots of different sponsorship opportunities still available.

“Sponsorships are very important to us, as far as keeping the games up and running,” Ridky said. “Our goal is to service as many seniors as possible, so the more sponsors we have, the more marketing we can do to get the word out there.”

The Michigan Senior Olympics is a nonprofit organization that aims to enhance the quality of life for those older than 50 by providing and developing programs in physical fitness and nutrition, while enhancing mental strength and sports skills.

For more information, a schedule of events, or to volunteer or become a sponsor for the upcoming games, visit www.michiganseniorolympics.org or call (248) 608-0252.

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