Senior athlete wins state and national recognition

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published March 23, 2016

 In her Shelby Township home March 17, Marika Vorosmarty-Blumerick, 71, sits at a table covered in medals she won while competing with the Michigan Senior Olympics and other organizations.

In her Shelby Township home March 17, Marika Vorosmarty-Blumerick, 71, sits at a table covered in medals she won while competing with the Michigan Senior Olympics and other organizations.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — At 71, Shelby Township resident Marika Vorosmarty-Blumerick does not let anything slow her down. Last year, she was inducted into the Michigan Senior Olympics Hall of Fame and, recently, she received recognition from the National Senior Games Association.

In 1945, a bomb blast destroyed her hearing as an infant while her parents were fleeing Hungary during World War II. Her father, a high-ranking government official, opted to emigrate to protect his family.

Speaking through an interpreter, Vorosmarty-Blumerick said her family settled down in Michigan, where she grew up on Grosse Ile and eventually settled down with her husband, Gary, in Shelby Township.

“When I arrived in America, immediately my parents put me in the Michigan School for the Deaf, so that’s where I learned my language,” she said. She also met Gary, who is Deaf, at the school.

She said the socialization, language and strength she obtained from the school equipped her for the challenges she faced trying to fit into the hearing world.

Vorosmarty-Blumerick was the first certified substance abuse counselor for the Deaf in the state of Michigan, a career she held for 20 years.

She always excelled at sports as a child and, encouraged by her mother, she continued to play sports growing up. She credited her mother, who is now 95, with her success.

A scary incident happened to her during her senior year of high school at a fencing tournament at Michigan State University that nearly turned her off from competitive sports, she said.

“There was a gentleman there that lost to me, and he turned and he came up to me. The crowd was watching, and I knew something was wrong because I wasn’t looking at him, but I saw the faces of the crowd,” she said. “I turned to look at the gentleman, and he came running up and he stabbed me so hard that his foil busted.”

She said the force of the impact made her fall straight back.

“It just wasn’t nice what he did to me, but after some further thought on it, I went back stronger, so he made it worse,” she joked.

Vorosmarty-Blumerick said she took a break from playing sports to raise her three children and then got right back into it.

“I enjoyed raising my kids. I was always with them. Wherever they went, I was there,” she said. “It was fun — a lot of good years.”

She said she always was a cheerleader for her children, and now her children and husband are cheerleaders for her.

When someone told her about the Michigan Senior Olympics, Vorosmarty-Blumerick said she was so happy, she jumped for joy.

“My goal at the time wasn’t to win medals or anything like that. I wanted to play. The key was I was in the right group,” she said. “I wasn’t going to get hurt and could have some fun.”

Since then, however, she has won countless medals through the Michigan Senior Olympics and other organizations.

At weekly pickleball games, she said her peers have become like family — affectionate, fun and quick to tease.

Because she is Deaf, she said she stood up for herself and ensured that players flash the pickleball score on their fingers rather than call it out. She said she also always wears black and white, so that players know to motion, rather than yell, if an errant ball is heading her way.

“They’re all losing their hearing too, so it worked out for everybody,” she laughed. “They know that I’ll come right up to them and bark at them if they don’t take care of me.”

Vorosmarty-Blumerick praised Becky Ridky, executive director of the Michigan Senior Olympics, for taking care of any frustrations she expressed. One challenge she faces is obtaining important nuggets of information that other people overhear during normal conversation.

“It probably would’ve been considerably more of a struggle if she hadn’t been involved and been in my life, so I consider her a blessing,” she said.

When she learned that she would be inducted into the Michigan Senior Olympics Hall of Fame last year, Vorosmarty-Blumerick said she was shocked, honored and touched.

She said she felt much the same way when she discovered that the National Senior Games Association had recognized her among a dozen 2016 Personal Best Athlete winners from around the country.

Ridky said Vorosmarty-Blumerick regularly stops by her office in the Older Persons’ Commission in Rochester to say hi when she is there to play sports. She said Vorosmarty-Blumerick competes in track and field, powerlifting and pickleball.

“Marika is definitely one of those people who, even though she’s faced so many challenges through her life, she has one of the most positive attitudes of anybody I’ve ever met,” Ridky said. “She’s always joking around, laughing and gets along with everyone. She’s a good friend to have and a great person to talk to.”

Del Moon, communications and media director for the National Senior Games Association, said the goal of the Personal Best Athlete program is to tell exemplary stories and motivate seniors to lead healthy, active lifestyles.

“Marika is so fascinating in how she negotiates the world and what it is like to be a competitor in a hearing world, with balls bouncing around, announcements made, whistles blown,” Moon said. “She’s a special person. I had a great time working with her.”

He said Vorosmarty-Blumerick is the first Deaf person to receive the award since the program’s inception in 2013.

When she is not playing sports, Vorosmarty-Blumerick said she enjoys traveling. She said she has been to at least 50 countries, including China, Egypt, Brazil, Chile, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iceland and Costa Rica. Her next destination: Mongolia.

Her advice to seniors is to get out and move.

“It doesn’t matter if you have health issues,” she said. “Get out, get some fresh air, do some walking. Find something fun. Life is short.”

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