Have these people found the secret to living an age-less life...Pat Boone...and how this Olympic medal-winning couple is competing against a tough opponent – Breast Cancer.
The best part of my introduction to Senior Olympics has been the opportunity to meet the amazing competitors. Their drive, enthusiasm and seemingly age-proof desire to get up, get moving and get out and compete are wonderful inspirations. Everyone I’ve met has been so helpful – including my newest Gold Medal friend, Dr. James Viggiani.
With the start of the games arriving soon, I was looking for more advice and training tips. If you are looking to get the best advice, you go to the top right? And since he’s one of the most decorated State and National Senior Olympians in the area, I found myself at Jim’s home one recent afternoon. This former Navy seaman, who served on the USS Intrepid and Kitty Hawk, has been competing in Senior Olympics since he became eligible at age 55. Now an impossible to tell 75, Jim has collected 20 years of medals, some seen here.
“The first time I ever heard about Senior Olympics was while visiting family in Buffalo, NY. There was an article about the upcoming Senior Olympics being held at Syracuse University. I started researching the program and began competing as soon as I turned 55.” (Now you are able to compete at age 50!)
Jim told me he had always been an avid basketball and tennis player, and even credited his frequent presence on the basketball courts at Independent Hill School in Prince William to leading to his position there as principal, which he held until retiring in 2008. He also taught and supervised student teachers in the Military Career Transition Program at Fort Belvoir and Quantico Marine Corps Base. But Senior Olympics has been an important part of his non-work lifestyle.
“The people you meet are fantastic, seeing the competitors each year is inspiring. And it helps keep you in shape. I believe the Senior Games saying, ‘You don’t stop playing when you get old…you get old when you stop playing,’” Jim told me.
Jim (right) competes every year in 3-on-3 basketball and free throw events, along with tennis and volleyball. Besides organizing the golf competition for the NVSO committee, he’s also joining me in the football toss and softball throw. (He was kind enough to try to teach me how not to ‘throw like a girl.’) But not satisfied with gaining local Olympic glory, Jim also competes at the state and national level. ‘I like the thrill, at this age, to still be able to compete at a national level against others my age. It’s exciting to be there with people from all over – what other program offers you that opportunity.”
His partner and cheerleader at those national competitions has been wife Linda. This year though, Jim has become her biggest fan and supporter as she recovers from breast cancer treatment.
He told me that he and Linda had both read an article in the Washington Post about nurse Cathryn Tatusko’s fight to get Virginia to adopt health legislation - HB 83 - requiring that radiologists put information about breast density in post-mammogram letters to patients. Little did they know they'd be benefiting from the requirement. (To read more about the important health law HB 83, see story link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/virginia-to-require... )
A suspicious spot on a regular mammogram had Linda’s radiologist recommending additional tests, which found her cancer. It’s been a scary time for the couple, but since it was caught early, Linda has responded well to treatment for her Stage 1 cancer. So well they are making plans for next summer’s National Senior Games in Cleveland, where Linda will be back courtside cheering Jim on. “We are hoping to have Pat Boone play on our 3-on-3 team. We met at a previous competition and he has always wanted to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, since he might not be voted in,” Jim told me with a chuckle. (Those of us of a certain age will understand the joke.)
Pat Boone, how cool is that. Cleveland, that’s just up the highway…can my Olympic dreams stretch that far?
There is still time to register for the competitions in Maryland and Northern Virginia. Many of the events allow on site registration and active duty, retired, veterans and spouses are encouraged to take the Senior Olympics challenge. Just check out the links at www.nvso.us or http://www.mdseniorolympics.org/.
For more on my Olympic adventures go to http://www.dcmilitaryliving.com/profiles/blogs/put-some-positive-po... and http://www.dcmilitaryliving.com/profiles/blogs/northern-virginia-se...