Sports

Watch Grandpa Go! National Senior Games Kick Off in Fort Lauderdale

More than 11,000 athletes ages 50 to 103, will compete in this year's National Senior Games in Fort Lauderdale.
More than 11,000 athletes ages 50 to 103, will compete in this year's National Senior Games in Fort Lauderdale. Photos courtesy of the National Senior Games Association
Broward County swimmer Randy Mayweather is competing at his very first Olympic-style sporting event this week in Fort Lauderdale. Though Michael Phelps was 15 when won his first gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Mayweather isn't discouraged and in no way thinks he's past his prime. In fact, at 65, Mayweather's one of the younger athletes competing at the National Senior Games.

"When I was younger, I didn’t think I’d be a competition-level athlete at 65," Mayweather tells New Times. "But when I got out of the Navy, I saw guys who were 80 years old competing in a swim meet and I thought, If they can do it, I can do it."

From May 10 to May 23, 11,938 qualifying athletes from across the nation — between the ages of 50 and 103 — will vie for gold, silver, and bronze medals at the 2022 biennial National Senior Games, the largest qualified multisport event in the world, taking place at multiple sports venues across South Florida, including Crandon Park in Key Biscayne, Sawgrass Lanes bowling alley, the Ansin Sports Complex, and the Plantation Aquatic Complex. In total, there will be 21 sports, with male and female divisions, including archery, swimming, cycling, and track and field, along with some games that have grown popular in retirement communities, like bowling, pickleball, shuffleboard, cornhole, and power walking.

Mayweather, who swam competitively in the early 1970s while attending Boyd H. Anderson High School in Lauderdale Lakes, will compete in the 200-meter breaststroke. Despite experiencing two strokes, brain surgery, and blood clots in the last few years, he says he has continued training in the pool and staying active.

"As we age, this is a chance to keep up our health and do things we didn’t think we could do," he says, "to show others that life gives you one chance but you can do whatever you put your mind to."
click to enlarge Randy Mayweather, 65, of Tamarac will compete in the 200-meter breaststroke. - PHOTO COURTESY OF RANDY MAYWEATHER
Randy Mayweather, 65, of Tamarac will compete in the 200-meter breaststroke.
Photo courtesy of Randy Mayweather
At age 103, golfer Linsday Tise of North Carolina will be the oldest athlete at the competition. 

"Many of them return to sports because of midlife crises, losing a spouse, or after getting diagnosed with diabetes," National Senior Games spokesperson Del Moon tells New Times. "These are the types of people who came to sports to get back to their health and wellbeing in a way that provides excitement, goals, and motivation."

Though the National Senior Games are typically held in odd-numbered years, the competition went virtual in 2021 to keep the competitors safe. Normally, participants are required to qualify in one of 53 State Games sanctioned by the National Senior Games Association (a nonprofit affiliate organization council member of the United States Olympic Paralympic Committee), but the process was amended to allow more athletes the opportunity to qualify. Now that vaccines and boosters are readily available and COVID-19 infections have declined, the athletes are eager to compete in person for the first time since the 2019 Games in Albuquerque. 
click to enlarge National Senior Games events are free and open to the public. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL SENIOR GAMES ASSOCIATION
National Senior Games events are free and open to the public.
Photo courtesy of the National Senior Games Association
Fifty-eight-year-old triathlete De Shann Schinkel is so thrilled that she has traveled all the way from Wyoming to compete for a third time at the National Senior Games.

"There’s been so much darkness in our country during the pandemic that I’m so excited to see all the smiles, all the people hugging each other, and the camaraderie at the games," Schinkel tells New Times. "I love the camaraderie, being together and watching us still moving and taking that step every day."

The games kicked off Tuesday with pickleball, volleyball, the 1500-meter power-walk event, and the 1500-meter race-walk. But the lighting of the ceremonial cauldron at the Flame Arrival Ceremony at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Las Olas Oceanside Park will mark the official start of the games.

The games are free and open to the public. The public is invited (and encouraged) to join the athletes in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for Largest Freeze Dance Game at 5:45 p.m. on Monday, May 16, at the Las Olas Intracoastal Promenade Park.

"To watch anyone over 100 participating in swimming and running — it’s inspiring," Schinkel says. "The cool part is looking at these athletes and thinking, That’s who I wanna be when I grow up!"

National Senior Games. Through May 23, at various area locations. For a full schedule of events, visit nsga.com.
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Joshua Ceballos is staff writer for Miami New Times. He is a Florida International University alum and a born-and-bred Miami boy.
Contact: Joshua Ceballos