Shelley Osterloh ReportingNearly 8,000 athletes from more than 50 countries competing in dozens of sporting events. No, it’s not the Olympics, it’s the Huntsman Senior Games, and it’s going on right now in St. George. The Games have become a premier international event that just keeps growing.
Whether it's racquetball, softball, basketball, or one of more than a dozen other sports, it’s part of the Huntsman Senior Games. What started 18 years ago as a small effort to attract visitors to Washington County has grown into an international event that requires 98 venues for two weeks of competition.
Plus there are socials, opening ceremonies with entertainment and fireworks, lectures and health screenings. All designed for active men and women over 50.
This was the 5th year for one Volleyball team from California.
Mikki Pitti, 85, Volleyball California: “Well I love life and I like being around people and this is one great way. And to me, keeping active is the biggest thing for your health.”
Loreen Walker , 71, Volleyball, California: “This next year we are going to split the team up and go part 70’s and 65’s. I want to do both.”
And they keep coming back each year; more than tw-/thirds are repeat participants.
A group of guys we spoke to are all in their upper 70’s. They say its’ as much friendship as love of the game that keeps them playing.
Mac MacFerrin, 76, Softball, Colorado: “It’s a great community of friends and I appreciate being a part of it.”
For some, the games are a goal that keeps them in training and satisfies the thirst for competition.
Yaroslav Novitski, 59, Swimming, Russia: “Because here is brotherhood and very good competitions, a very high level competitions. It’s good to be here.”
Nearly 800 more people attended this year than last, providing a boost to their health and to the St. George economy.
Mona Given, Senior Games Board Member: “Last year’s numbers we came up with $34 million in Washington County, so it is a great economic impact.”
But organizers and participants say it is the spirit of participation, healthy activity, fun and friendship that fuels the Senior Games. And many of those attending this year already have plans to return.
It takes more than 2,000 volunteers to run the games, which continue through Saturday.
The oldest competitor at this year’s senior games is 104 years old.