They are Olympians filled with the determination and passion to win, yet they are not the Olympians everyone knows.
Every year, about 1,500 senior-citizens over the age of 50 participate in the Maryland Senior Olympics.
The Maryland Senior Olympics takes place once a year and has a variety of events: archery, badminton, swimming, and even untraditional Olympic sports like golf, horseshoes and the race walk.
“When I was younger I wanted to go to the Olympics, when I turned 50, I found out I could be a senior Olympian,” athlete Kathy Capron said.
The Senior Olympics promote a healthy lifestyle and encourage seniors to exercise, socialize and achieve success.
“I started swimming when I quit smoking,” athlete Karen Wallace said. “You need a reason to get in the pool. I do competition to keep swimming and working out.”
While the Senior Olympics may not have the prominence of the nationally broadcasted Olympics held every four years, it is equally important.
These athletes prepare all year and work out in order to compete in the local state Senior Olympics and qualify for the Senior Nationals held every two years in the US. This year the nationals will be held in Minnesota.
“I have been training, really pushing myself,” Wallace said.
What sets the Senior Olympics apart from the Olympic Games is the atmosphere. The Senior Olympics offers more inspiration and a sense of awe.
“The atmosphere was great and all the athletes were very enthusiastic and were willing to have a conversation with us even before an important race,” Volunteer Nozomi Horikawa from Walter Johnson said, “They communicated to me that age really is just a number through their swims, which I would like to see again next year.”
At the Olympic Games, everyone is generally young, at the peak of their physical fitness and watching them does create a sense of awe, but the Senior Olympics is different.
To watch the older generation compete, to see their determination and perseverance is inspirational.
“I love watching Doris Russell, at 94, swim,” Capron said, “She is my idol; if I could swim when I am 94, my life will have been good.”
Competing is also a social event. While competitors may be opponents in the race, they can be friends outside.
“I have met so many people, friends of all ages, through swimming,” athlete Doris Russell nicknamed “Madam Butterfly” said.