November 27, 2010
Seniors lament loss of Empire State Games
Participants say it breaks their heart not to be able to compete in annual events at college
Elsie Adams, 88, has more medals in the Empire State Senior Games than she can count, more than 100 in total.
Adams has been winning them since the first competition in 1983 and had plans to compete in a dozen more competitions.
But facing a $315 million budget deficit, the state eliminated the Empire State Games, including the Senior Games, which is hosted by SUNY Cortland every summer.
For senior athletes like Adams, the announcement is terrible news.
“It just breaks my heart,” Adams said. “I’ve been in the games since 1983. I medaled every year. I just love it. It’s one of the best things in my life.
“You can take everything away from me, but please don’t take away my games,” she said.
Adams is one of thousands of local athletes who have competed in the games over the years. For these athletes, the competition satisfied their competitive instincts and allowed them to compare their athletic ability with their peers.
The Senior Games is an athletic competition for people age 50 and older. The sports include golf, track and field, volleyball, pickleball, badminton and swimming.
According to previous reports, the total cost of the Empire State Games was $2.3 million, with the Senior Games costing $100,000.
Jane Rowe served as the local coordinator for the Senior Games for the past seven years. She said the senior athletes look forward to competing in the event all year.
“I think it meant a lot for people, When you see an 85-year-old man running track and high jumping, it gives you a nice perspective on things,” Rowe said.
The games have been a mainstay in the region. The event began at SUNY Cortland in 1983 before moving to Syracuse in 1996. The games returned to Cortland in 2001.
Loretta Hatfield and Jan Barrington won medals last year in pickleball, which is a racquet sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, table tennis and ping-pong. Both said they had a lot of great memories from the event.
“I remember seeing a lady who could hardly walk and get up and throw the shot put,” said Hatfield, 64. “It’s just really neat to see everyone being active later in life.”
Barrington said the loss of the games would leave a void for a lot of senior who play sports and look forward to the event.
“We’re all really competitive. I want to compete as long as I live,” said Barrington, 64. “We certainly are all very disappointed and hoping they will bring them back.”
Adams also has a faint hope that somehow she will be allowed to compete in what would be her 29th consecutive Senior Games. She trains for the competition every day, doing 100-meter dashes and throwing the discuss and shot-put in her backyard.
Even though she is devastated by the decision to cut the games, Adams remained upbeat, quoting a famous line often attributed to U.S. Army General Douglas MacArthur.
“Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up wrinkles the soul.”
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe