More than 100 senior athletes gathered for the first OlympiActs games Tuesday, ready to crush the competition in eight events, from bocce and billiards to brain games and Wii bowling at Tryon Estates in Columbus.
At the opening ceremonies in the Laurel Room, Tryon Estates fitness trainer Caroline Eller led a cheer for all competing teams, which included participants from five retirement communities in four states.
“We’re going to have fierce competition, but fair competition,” Eller said to laughter from athletes and their supporters, who wore T-shirts in team colors. “Let the games begin!” she shouted over the mic to applause.
Eller was one of around five fitness trainers involved in preliminary trials for the athletes in their home communities, to determine who would compete Tuesday. Some — like the team from the Magnolia Trace community in Huntsville, Ala., traveled from as far as seven hours away. Other teams included Matthews Glen in Matthews, Lanier Village Estates in Gainesville, Ga., and Park Pointe Village in in Rock Hill, S.C.
“There was a lot of competition beforehand; you only want to send your best,” said Theresa Perry of Acts Retirement-Life Communities, which organized the event.
Dianne and Bob Wilusz of Park Pointe Village wore their gold medals from the trials proudly — they had won the right to represent Park Pointe in the shuffleboard competition Tuesday.
“This is part of an initiative on wellness,” said Perry, who is wellness services director for the mid-South region for Acts, which has 21 campuses in eight eastern states. “The focus is on body, mind and spirit.”
The Tryon Estates event was the first in what will likely be repeated annually, she added. Participants ranged in age from 62 and wiser.
Groups of athletes and their trainers spent Monday night at a hotel in Hendersonville before heading to Columbus in buses for a breakfast and the rowdy opening ceremonies, which featured each team filing in to the dining hall in succession to loud whoops and cheers.
“This is fun; give it all you’ve got!” said Rena Loick, who played a mean shuffleboard game for Tryon Estates. Rounds were tense on the shuffleboard courts, where trainers were sometime heckled and the Acts game rules bent ever so slightly (when it was decided to let teams continue playing a little past the time limit).
More important than medals is the camaraderie with peers at OlympiActs, said Perry.
“The No. 1 thing the residents enjoy is the socialization,” she said. “Going to another community and meeting other people.”
In Acts’ northeast region, the OlympiActs have enjoyed 11 years of annual events; some communities host up to 10 events, though it depends on facilities.
Tryon Estates accommodated a pool relay (walking in the pool) as well as a walking relay (outside in the cool, sunny fall day). A setup for cornhole outside the community’s main entrance was the site of one of the day’s first events.
“North pole, south pole, rally round the cornhole!” shouted a group of spectators in unison.
Inside, competition was quieter for the Brain Games, where “edible anagrams” and other word games challenged team members, who worked together in pairs to decipher the puzzles in a limited time.
“This is a lot tougher than when we practiced!” said Pam Thomas, who was teamed with Jan Collins for the Tryon Estates team. Thomas and Collins struggled with the brain teasers, and stood their ground as other teams were eliminated.
“We were told it would be multiple choice,” said Collins. Apparently, rules can change.
Reach Beth De Bona at 828-694-7890 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BRNBeth