Pummel Someone Your Own Age
by Grace Lichtenstein
You can go for the gold in your favorite sport, no matter how old you are. Age-specific competitions — masters games — are exploding across the U.S.
There are leagues or programs in every state for swimming, running, tennis, cycling, even horseshoes. Some qualify you for national-level contests. Imagine winning your first medal at age 40 or 50.
The biggest organization conducting these programs is the National Senior Games Association, which has biennial Senior Olympics for athletes who are at least 50. To participate, you first must qualify at an NSGA-sanctioned state competition.
Last year these were the 18 sports at Summer National Senior Games:
•Track & Field
There are masters-level events everywhere. For instance, numerous local running clubs offer prizes in age-related categories, some beginning as young as 35-plus.
In Iowa last June, hundreds of entrants converged on West Des Moines to compete in games ranging from cribbage, croquet and horseshoes to tennis, soccer and swimming.
Johnstown, Pa., hosted the Keystone Games in August, attracting competitors in such events as judo, lacrosse, shooting and beach volleyball.
One sport that's huge among masters is swimming, where maturity begins at the 19-24 age group and goes all the way to 100-plus. These competitions are administered by United States Masters Swimming, and 30,000 aquanauts participate annually. With 450 affiliates, there's bound to be a club in your area.
Not in the swim? How about golf? The Senior Golfers of America runs tournaments for duffers 50 and older.
And one of your local tennis clubs is undoubtedly part of the U.S. Tennis Association, which sponsors recreational leagues and teams for more than 360,000 hackers, male and female, at all ability levels, in both singles and doubles. The age groups start at 20-25 and continue in five-year increments to 80-plus.
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