Journey to Cleveland for the National Senior Games

Sometimes it’s about competition, sometimes it’s about fun, but often it can be simply about the journey. A handful of travelers from the Northeast region headed to Cleveland for the National Senior Games and a couple of them checked in with us along the way.

With the windows rolled down and the radio cranked up, Pennsylvanians Joseph Swartz and his doubles partner Charlie DiMarco set out to drive to Cleveland, the city which hosts the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Headed to the National Senior Games, the two pals competed in both badminton and bocce.

Swartz competed in 75+ singles capturing 6th place. The duo did not outshine their doubles competitors as Swartz said with a grin, “we both played rather poorly, thank you for asking.” But, he said, the pair did have fun. (On the upside, both medaled in bocce with DiMarco taking the gold in 70+ and Swartz with the silver in the 75+.)

Meanwhile, returning national competitors, Bland Addison and his doubles partner Alex Sukher from Massachusetts took to the skies flying from Hartford to play doubles in the 65+ category. And, Addison said, “this year, for the first time, I [played] singles at the 70+ category.”  

For Addison, a highlight during the flight to Cleveland was meeting “agile and spritely” 89-year-old Portuguese sprinter, Raoul Rodrigues who hails from Connecticut. “As a former runner myself, I was very impressed that he is hoping to run 37 seconds in the 200 meters. God bless him!” Addison said. (Rodrigues ran 41.30 in the preliminaries, and in the finals, New Yorker Edward Cox took the gold at 38.29.)

Getting to the venue was a cinch with a train into center city’s new Cleveland Convention Center direct from the airport. Cleveland, Addison said, is easy to navigate on foot and “user-friendly.”  One night, he and Sukher witnessed a fortuitous fireworks display after an Indian's game right from their hotel window, and you can’t beat that for relaxed entertainment after a day on the courts. Addison and Sukher also found that the slogan “Cleveland Rocks!” holds true.

“The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland is fabulous and everyone should see it,” said Addison. Sukher was impressed by the care that the city of Cleveland takes to highlight the rock and roll phenomenon as a part of U.S. social and cultural history. Having emigrated from the Ukraine in 1999, Sukher especially enjoyed watching Addison’s personal reactions to many of the pieces on display as well as his ability to share his knowledge of rock and roll. Sukher said this helped him to appreciate that “rock and roll music, songs, and performers are an integral part of the life of [Addison’s] generation.”

As for the competition, each of them placed 5th in singles competition in their respective brackets, and the pair achieved a bronze medal in men’s doubles 65+ against their old friends from New Hampshire, Victor Field and John Richters. Sukher also took a 4th place ribbon in mixed doubles with his partner from Pennsylvania, Beverly Miller.

Bronze medal opponents, 65+ (left to right)

Alex Sukher (MA), Bland Addison (MA), John Richters (NH), Victor Field (NH)

Of the competition this year, Sukher believes that overall it was much more intense with stronger competitors than in prior national games, which he suggests was on par with some professional matches. “But,” he said, “if cash prizes and medals are an important part of the goals for the professionals, we look for a confirmation of our active vitality in the Games.” He points out that the preparation for and participation in the games helps everyone to boost both their vitality and self-esteem, and the accolades that come with winning medals, while important, are secondary.

Alexander Sukher (L) Bland Addison (R) 

Sukher picking up the bronze medal MD65+

Sukher in competition

Massachusetts players Robert Lee took the gold in men's singles, and Zhiping You, his doubles partner, took the silver in 50+ singles age category.  In men's doubles, the two took the gold. To round out the top, You and Alice Kwok-Ho took the gold in mixed 50+. Afterwards, You commented, “This is the best tournament result I have ever had (thanks to Alice and Robert).”

L

Left to Right: Robert Lee (Gold MS 50+, Gold MD 50+), Alice Kwok-Ho (Gold XD 50+), Zhiping You (Gold MD50+, Gold XD 50+, Silver MS 50+)

As for the Cleveland Convention Center: several competitors commented on the wood parquet flooring which was interspersed with blue mat. The general consensus is that it was quite good, being neither sticky nor exceptionally slippery, and that it had some give on impact which players appreciated. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it may have taken quite a while to put the floor together in preparation for the games. Some people suggested the ceilings could have been slightly higher, yet they still passed muster, and other players noted the facility’s air flow made the birds fly out of bounds a bit more than usual, though not intolerably so.

Cleveland Courts

The compelling part of gathering information about the National Senior Games from this region’s senior players is that even with the variety of personalities and competitors from many walks of life, there is an undercurrent of genuineness that exemplifies true sportsmanship. It is clear in the emails we receive; not everyone is tech savvy, some are lousy typists, others use slightly broken English, and still others take a half dozen emails to say everything needed. Still, the sportsmanship comes through. Sometimes it’s about competition, sometimes it’s about fun, but often it can be simply about the journey.