Forget the NBA playoffs. The best come-back sports stories of the season can be found at the Chattanooga District Senior Olympics this week.
Take 91-year-old Martha Swasey. She suffered a heart attack and stroke Easter weekend but swam the 50-meter back stroke this morning at the McCallie School and plans to compete in the tennis table mixed doubles on Thursday.
“The more you do it, the more you want to come back,” said Ms. Swasey, who has participated in 27 of the 28 years of the Senior Olympics. She attributes her ability to come back year after year to teaching physical education, which she still does.
Staff Photo by Lori Yount -- Roger Clem, 53, receives one of his six swimming gold medals this afternoon at the Chattanooga District Senior Olympics opening ceremony at UTC.
And 76-year-old Betty Case returns for her 15th Olympics this year after having to sit out last year because of quadruple by-pass surgery. She still had a chance to travel to the national championships in Louisville, Ky., with her badminton team last year, but this year, “by just doing my rehab,” the St. Elmo resident said she’s back in full form and plans to compete in volleyball, basketball free-throw, horseshoes, bowling and softball.
The camaraderie formed with her fellow teammates and competitors, who practice at least weekly all year, keeps her coming back.
“The last day of my surgery, they told me they had a prayer at the horseshoe pitch,” Ms. Case said. “That’s good friends.”
The two women are just two of almost 360 athletes over 49 who will participate in the district games today through Saturday. Most of them will go on to the state competition July 18 to 24 in Williamson County, Ms. Case said.
Top finishers there will travel to San Francisco in August 2009 for the bi-annual national competition.
The district level Olympics kicked off this afternoon with an opening ceremony at Maclellan Gym on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus. Due to rules in the gym, the seniors could only light a fake candle instead of a torch.
But spirits were high as organizers with Alexian Senior Neighbors and Chattanooga Parks and Recreation handed out the first medals of the games for the swimming competition this morning.
Roger Clem, who also swims in a local Masters Swimming team, won six gold medals in the 50 to 54 age category. He said he swam competitively as a child and young man and picked it back up again three years ago to be more active.
“I took 30 years off until I turned 50,” he said. “I thought I’d die, so I started to swim again.”
See tomorrow’s Chattanooga Times Free Press for complete coverage.
Senior Olympics schedule
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.: Registration at Alexian Brothers-Senior Neighbors, 10th and Newby streets
8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.: 200 m to 1500 m runs, McCallie School
8:30 a.m.: Singles tennis, Champions Club
9 a.m.: Bowling, doubles, Holiday Bowl in Brainerd Road
10 a.m.: Billiards, Chattanooga Billiards Club
10 a.m.: Field events, McCallie School
1:30 p.m.: Horsehsoes, Warner Park
3:30 p.m.: Table tennis, Wyatt Recreation Center
6 p.m.: Softball throw, Avondale
6:45 p.m.: Softball, Avondale
7 p.m.: Ballroom dancing, Alexian Borthers-Senior Neighbors
7:30 a.m.: 5K run, Chattanooga Riverpark
8 a.m.: Golf, Brown Acres Golf Course
8:15 a.m., 9 a.m.: 5K, 20K Cycling, Christway Community Church
8:30 a.m.: Doubles tennis, Champions Tennis Club
8:30 a.m.: 1500 m Racewalk, McCallie School
9 a.m.: Bowling, mixed doubles, Holiday Bowl on Brainerd Road
9:30 a.m.: 1 mile Power walk, McCallie School
10 a.m.: Shuffleboard, Wyatt Recreation Center
10 a.m., noon: Badminton, singles, doubles, Brainerd Recreation Center
3 p.m.: 3-on-3 Basketball, South Chattanooga Recreation Center
8:30 a.m.: Mixed doubles tennis, Champions Tennis Club
9 a.m.: Weightlifting, Warner Fitness Park Center
10 a.m.: Racquetball, Downtown YMCA
1 p.m.: Badminton, mixed doubles, Brainerd Recreation Center