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Olympics an outlet for those over 50

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Nobuko Oyabu

Participants race in a 50-meter run during the Senior Olumpics at Ericson Field at Augustana College.

Whether spectating or participating, the Quad-Cities Senior Olympics has something for everyone.

For athletic participants, there is 3-on-3 basketball, tennis, swimming, bowling or a 5-K or 10-K cycling event. For the non-athletic participant there is a spelling bee, bridge, and competition in the arts including literary, sculpting, weaving, singing and instrumentals.

``We're very proud of what we have,'' Frances Leimkuehler, the organization's chairperson said. ``Our purpose is to provide participation.''

Senior Olympics has been providing participation for people more than 50 years old since 1991 as part of the United Medical Center's Senior Services. Later it was sponsored by Trinity Medical Center and the YWCA in Rock Island. In 1997, Senior Olympics incorporated into a volunteer organization.

This year the event will be held July 30, 31 and Aug. 1 at Augustana College in Rock Island.

The events are broken down into age groups in increments of five years. Last year there were more than 300 participants, Ms. Leimkuehler said. Most participants are men, she said. The number of women is growing, however.

``We're finding women who didn't have the opportunity to participate in athletics in high school are now doing so,'' she said. ``We're also coming through a period where athletes are getting older and want to continue to be active.''

Athletes are not just active three days out of the year, Ms. Leimkuehler said. They train year-round and coach each other.

``That makes it even more enjoyable,'' she said.

Another thing that makes the olympics a success is that the Quad-Cities games are open to all and is not geographically restricted. Participants come from across the United States and Canada. Some Senior Olympic games are restricted by location, Ms. Leimkuehler said. Many use those games as a stepping board for state and national games.

``Ours is not a qualifying site,'' Ms. Leimkuehler said. ``People who come to our games come for the fun. They don't have to have a qualifying score to compete. At some sites people do qualify to go to state and national competition.''

-- By Pam Berenger (February 9, 1998)

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