Sanibel athletes prevail at 2008 Florida Senior Games
On Saturday, the 17th Annual Florida Senior Games State Championships began in Lee County and the City of Cape Coral, kicking off nine days of competition in 23 sports. More than 2,000 athletes, age 50 and over will participate in the Olympic Style Sports Festival for athletes age 50 and over.
Nine sports were contested on the first day of the games, including Archery, Bocce, Swimming, Volleyball, 10K Road Race, Pickleball, Powerlifting, Softball and Doubles Bowling.
The day began with 61-year old Craig Anderson of Olympia, Wash. breaking the overall record in the 10K Road Race with a time of 39:23.21. He finished 20 seconds better than the previous record, set by Dave Ohnsman of Neptune Beach in 2004.
The top women’s finisher was Tatyana Rikenbaugh of Fort Myers, who ran the 10K race in 51:58.78 to win the gold medal in 55-59 age group. Seven age group records were set at the 10K Road Race.
At the swimming competition, 20 age group records were set and at the doubles bowling competition, four age group records were set, including an all-time best score in the Men’s Doubles event. James Hoppe and Samuel Anzalone, both of The Villages, rolled a combined score of 1453 to shatter the previous mark of 1392 by 61 pins and win the gold medal in the 65-69 age group.
Sanibel resident Ann McDonnell, who earned six medals (one gold, five silvers) through the first three days of the competition, said that she had expected to be among the top swimmers competing at the Florida Gulf Coast University pool, where several events took place.
“I was hoping to do a little bit better,” McDonnell said with a laugh. “I ran into some really, really good swimmers.”
Competing in the Women 70-74 category, McDonnell placed second twice on Day 1 to Bradenton resident Patricia Bond, first in the 200 Freestyle and second in the 500 Freestyle. Bond’s pace in the latter race (7 minutes, 52.22 seconds) established a new Senior Games record for that age group.
Fellow Sanibelian William Highsmith took first place in the 100 Yard Breaststroke event for Men 55-59, finishing in 1 minute, 38.28 seconds. Highsmith also grabbed a bronze in the 100 Yard IM event in the same age group.
Also on Saturday, islander Terry Stickel placed second overall in the 10K Road Race, completing the Centennial Park course in 51 minutes, 33.37 seconds.
On Day 2, Gerald Brunette of Naples came one pin shy of establishing a new men’s singles Bowling all-time high score, rolling a combined three-game score of 774. His score did set a record in the 65-69 age group, breaking the previous record by 45 pins.
In Men’s Bocce, Freddie’s Friends of Cape Coral was undefeated in five games en route to the gold medal. They defeated the Goodfellas, also of Cape Coral, in their last two matches. The Freddie’s Friends team is made up of Fred Capus, Larry Bennett, Dan DiLecci and Benito Germani.
In Mixed Doubles Pickleball competition, Bill Freeman and Deb Harrison, both of The Villages, won their fourth consecutive gold medal. This year, the duo won gold in the 60-64 age group after winning the last three years in the 55-59 age group. Freeman and Harrison did not lose a game in four matches in their run for the gold medal and and did not allow opponents to score more than four points in eight games.
McDonnell brought home the gold in the 100 Yard Freestyle event, swimming the course in 1 minute, 24.61 seconds, narrowly defeating Valrico resident Patricia Tullman’s silver-winning time of 1 minute, 24.65 seconds.
Also on Sunday, McDonnell earned three more silvers: 50 Yard Butterfly, 50 Yard Freestyle and 200 Yard Backstroke.
Day 3 saw John Shultz of Inverness extended his streak of earning Senior Games medals to 16 years. It is the longest consecutive years streak of any Florida Senior Games athlete.
Shultz and his partner, Deane Chickering, won the gold in the 70-74 age group at the Estero Community Center as 112 Table Tennis players competed in Singles, Doubles, Men’s, Women’s and Mixed Doubles.
Shultz’s streak began in 1993 competing in the 55-59 age group. During the 16-year span, Shultz has won 11 gold medals, four silvers and one bronze.
Long-time women’s doubles partners Jan Cline and Dorothy Hann, both of Sun City Center, claimed their 11th gold medal, winning the 70-74 age group. The duo won five gold medals in 60-64 age group between 1996 and 2000, three golds from 2001 and 2003 in the 65-69 age group and have won the last three years in the 70-74 age group.
Cline also won a gold medal in mixed doubles with Joseph Cincotta and a bronze in singles competition. Hann won a gold medal in women’s singles competition and a silver medal in mixed doubles.
The final day of Pickleball saw Jim Wright of The Villages win three matches to claim his third overall gold medal and second consecutive men’s singles title in the 65-69 age group. Wright won a gold medal in mixed doubles in the 65-69 age group with Jean Kiker on Sunday and a men’s doubles gold medal on Saturday with partner Pete McNamara.
Another Pickleball competitor, Ralph Frankel of Sanibel, earned a gold medal in the men’s 60-64 category.
Asked about how he got involved in the sport, which has been described as “a cross between ping pong and tennis,” Frankel explained that he witnessed his first Pickleball match only a few months ago.
“It’s fun, and it’s an easy game to learn if you’re accustomed to playing any kind of paddle sport,” he added. “But winning a gold medal kind of took me by surprise.”