My Olympian Mom
My Mom Rocks the Senior Olympics
My mom Carol is the poster child/lady/grandma for keeping fit for a lifetime. I guess you could say that the Senior Olympics are a culmination of her years of a wholehearted enjoyment of sports and being active.
When I say 'Senior Olympics,' you might think of events like golf, shuffleboard and speed walking, but they also include sports like volleyball, swimming, triathlon and basketball. With the possible exception of speed walking ....maybe... I think all of these senior athletes could soundly kick my fairly-fit 30-something rear up and down the street in their chosen sports.
Here's a tribute to my fun-loving, hard working mom whose Senior Olympic medals look beautiful on her, but don't hold a candle to the beauty of her dedication to being healthy, being a team player and excelling in sports she loves.
Summer National Senior Games, A.K.A. The Senior Olympics
Encouraging the health and wellness of seniors through sports
Run by the National Senior Games Association (a non-profit branch of the Olympic Committee), the National Senior Games are held every other summer in a different host city around the US. Participants must be 50 years of age or older and qualify through state Senior Games events.
The games have been held since 1987, and have become one of the biggest multi-sport events in the world. Over 15,000 athletes participated in the 2011 Summer National Senior Games in Houston, TX. The 2013 games' host city is Cleveland, OH.
My mom, age 2 and her older sister zooming around the neighborhood. Beginnings of a future triathlete.
An Athlete Since Childhood
Swimming is only one of the many athletic activities Carol has enjoyed for most of her life.
I don't think there's been a day of my mom's life where she hasn't loved to be doing something active. Growing up, she spent much of her free time in her Iowa hometown's YMCA either swimming or doing gymnastics. High school saw her as the captain of the synchronized swimming team, and in college her major was naturally physical education. One summer in college as she was lifeguarding, she met my dad. I guess I have her athleticism partially to thank for my existence. ;)
She's taught physical education classes for kids from toddlers through high school, and shared her great attitude, excellent sportsmanship and joy of the sport coaching over a decade's worth of junior high school volleyball players. From the first tryout each year, mom's volleyball team hopefuls heard that sportsmanship and a team-player attitude mattered just as much as ability when it came to being on the junior high team. Carol was never the overweight PE teacher who just blew a whistle and ordered the kids around; she was a compassionate, caring and fun-loving teacher who did aerobics right along with her students.
Mom did her best to pass along the importance of physical fitness to her children as well. As kids, we biked along with mom to various parks and tennis courts, following along behind her like a line of ducklings. The other moms on our street loved her since she was the mom who would pile all the neighborhood kids along with her brood into her big brown station wagon to take us to the local pool where we could play under the watchful eyes of lifeguards and she could work out in the lap pool. My sister caught my mom's love of volleyball and went on to become the NCAA division 3 womens' volleyball player of the year her senior year of college. My brother played tennis in high school, and in adulthood I finally started enjoying being active with running, cycling and yoga.
Training for the National Senior Games
She had somewhat of a head start in volleyball, swimming and biking, but she's become a great runner too.
Since Mom already swam at every opportunity (think: asking to use indoor hotel pools during cold Midwest winters) and had played in volleyball leagues ever since I can remember, training for events like volleyball and swimming came fairly easily for her once she decided that the National Senior Games was her goal. She found an area volleyball team training for the state and national games and joined up with them, playing in qualifying tournaments. To improve her swimming stroke, she started getting coaching and swam with the Masters program at a local fitness club.
As for the cycling leg of triathlons, Carol was already a pro at long-distances, having ridden a full day in RAGBRAI, an annual bike ride across the state of Iowa, and the full distance in several other cross-state biking events. To encourage her along, though, my dad bought her a nicer bike.
With all my mom's athleticism, she didn't run regularly that I know of until she began training for her first mini-triathlons. I'd started doing 5K's during my mid-20's and Mom and I ran in her first 5K together. I think it was the ONLY time I've beaten her in any race, and it wasn't by much. Now she runs regularly and is clearly good at it.
Mom just kept competing in the events she wanted to participate in during the National Senior Games. There were many volleyball tournaments here, swim meets there, and triathlons during the summers. Some of these were for practice, but she definitely targeted competitions that would qualify her for the state's Senior Games. There she competed to be one of the top finishers to qualify for the National Games.
Carol has competed in the National Senior Games in:
..and she's competing in the 2013 games right now!
States My Mom Has Ridden Her Bike Across:
Winning the Senior National Games Volleyball Gold Medal in 2007 - Carol's Chicago area team played in the youngest age bracket for the Senior National Games. Th
Mom's 2011 National Senior Games Results
Volleyball - 2nd in the 55 yr. age group.
Swimming - 4th in the 200 backstroke, 7th in the 50 yard backstroke, 8th place in the 200 freestyle. It was Carol's first year competing in swimming.
Carol's Cheering Section
My parents at my mom's first National Senior Olympics, held in Pittsburgh in 2005
My mom has also benefited from an exceptional cheering section, the undisputed head of which is my dad, Joe. He's encouraged her whether she meets her goals or not, he's taken great photos to document her accomplishments and he's celebrated each of her accomplishments. My brother and his wife got to see her play volleyball in her first Senior National Games in 2005. Neither my sister nor I have had the privilege of seeing Carol compete in the Senior Olympics, but we've gotten to cheer her on at some of her qualifying events.
It's pretty awesome to see your mom cross the finish line at the head of her age group in a triathlon. I am so proud of her!
A shout-out to my dad here for the great photos he took and let me share on this website. Dad, you're the best.
4 generations -- my grandma, my daughter and I congratulate my mom after a stellar triathlon finish
She's a Survivor Too - Fortunately, my mom's cancer was caught early and treated proactively.
My mom's faith in God's care for her, no matter what happened and her positive attitude were an encouragement to me. Just like with her running, cycling, swimming and volleyball playing, she did what needed to get done to help get better and she kept a smile on her face. In fact, it was hard for my dad to keep her resting long enough to heal up from surgery. She just wanted to be active again and go play.
Show your support for the fight against breast cancer with this beautiful bracelet. Perfect for moms who are breast cancer survivors, and to encourage women we love who are still in the midst of the battle.
It's never too late to get back into shape
* Get back into a sport you've previously enjoyed...or find a new one to try
* Do an enjoyable activity like walking around a beautiful park
* Find a friend to exercise with you
* Set small goals for yourself and celebrate when you reach them