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The Laguna Woods Village Games inspire competition, camaraderie among senior athletes

The 15th annual Laguna Woods Village Games are back in season, firing into a full sprint on April 8 and running until April 30.
Laguna Woods’ top senior athletes will compete for medals across 23 events in age-determinant divisions. Over 360 residents will be competing in this year’s Games, including nine competitors over 90 years old, according to recreation coordinator William Arceo of Village Management Services.
A new event, the long-distance, 5K run, makes its debut this year. Runners, walkers and everyone in between will gather at the starting point, Clubhouse One, at 7 a.m. on Saturday, April 28 and cross the finish line at Clubhouse Three.
Trisha Black, 70, has competed in the Games every year for almost a decade and has a medal in every shade –– gold, silver and bronze. She signed up for bicycling, pickleball and tennis, and will be taking on the 5K event.
“I’m not really nervous. My friends are doing it so I’ll be running right alongside them,” Black said. “I guess I haven’t changed much since middle school. If they do it, I guess I’ll do it.”
Remaining events include archery, badminton, basketball, bicycling, billiards, bocce ball, bridge, equestrian, golf (18 hole, 9 hole, par 3), horseshoes, lawn bowling, paddle tennis, petanque, pickleball, poker, shuffleboard, softball, swimming, table tennis, target shooting, tennis and volleyball.
Joseph Santini, 80, has lived in Laguna Woods Village for 21 years, and competed in the Games for two decades. This year, he’s doing bocce ball and golf. He praises the event’s social side effect, noticing how “everybody gets very involved.”
“Many of them run around with hopes that they’ll have a neck full of medals by the end of the week,” Santini said. “If I win, it’s a plus, but I’m a little bit over that –– it’s been 20 years now.”
At first, it was Santini’s Italian heritage that convinced him to try bocce ball. Later in his life, he’s come to appreciate the leisure sport in new ways.
“Bocce is great because maybe you can’t run around anymore, maybe your legs have given up on you,” he said, in a laid-back manner. “We’re in California. Go outside.”
Three-time Village Games veteran and co-president of the Table Tennis Club, Xiaoguang Cheng, 66,  will be competing in table tennis and billiards, “for fun.”
“We do it for fun, for friendship –– that’s it,” he said. “Of course I want to win, but it’s not difficult for me to win.”
Cheng has been a part of this club for five years and finds the camaraderie infectious.
“My favorite thing (about the Games) is, well, I’m the (club) president, so I see how everything goes,” he said. “If these people feel happy, I feel happy.”
The beginning of the three-week Games will be honored with an opening ceremony on at 9 a.m. Sunday, April 8 at Clubhouse Two.
“I don’t have any concrete goals, I just want to stay as active as I possibly can for as long as I can,”  Black said about her motivation, noting the inspiration she feels when watching her nonagenarian friends still doing what they love as often as they can.
“As long as people keep their perspective and keep that bottom line of just having fun –– doing their very best, but having fun –– I think it’s very motivating to stay active,” Black said. “These Games keep you young, keep you vibrant and definitely encourage that.”
Barbara Rider-Gervase celebrates a good day of lawn bowling during the 2015 Village Games. (Ana Venegas, file photo)Dick Savage returns the ball with an around the back move while he warms up for his pickleball match during the Laguna Woods Village Games in 2016.(Nick Agro, file photo) .Medals to be awarded at the Laguna Woods Village Games. (Nick Agro, file photo)A billiards competitor sets up his next shot during the 2017 Laguna Woods Village Games. (Courtesy of Mark Rabinowich)Barbara Amico rolls her bocce ball down the court during a women’s doubles match during the Laguna Woods Village Games in 2016. (Nick Agro, file photo)Swimming was one of more than two-dozen events in the 2017 Laguna Woods Village Games (Courtesy of Mark Rabinowitch)Doug Edwards shoots for a scoring shot at Shuffleboard during the 2017 Village Games Men’s Doubles. (Courtesy photo)Show Caption of Expand
Source: Oc Register

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