Sunday | October 23, 2016
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Going for the gold: Seniors take to the field and compete

Veryl Grace glided through the water at the Kona Community Aquatic Center, a breaststroke propelling her from one end of the pool to the other.

Competition in the Senior Olympics swimming field was fairly light — just three swimmers, and only two who completed more than one race — but that was OK by Grace, a Keaau resident.

“It’s just a fun outing,” Grace said, after finishing the 50-meter backstroke.

Grace said she wasn’t feeling super competitive.

“Nah, not me,” she said, then motioned toward her opponent in the next lane. “She beat the socks off me.”

Not everyone had Grace’s laid-back attitude. North Kohala resident Alfonso Mitchell said he was at the games “just for fellowship … and to win.”

Mitchell, gearing up for a round of ground golf, said his sport, a combination of golf and croquet, is one of his favorites.

“We’re the champions,” he said, adding he’s also a darts champion.

Friday marked the eighth time Hawaii County put on the Senior Olympics, Elderly Recreation Services Program Director Kelly Hudik said. The games take place every four years, and this year, Hudik was able to offer more events than ever, such as pickleball.

“It’s always to get everybody out and exercising,” Hudik said.

About 140 seniors from around the island converged upon Old Kona Airport Park for the activities, which included two game sessions, lunch at the Makaeo Events Pavilion and medals for winners. The event kicked off with an opening ceremony, during which seniors joined their respective senior center clubs and walked onto the events field, much like athletes do during the parade of nations at the Summer Olympics.

County Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Bob Fitzgerald wished the athletes luck as he gave the pronouncement to “let the games begin.”

On the ground golf field, Kona resident Claire Inman, sporting a blue Kona Seniors T-shirt, said she likes the sport, and also running, which is an afternoon event.

“I got a silver medal (in running) four years ago,” she said. “I’m hoping for a gold.”

She hasn’t been training, though, she said, unless walking the dog counts.

A few things make the event especially fun, Inman said.

“Just meeting everyone,” she said. “They come from all over the island. The competition is fierce.”

A few holes away, a team of Waikoloa and Kona residents teed off, striking colored rubber balls with large, flat clubs. The foursome cheered each other on as they worked their way toward holes 3 and 4.

“It’s good exercise for us,” Pat Aarhus said.

A few fields away, behind the swimming pool, confusion reigned as the bocce ball tournament began. After a few minutes — and consultation with the judges — players finally understood the rules and began tossing the hard bocce balls toward the pallino down the field.

The best thing about the tournament, Hilo resident Carol Costa said, is “having a day of fun, camaraderie and to know that at our age, we can still come out and play.”