Deborah Thomas takes a swing during a game of ping pong on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017 at the Soldotna Senior Center in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Deborah Thomas takes a swing during a game of ping pong on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017 at the Soldotna Senior Center in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Seniors reach for gold in Senior Olympics

  • By RANDEE JOHNSON
  • Saturday, February 25, 2017 9:57pm
  • News

This week 13 events occupied participants in the 13th annual Kenai Peninsula Senior Olympics, open to any peninsula residents older than 55.

Cribbage, darts, dominoes, basketball, eight-ball pool, ping-pong, poker and pinochle were among the competitions, which concluded with a medal ceremony Saturday at the Soldotna Senior Center.

“People you don’t see very often come around, and it’s something to do, something to look forward to,” said Jay Norris, a senior who estimated he’d been participating in the games for about eight or nine years.

This year he won a gold medal in the darts competition, among other medals.

Soldotna Senior Center Director Jan Fena said the games draw approximately 130-150 participants every year. The participants come from all of the local senior centers, including Kenai, Soldotna, Sterling and Nikiski. The main goal of the Senior Olympics program is to provide fellowship and opportunities to socialize, as well as something entertaining yet competitive, for the seniors. Fena noted that it can be very easy for seniors to feel isolated during the winter months.

Fena said many of the seniors, and senior centers as a whole, have their own specialties that they are well known for in the Senior Olympics. Nikiski, for example, is known for their pinochle skills; Kenai, for their mean game of bridge; and Soldotna for their skillfulness in ping pong and darts.

The competitiveness of the Senior Olympics should not be downplayed. The seniors who play, play to win, and the ones who win get ranked and rewarded with gold, silver, or bronze medals.

Fena said a committee was established to come up with events and develop a standard set of rules for the different games, which can be played with variations. Bonnie Cain, a senior who last year joined the committee as an organizer, said the group also includes the directors of the four senior centers that participate in the games.

The last event of the week was Wii bowling — a virtual version of the sport played on the Nintendo Wii video game system by swinging motion-sensitive remotes to simulate rolling the ball — held Saturday before noon at the Soldotna Senior Center.

Some of the Wii bowlers had been members of the local senior bowling league, which met regularly for physical bowling on the real lanes of Kenai’s Alaskalanes bowling alley before the business closed in fall 2015. With the next-closest bowling alley in Homer, the senior league has been largely inactive (or at least limited to virtual Wii bowling) since. This January, however, the closed bowling alley was sold to a group of entrepreneurs who plan to re-open it by the fall.

Though many were looking forward to real bowling again, some seniors praised Wii bowling on its own merits.

“Everybody who plays it just loves it,” Olympics competitor Gladys Routh said.

Each of the four senior centers involved in organizing the Olympics has a Nintendo Wii system, allowing them to play a variety of virtual sports via the real movements of a motion-sensitive remote. Even if real bowling returns next year, Fena said Wii bowling might stay on the Olympics agenda as a separate event — for seniors with mobility impairment, the video game doesn’t require footwork, and for those with arm or shoulder trouble it eliminates the swinging weight of the ball.

“As popular as it is, it’s up to the Olympic committee,” Fena said. “But I’d hope they keep it because of how popular it is.”

New events the group might consider for next year include mahjong and the dominoes variant triominoes, which uses triangular tiles, Cain said. Next year’s Senior Olympics may also have an entirely new spin-off event: a summer Senior Olympics focused on outdoor games. Cain said the board is considering the possibility and looking for suggestions of games.

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

Bonnie Cain, an organizer of the 13th annual Kenai Peninsula Senior Olympics, takes aim during the Senior Olympics darts competition on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 at the Soldotna Senior Center. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion). The competition was the first time Cain had played darts. “They talked me into it,” she said, of the friends playing with her.

Bonnie Cain, an organizer of the 13th annual Kenai Peninsula Senior Olympics, takes aim during the Senior Olympics darts competition on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 at the Soldotna Senior Center. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion). The competition was the first time Cain had played darts. “They talked me into it,” she said, of the friends playing with her.

Bonnie Cain, an organizer of the 13th annual Kenai Peninsula Senior Olympics, reacts after scoring a hit during the Senior Olympics darts competition on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 at the Soldotna Senior Center in Soldotna, Alaska. The competition was the first time Cain had played darts. “They talked me into it,” she said, of the friends playing with her.

Bonnie Cain, an organizer of the 13th annual Kenai Peninsula Senior Olympics, reacts after scoring a hit during the Senior Olympics darts competition on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 at the Soldotna Senior Center in Soldotna, Alaska. The competition was the first time Cain had played darts. “They talked me into it,” she said, of the friends playing with her.

Marcia Whitworth (left) swings a controller to toss a virtual bowling ball during a game of Nintendo Wii bowling during the 13th annual Kenai Peninsula Senior Olympics at the at the Soldotna Senior Center on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017 in Solodotna, Alaska.

Marcia Whitworth (left) swings a controller to toss a virtual bowling ball during a game of Nintendo Wii bowling during the 13th annual Kenai Peninsula Senior Olympics at the at the Soldotna Senior Center on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017 in Solodotna, Alaska.

Ray Nickleson (left) and Donna Weaver watch Donna’s husband Dick Weaver make a move in the dominoes competition of the 13th annual Kenai Peninsula Senior Olympics on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center in Kenai, Alaska.

Ray Nickleson (left) and Donna Weaver watch Donna’s husband Dick Weaver make a move in the dominoes competition of the 13th annual Kenai Peninsula Senior Olympics on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center in Kenai, Alaska.

Donna Weaver (left) and her husband Dick Weaver play dominoes during the 13th annula Kenai Peninsula Senior Olympics on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2017 at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center in Kenai, Alaska.

Donna Weaver (left) and her husband Dick Weaver play dominoes during the 13th annula Kenai Peninsula Senior Olympics on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2017 at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center in Kenai, Alaska.

More in News

tease
Man wanted in relation to Amber Alert arrested; missing teenager found

A Fairbanks man wanted in connection to an Amber Alert was arrested… Continue reading

tease
School district extends meal program deadline amid confusion

Credit for breakfast and lunch meals will be provided as needed to… Continue reading

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks at the Kenai Classic Roundtable at Kenai Peninsula College on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022 near Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Bycatch stirs debate at fisheries roundtable

Bycatch was the issue du jour at Wednesday’s annual Kenai Classic Roundtable… Continue reading

Kenai Peninsula College Director Cheryl Siemers in her office on Aug. 18, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
KPC to welcome back community with open house

One week before the start of the fall semester, Kenai Peninsula College… Continue reading

National Weather Service radar for the Kenai Peninsula and Southcentral Alaska on Aug. 17, 2022. (Screenshot)
Rain, rain and more rain

Low pressure systems drive wet conditions in Southcentral

Sockeye salmon return to Steep Creek to spawn. Alaska’s overall commercial salmon harvest across all species is currently up 15% from 2021 (2020 for pinks) with Bristol Bay and the Prince William Sound largely carrying the weight while other regions lag, according to data from the most recent Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute weekly salmon harvest update. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Statewide salmon harvest on the upswing compared to last year

Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound are mainly pulling the weight

Jake Dye / Peninsula Clarion
Congressional candidate Mary Peltola responds to a question during a forum at the Kenai Visitor Center on Aug. 3 in Kenai . Early Wednesday, Peltola had earned 38.4% of first-choice votes in a race that will determine who fills Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat until January.
Mary Peltola responds to a question during a forum at the Kenai Visitor Center on Aug. 3, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion/Jake Dye)
Democratic candidate Peltola leads U.S. House race early, but Palin may win in final count

Former governor and Republican U.S. House candidate Sarah Palin stands to benefit from ranked choice voting

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID hospitalizations on the rise

86 patients were hospitalized with 10 patients on ventilators

Most Read