N.Va. Senior Olympics puts camaraderie first, competition second | news/arlington


Two weeks featuring more than 70 events kicked off Sept. 10, but for participants in the Northern Virginia Senior Olympics, competition is only part of the story.

Participants are doing their best to “live healthy longer,” said Olympics senior president Herb Levitan, presiding over the opening ceremonies at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center in Arlington.

After being canceled in 2020 and cautiously brought back in 2021, there was almost a sense of normalcy about the start of the 2022 contest, which draws entrants from eight jurisdictions spread across northern Virginia.

“I’m so glad we have the chance to be together,” said Arlington County Board Member Matt de Ferranti, among those who delivered welcoming remarks. “Everyone here makes a choice for health and well-being, and to connect with other people.”

A total of 831 people registered for the 40th annual competition, up 20% from last year, with participants aged 50 to more than double.

Until September 24, the competition will take place on 25 different sites. Pickleball, athletics and table tennis attracted the most registrations.

The most seasoned of all the 2022 competitors is Vera Punke of Arlington, who signed up to compete in doubles bridge. She is 107 years old.

The Northern Virginia Senior Olympics began in 1982 with 75 participants from Fairfax County. Today it spans the counties of Arlington Fairfax, Loudoun, Fauquier and Prince William and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church.

“They provide great facilities and great staff to support us,” Levitan said of the participating jurisdictions.

(Although supported by local governments, the initiative is run by a non-profit organization with a volunteer board of directors.)

Planning for the 40th anniversary celebration had been in the works for more than a year, Levitan said. The opening ceremonies were supported by the Alexandria City High School ROTC Honor Guard and, singing the national anthem, the Arlingtones.

Thomas and Joyce Tobias of Prince William County carried the torch for the Senior Olympics. The couple (aged 89 and 85 respectively) compete in swimming, cycling and walking. They are the parents of seven children – including one who, in the past two years, has competed in the senior Olympics herself – and 14 grandchildren.

The event also benefits from the support of corporate sponsors and the generosity of the competitors themselves – nearly 160 of those who registered to participate added an additional contribution on top of the $20 participation fee.

Competition began immediately after the end of the ceremonies, beginning with the men’s and women’s 1,600 meter running events.

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For more information, including results as posted and a schedule, see the website at www.nvso.us. Although registration is closed, the events are open to the public who wish to cheer on the competitors.

[https://sungazette.news provides content to, but otherwise is unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]

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