Senior Connections

Fitness for the Fun of It

The Nevada Senior Games, 2016 version, is now in the history books. All results are recorded and are available, along with pictures, on our web site: nevadaseniorgames.com. This was a qualifying year for the 2017 national competition to be held next June in Birmingham, Alabama. To qualify, a competitor must have finished in 1st place (golf), 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place in tennis, or in the top four in most of the other events. Competitors in golf, archery, swimming and track and field could qualify also by meeting a specified minimum standard of performance. The Nevada Games qualified approximately 1100 athletes in 15 events. (Not all Nevada events are also National events, such as Basketball Skills, Dance, Pistol Shoot, Trap Shooting, Weight Lifting/Fitness and Walk-a-Thon.) Of the 1100, approximately 400 are members of teams such as Basketball, Softball and Volleyball.

I recently met with Gene Hardlicka, one of the original founders of the Nevada Senior Games (Senior Olympics at the time.) He gave me a treasure trove of information and stories of those initial games. Gene was one of the originators of the Games in 1979 at Paradise Park, along with fellow UNLV staff member Pat Dillingham, former Olympic figure skater. There were 17 competitors in 6 different events: 50-yd dash, 100-yd dash, broad jump, softball throw, basketball free throw and horseshoes. Ribbons were awarded to the winners. The following year activities were moved to the UNLV campus. That year, 1980, there were 70 participants with several events being added. Entry fees were $2 for 5 events, $1 for each additional event. By 1983 there were 140 entries in 23 events, several being “fun” events such as Frisbee golf, 8-ball pool, darts, jarts (field darts,) and cribbage. Progress continued with 140 entries in 1984, with age groupings changed to 5-year increments, and over 200 in 1985.

That year, 1985, Gene represented the state of Nevada at the first organizational meeting of the National Senior Games in Orlando, Florida. During the 3-day seminar, with representatives from 40 states, frequency of National competition, qualification methods and standards, rules, insurance issues, fees, events to be held, and age brackets were all discussed and decided upon. The first National Senior Sports Classic was to be held in 1987 in St. Louis, Missouri. Bob Hope was the Master of Ceremonies at that event’s closing ceremonies. 1985 is also the year that NSG officially became chartered as Nevada Senior Games, Inc. The 2nd Games were held in St. Louis also, then Syracuse in 1991, Baton Rouge in 1993, San Antonio in 1995. The Games continued to grow. Over 10,000 athletes competed in Tucson in 1997. Nevadans numbered 122 of those, bringing home 32 medals. And the rest, as they say, is history.

One athlete of note is Jack Largent, who won the running broad jump and placed second in the softball throw in the 1985 Nevada Games in the 50-54 age group. He has competed almost every year since, mostly in tennis, and has won countless medals, just this year winning gold in men’s dbls and mxd dbls in the 80-85 division. He has also frequently placed in National tennis competitions. Gene Hrdlicka is now 90 years old and still active, playing some pickleball, among other pursuits. He was, and is, an ardent advocate of the NSG motto “Fitness for the Fun of It.”