– Special to Wyandotte Warrior
Some 520 participants braved the July heat last week to participate in the 30 events that comprised the 2019 Downriver Senior Olympics.
Olympians ranged in age from 50 to a 99-year-old who celebrated birthday No. 100 just a few days later. They came from Allen Park, Brownstown, Ecorse, Flat Rock, Gibraltar, Grosse Ile, Huron Township, Lincoln Park, Melvindale, River Rouge, Riverview, Rockwood, Romulus, Southgate, Taylor, Trenton, Woodhaven and Wyandotte.
“The City of Southgate, my staff and I were honored to serve as this year’s hosts,” said Southgate Parks and Recreation Director Julie Goddard. “The most important thing in the games is not to win, but to just take part.”
A total of 563 medals were awarded, including 240 gold, 180 silver and 143 bronze. Events included: baking contest, ballroom dancing, basketball shooting, bean bag toss, billiards, bocce ball, bowling, bridge, car show, chili cookoff, darts, euchre, football throw, Frisbee toss, hockey shootout, horseshoes, one-mile run, paddle and pedal, pickle ball, ping pong, pinochle, shuffleboard, soccer kick, softball throw, spelling bee, swimming and tennis.
“The Olympics brings everyone from all 18 communities together and creates friendships that will last for years,” Goddard said. “The camaraderie between the Olympians is amazing to watch, and by far the highlight of the week.
“In most events, the same participants compete year after year, and it is the one time of year they get to be together again and share in friendly competition.”
Helping set the stage for the Olympians was Linda Kochanek, Southgate’s senior center director. She kept things running behind the scenes, handling things like getting the center open for participants every day and being there for the bus drivers who were transporting them from the surrounding communities.
Because her duties kept her mostly inside, she missed some of the heat and rain that marked the week. She’s hoping to make it some of the outdoor events in future Olympics, but was more than happy to be part of the card games and to help making torch bearers.
Senior directors from around Downriver also pitched in to help with events, and some who were officiating the pinochle, double pinochle and euchre games were asked to join in when some participants became unable to attend. Kochanek herself got in on the action.
“I don’t know that much about pinochle and euchre, but I agreed to sit in,” she said. “I always find that a lot of fun. Everybody helps everybody.”
The Downriver Senior Olympics was begun by officials from Lincoln Park, Southgate, Wyandotte and Trenton. Officials and participants from all 18 Downriver communities gathered July 26 at the Unity Awards Banquet at Crystal Gardens in Southgate to mark the end of this year’s 34th annual event and pass the torch to Brownstown Township, the 2020 host community.