Starting in April, hundreds of the best athletes 55 and older will take to the court, field, pool, lanes and even the stage as part of the 2011 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Senior Games.
The games, founded in 1983, will begin April 18 and feature 23 different athletic events, including archery, softball, cycling and croquet, as well as artistic competitions including visual, performing and literary arts. The event culminates in a "Breakfast of Champions" on June 11.
Woody Woodward, 65, local coordinator for CMSG, started working with the event in 1997 as a county liaison for Mecklenburg Country Park and Recreation and was chairman of the board in 2003. He changed positions after 2003, taking him away from the games, but after retiring in 2010 Woodward wanted to get involved again.
"I got involved because I knew ... that there was a portion of the citizenry that needed to expand its health and wellness programs, and the senior games did that," he said. "We all know active involvement when you become a senior is very important for your health."
Since 1983, 10,000 people have participated in the games. Woodward said 353 competed last year.
Participants compete against members of their own sex in age categories of five-year increments, from 55 to 100-plus. The top three finishers from each event qualify for the North Carolina Senior Games, which take place in September and October in Raleigh and Cary. Every other year, the top four finishers at the state games qualify for the National Senior Games. This year is not a qualifying year, but 75 competitors from the Charlotte area qualified last year for this year's National Senior Games in Houston on June 16-30.
"You'd be surprised at the level of competition that some of these seniors will put out there," said Woodward. "They take their sport very seriously."
Woodward took a 70-year-old women's basketball team to the 2003 National Senior Games in Norfolk, Va., where they won bronze. "Just to see the excitement on those women's faces," he said. "They're out there just like the pros, except they're 70."