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Senior Olympic Athletes - Ladue News: Health-wellness

Senior Olympic Athletes

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Posted: Thursday, September 1, 2011 2:02 pm | Updated: 2:07 pm, Thu Sep 1, 2011.

The Missouri State Senior Games, also known as the Senior Olympics, provides a setting for seniors to enjoy the spirit of competition, while encouraging physical exercise, social interaction and awareness of the abilities of older individuals. Meet three local athletes who truly benefit from their participation.

PHIL BRUSCA, age 84

Former Ladue Horton Watkins H.S. coach (of 32 years) Phil Brusca started coaching in 1959. When he retired in 1991, he wanted to stay in shape. “I started competing in the Senior Olympics at age 55, and I’ve gone every year since, including the years I tore my Achilles tendon and had prostate cancer,” he says. “But you have to condition yourself by exercising. Since I was a physical education teacher, too, I already was accustomed to working out.”

Brusca participates in the hammer throw, shot put, discus, javelin and weight throw, and says he typically wins gold medals. He says that he enjoys the competitive nature of the games and the travel, as well. “The first event I ever competed in was at the St. Louis Jewish Community Center,” he remembers. “I’ve been all over the country, and I went to what they call the World Games in Rome, Italy, in the 1960s. I also competed in the World Games in Melbourne, Australia, in the ’80s. My wife, Joy, always went with me before I lost her to breast cancer four years ago. But since then, I’ve never had to travel alone. I now go with friends.”

BILL CANNON, age 80

Bill Cannon has been participating in the Senior Olympics for more than 25 years. Although he competes in several events, including high jump, shot put, javelin, discus, shuffleboard, darts, soccer kick and Basketball Around the World, swimming is his favored sport. “I’m more or less a distance swimmer, but I compete in all of the swimming events,” he notes. “I’m not very good at basketball, and people tease me about it and ask, How do you expect to win a medal? Well, I don’t. It’s about the camaraderie—and just having fun.” He says he tries to encourage participants to try some of the other sports. “If you enjoy yourself, then people will enjoy you—and people really enjoy beating me in basketball,” he adds. “Really, anybody who participates is a winner—and the big trick is to outlive your competition.”

Cannon, who still works full-time at Uni-Select, has been awarded more than 1,500 medals in his Senior Olympic career. “People ask me what I do with all of my medals,” he says “Mostly, I give them away. I have donated a lot of them to the Special Olympics and to swim teachers at the YMCA. And I have 15 grandchildren, so I have given many of my medals to them.” But he still cherishes the first medals that he won at the St. Louis Senior Olympics. “I thought, based on my times from the previous years before competing in the Senior Olympics that I would win certain events, but then I only won a couple of ribbons and two medals—and they weren’t gold,” he recalls. “That just shows there’s room for improvement every year. You can improve at any age.”

LORETTA HOPGOOD, age 74

A part-time assistant educational coordinator at The Sarah Community, Loretta Hopgood is living her dream every time she competes in the Senior Olympics. “When I was in high school, it was a no-no for girls to participate in track and field, and I always wanted to do it,” she explains. “I have some 400 medals, but the very first one I received is very special to me. I came in second in the discus, and I had never thrown it before. You would have thought I had won it in the Olympics in Rome—I was so proud!”

Hopgood says she competes in 14 events in all, including javelin, discus, horseshoes, darts and washers. But before participating, she wanted to learn how. “Why not learn something new?” she encourages. “I went to the St. Louis Jewish Community Center, and I learned from older participants. You make a lot of friends, and you find that you share things with those in your own age group, like everyone uses Bengay.” And Hopgood says there’s something for everyone in the Senior Olympics. “There’s swimming, tennis, golf and skilled games. It’s just great to get out and be with people—it’s better than sitting at home. With the people I’ve met, we call each other throughout the year, even when we’re not competing.”

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