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Participation up 40% in Detroit Senior Olympics

Kyla Smith
The Detroit News

As Marvin Gaye’s song “Got to Give it Up” blared on speakers, hundreds danced and stretched Wednesday as they prepared for the 32nd Senior Olympics in Detroit.

Walter Blackwell, a four-time gold medal winner in bowling and the one-mile walking competition, was there, prepping for more.

“I had a hip and knee surgery back in 2008, but I still come out here with my wife to try and stay active,” said Blackwell, 62 who also competes in the basketball free throw challenge. “We all will get old one day and if you don’t use it, you will lose it.”

The number of participants in the annual Detroit event increased more than 40 percent over last year, organizers said, with 370 senior athletes registering this year. Categories include baseball, golf; a one-mile run or walk; arts and crafts; Bid Whist, a card game; bowling; and table tennis.

It is sponsored by the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department and the Detroit Area Agency on Aging.

The oldest participant, Houston Pritchett, 96, sat patiently drinking a cup of coffee while he waited to compete in the one-mile walk. This is the 14th year Pritchett has competed.

“I wasn’t too good in sports growing up, but I tried every single one of them and it has kept me in shape,” he said. Pritchett convinced his daughter to walk with him this year. “Events like this keeps me away from the doctor and makes me feel good.”

Participants who place in the top three in their competition category receive a gold, silver or bronze medal, respectively, during an awards ceremony at the end of the month.

The Senior Olympics was held at Belle Isle, but the venue changed this year.

“We thought having a place with a real track would be better for the athletes,” said Cecilia Walker, executive director of the recreation department for the Butzel Family Center on the city’s west side, where the athletes gathered.

Debra Sherman of Detroit waited in the spectator section as she cheered on competitors in the one-mile run.

“Being physically fit is really important to me,” said Sherman, 63 She didn’t just watch — she participated in the one-mile walk and sewing competition.

“You have to keep moving so you won’t lock up,” she said. “I want to live a long life.”

ksmith3@detnews.com

(313) 222-1855

@kylasmith525