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JIS News

It is said that “age is nothing but a number” and the country’s elders certainly proved that last month, when some 300 of them demonstrated their prowess on the track, at the National Senior Citizens Sports Day held at the Mona Bowl of the University of the West Indies.
For those who were limited in the talent department, they made up for it in their boldness, and will to succeed, even it meant walking to the finishing line.
Also evident was the abundant joy of the participants, some of whom participated with a “problem” leg or two. Casting caution to the wind, they ran with the minor aches and pains, some even barefooted, claiming that this made them go faster.
One thing that was certain at the end of the day, was they all came to lay it on the line, in order to qualify for the upcoming Regional Senior Games from September 23 to 24 in Trinidad and Tobago.
For 66-year old Hyacinth Artwell, the aim is to make her country proud. “I am very fit and I hope that I will be picked to go. If I am entered in any race, I will do well,” she tells JIS News. This was certainly the case as she blew away the competition in the 400 metres for women, leading the race from beginning to end, before going on to win the 100 metres.
The secret to her eternal youth, she says, is her farming livelihood, which she claims, is tantamount to doing lots of exercise. She also practices to run the 1500 metres at home in Savanna-la-mar, Westmoreland.
Last year’s top athlete, Jerry Reid from St. James, says he too wants to represent his country at the regional event. This is despite the fact that he was upset in his quest to win the 400 metres, where he finished second place. He was obviously disappointed as he practically had the race won 25 metres from the finish line.
“I was confident coming around the corner all along, but hoped to make the last 25 metres a sprint, but the moment I put my foot in gear, the bottom of my sneakers went, so by the time I turned around, I slid and that is why I placed second,” the 62-year old sports officer at INSPORT explains glumly.
Notwithstanding, he did emerge overall champion male athlete as he won the shot-put event and placed second in the cricket ball throwing event.
Third place finisher in the 400 metres race, 68-year old James Graham, felt he could have done better if only his right leg went long with his plan. “I have the stamina, but when I went around the bend, there was a pain in my right leg and my doctor advised me that if anything happen, I am not to pressure it. It sometimes gets swollen so I have to ease up,” he admits. This, however, did not stop him from entering other races.
Another sprightly competitor, 66 years “young”, Gerline Nelson of St. James, set out to enjoy herself although she was the only female to run the 1500 metres. “I thought of the 1500 metres as a warm up event because I will also run in other races such as the 100 metres,” she says after the race, while exhibiting no apparent signs of fatigue.
This former practical nurse and receptionist attributes her stamina to running her own lumberyard business. “When my children were finished with the Common Entrance I .bought a power saw and went into the bushes and started a lumber yard and it keeps me very busy,” she informs.
For first timer, Rhudal McFarlene, Principal of Cambridge High School in St. James, it was a march back in time when he won the 1500 metres. “I use to run long distance on this field when I was training on the university track team, so I know where every pothole is,” the remarkably fit and muscular 60-year old laughs.
While overseeing a school population of 1,700 students, he is able to train five days a week in his pet event. Eating ground provisions and doing weight training at his home gym, he says, also helped in his preparation.
Watching all the action in between handing out medals was patron Dr. Cynthia Thompson, O.D, Jamaica’s first female Olympian, who was duly impressed. “I thought the events would entail egg and spoon, potato sack races and needle and thread races. I did not know it was an Olympic style affair,” she muses.
Commenting on the performances, Dr. Thompson says, “I think some of the athletes misgauged some of the events and they start out too fast, and as a result fell by the wayside, but those who finished, did very well.”
While Dr. Thompson, who is now 83 years old, says she would participate in such event if she were younger, former Olympians Lindley Headley and Dr. Patrick Robinson, has no such misgivings as they participated in the sprints.
Their Excellencies, the Most Hon. Professor Kenneth Hall and Mrs. Rheima Hall, were also present to witness the excitement surrounding the event. His Excellency took the opportunity to visit the tent housing participants from Hanover, his home parish, to offer support to the athletes.
State Minister for Labour and Social Security, Senator Floyd Morris, who brought greetings on behalf of the Ministry, commended the National Council for Senior Citizens (NCSC) for their gallant effort in mobilizing the seniors to participate.
The annual sports day, he says, is one of the programmes in place to improve the quality of life for Jamaica’s senior citizens. The event, he expounds, helps to improve their social lives by bringing them out to mingle and interface with others. “This helps to eradicate one of the major problems confronting our seniors, that of loneliness,” he points out.
The other major contribution of this event, he notes, is that of improving the physical condition of seniors. “Judging from the races, we have some fit ones and I would not want to be out there as a young man, least I am embarrassed,” he chuckles.
Organized by the NCSC, the National Senior Citizen Sports Day was first held at G.C Foster College in 2003 with 500 seniors participating. It was cancelled in 2004 due to Hurricane Ivan.