National Senior Games

From Lawana Johnson:

Here is the first ABC TV interview at the national senior games in Birmingham.

And, out of the 10,000 athletes and 40 sports there, it was about Pickleball and includes Idaho and an Idaho athlete!

National Senior Games kicks off in Birmingham

A flame arrival ceremony Friday night will mark the beginning of the 2017 National Senior Games.

More than 10,000 athletes will be in Birmingham to compete in 19 different sports. Athletes are representing all 50 states and nine countries.

Before Friday night’s ceremony, athletes began practicing pickleball at the BJCC.

The sport (a mix between tennis, badminton and table tennis) is one of the most popular sports at the National Senior Games.

“I’m an old tennis player,” said 77-year-old Dick Johnson. “Back fusion put me out of tennis competitively, then I found pickleball.”

Johnson is from Idaho and Arizona. He says pickleball is more than a hobby.

“I’m a diabetic and when I found the game, I lost about 40 pounds which helped,” said Johnson. “And then (I) really started being more disciplined on my eating, so I could be competitive and play at the top of the game and it literally saved my life, literally.”

This is one of 19 sports that will be played across fourteen venues.

Pickleball is the only sport where practice started early.

Jim Cohen of Minnesota says he’s ready to win. This is his first senior games.

“They’re only played once every 2 years,” Cohen said of the Senior Games. “You have to compete in another state championship and won a metal and been invited, so it’s really an honor.”

Competition is divided by age brackets. Cohen is almost 75, but he says age is just a number.

“I don’t feel a day over 31,” Cohen exclaimed.