MANCHESTER – The true spirit of the 2012 Granite State Senior Games was evident on Saturday, Aug. 4, as hard-fought racquetball tournaments were played.
Competitors, ranging from ages 50 through 80, gathered at the Executive Fitness Center in Manchester and proved competition does not diminish with age, even if people tell you differently.
“It's not as competitive as when we were younger. These are very, very friendly games,” said Ron Bouchard, who has been running the racquetball portion of the games for the last six years.
Moments later, a body hits the glass barrier of the court with an echoing thud. The competitor is OK physically, yet mentally curses himself for missing his shot at another point.
Bouchard has been playing racquetball for 40 years and has competed in the games in the past.
His wife, Pat, who has been in the games for the last three years, saw both singles and doubles action on Saturday.
“I just like to play racquetball. I like to keep playing. I just do this because I like to support the Granite State Games,” said Pat.
Mike Normand attended the racquetball event as a volunteer in order to help out Bouchard.
Normand, even as a spectator, understands the importance of the games for the senior community of New Hampshire.
“A lot of the same people come back every year. It's nice to come into a new club, make new friends, new contacts and just play a morning of racquetball on the weekend.”
A number of the senior athletes have even gone to the Senior National Tournament, held in a different location every other year, to challenge the best in the country.
The next Senior National Tournament is slated for July 2013, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Rob Marsten, of Milford, is one of the handful of athletes to compete at the national level
“I've been playing them (the games) forever. I usually like to travel to the nationals. It's a great game,” said Marsten.
While not all of the players strive for the national goal, all of them have something in common: their enjoyment of the game and, especially, the Granite State Games.
Gregg Larkin is a believer in the three F's: fellowship, fitness and fun.
“The guys you play with are your companions. It's also a physical thing. It keeps my blood pressure down. It's really good for my heart rate. And I love it and I like the competition. Everybody's very friendly and that's one of the greatest things about the Granite State Games,” said Larkin.
Gregg's wife, Kimberley, was equally as eager to compete.
“Can't wait. It's a great experience. Wonderful to stay active,” said Kimberley.
Gregg won first place in the 50- to 59-year-old age division in men's singles.
“It's more exercise than anything else. It is unlike swimming and long distance running. It is not boring. And I enjoy it,” said Don Husmann, who made the trip from Lexington, Mass.
Husmann was one of two players to compete in the 80-plus age group tournament.
Husmann and his opponent, Maurice Friedman, showcased a fighting spirit and athletic ability that proved that age doesn't always matter.
“I get a lot of exercise. That's the big thing about it. I've been fortunate I can still move around fairly well,” said Friedman.
Friedman took home first place in the age division.
Mike Hureau, of Auburn, also found the events to be just what he was looking for.
“The workout and the competition are my favorite parts. This gives me a chance to play different people. Play at the right level and you have a great time,” he said.