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Older athletes show fire

Senior classic
Jun. 22, 2013 @ 12:19 AM

HUNTINGTON -- With two gold medals clanking around her neck, Linda Nicholas, of Tornado, W.Va., was a walking symbolization of the competitive nature of the West Virginia Senior Sports Classic presented by St. Mary's Medical Center.

Nicholas, 75, had just won the pickleball singles and doubles championships Friday at the Marshall University Recreation Center where some of the games -- taking place throughout Huntington and Barboursville in the event's 20th year -- were being held.

She pointed to her name on the brackets hanging on the wall so there was no confusion as to who had won what.

"I grew up with two older brothers in a neighborhood full of boys," Nicholas said. "Absolutely, when I do something, I want to win."

"You'll find that if somebody was competitive as a teenager, they're just as competitive as a senior citizen," said Hettie Terry, of Nitro, Nicholas' doubles partner.

Pickleball is a form of short-court tennis where the competitors use paddles instead of racquets, and a small version of a wiffle ball.

Nicholas has been involved with the Senior Classic for about 10 years, and says it's all training for the senior softball team she plays for.

"I've done softball, baseball, bowling," in the games, she said.

"Pickleball I started about a year ago. I play third base in softball, so it's a good tune up for that."

As the pickleballers were making their way off the basketball court that was serving as their playing area, badminton nets were going up.

Senior citizens were warming up, batting the shuttlecock back and forth, some putting wicked spins or finessed drop shots across the net.

"I've only played in two tournaments before, but they were cut-throat," said Jon Hensley, 76, of Teays Valley as he twirled a badminton racquet in his hands. "My dad actually had put in a badminton court at our house growing up.

"In my mind, it's the best exercise in the world, bar-none. You get in a workout and the chances of being hurt are relatively slim."

The games began with an opening ceremony and some golf on Thursday. Aside from pickleball and badminton, there was bowling, racquetball and Tennis on Friday. The event continues early Saturday morning with a 5K, tennis, track and field, softball, swimming, a 10K cycling race and more.

The annual Classic is a sanctioned National Senior Games Association Event, although 2013 is a non-qualifying year, as Nicholas pointed out.

"Next year will be big, because we'll be trying to qualify for regionals," she said.

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