From Saturday, Dec. 3, through Sunday, Dec. 11, more than 2,000 athletes age 50 and older will gather in Pasco, Broward, Hillsborough and Polk counties to compete in the 2022 Florida Senior Games.
This year, at least 15 athletes age 90 and older have registered. The eldest is 96.
A program of the Florida Sports Foundation, the Olympics-style competition is in its 31st year. It is being presented by Humana. The foundation is the state’s lead organization in promoting and developing the Sunshine State’s sports industry and related tourism opportunities.
In previous years, athletes from more than 200 Florida cities, 40 states, Canada and the Caribbean islands have competed.
Registration for this year’s event closed Nov. 21. To compete in certain events, Florida residents must first have qualified at one of 21 Florida Senior Games series qualifiers, which were held January through April and September through November. Those residing in Florida must finish in the top five of their age group in their sport. Out-of-state athletes are not required to qualify.
Some sports and events, however, have no qualifying standards and are open to all senior athletes wishing to participate.
The Florida games is itself a qualifier for the 2023 National Senior Games, to be held in Pittsburgh on July 7-18.
More than 56,000 athletes have participated since 1992. That first year, 712 athletes competed. Since then, the number of participants has grown. The largest number of competitors was 3,012 in 2016.
This year’s opening ceremony and ribbon-cutting will be held Friday, Dec. 2, at the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus of Pasco County.
Since the 1999 Sunshine State Games and the Florida Senior Games State Competitions made the transition to the Florida Sports Foundation, amateur sports opportunities have been provided for more than 500,000 athletes of all ages through the annual sports festivals. The in-state amateur sports programs provide almost $10 million annually in economic impact to more than 25 communities.
Each year, Outstanding Male and Female Athletes of the Year are named – one of each. In 2007, Larry Wallen of Jacksonville and, in 2020, Gabriel Wong of Ponte Vedra Beach were awarded this recognition. Wong is registered again this year.
Pickleball is setting record numbers of competitors this year, with 428 players and 242 doubles teams. Volleyball, too, has taken off. There will be at least 181 players in 24 teams, an all-time high.
Sports that require qualifying include: basketball shooting, bowling, cycling, golf, pickleball, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis, tennis and track & field. Competitions not requiring qualifying include: archery, badminton, basketball (three on three), dominos, foot golf, horseshoes, padel, powerlifting, power walk, race walk, racquetball, 5K road race and volleyball.
For more information, go to floridaseniorgames.com.
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