Gold Standard

A photographic journal: The grit and grins of Tennessee’s Senior Olympians

Oct. 31, 2017

Time has no patience for sleeping in.

Neither do Tennessee Senior Olympians.

That’s why, for a few hot summer days in June, athletes gather as early as 6 a.m. to run, dive, shoot and otherwise make their way into the record books and onto the podiums at medal time for this year’s state finals.

Since 1981, the event has offered active Tennesseans aged 50 and older a chance to compete by age group for gold, silver and bronze medals in 19 different sports, including:

  • Swimming
  • Running
  • Basketball
  • Tennis and
  • Racquetball.

State Finals, held every two years, draw nearly 2,000 athletes, with winners qualifying to compete nationally.

The Senior Olympics, even in a non-qualifying year, are a remarkably friendly affair. Most athletes know their competitors by name and sometimes even carpool together from across the state. Hissing and taunting are infrequent; smiles and loud encouragement are not.

Nowhere was that more evident than at the inaugural Tennessee Senior Olympics Hall of Fame ceremonies, held in Franklin during the 2017 games. Friendships were renewed, mild bragging about new times took place and the games’ goal of keeping senior citizens active and engaged was clearly on display.

Scroll down to see how Tennessee’s Senior Olympians live life to the fullest, every day.

Margie Stoll, runner, 75-79 women’s age group

“I’ve been competing since I turned 60,” says Stoll. “I wanted to challenge myself because I wasn’t over the hill yet.”

“I want to do the best I can do.”

David Schmanski, runner, 60-64 men’s age group

“I started running in 2011 and got hooked,” says Schmanski. “I got into 5Ks and ran 35 of them, then found the Senior Olympics.”

“I feel like I was a 1954 Chevy that had been garaged for years; I didn’t have any worn-out parts.”

“I’ve found the fountain of youth.”

Lauree Childress, bowler, 75-79 women’s age group

“I bowled for 20 years, and kept on going with the Olympics because it got me out of the house,” says Childress.

“I see friends, I work with new partners — it’s fun.”

Photos by Patrick Sheehan