By Emilia Benton, senior living correspondent, Houston Chronicle - 19 June 2017
The Texas Senior Games took place March 30 through April 9 in San Antonio, and, as usual, sent several veteran Houston-area athletes to the National Senior Games, which are taking place through today, June 15, in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Texas Senior Games, coordinated by the Barshop Jewish Community Center, allows senior athletes to compete in more than 20 sports categories, from pickleball and tennis to track and volleyball. The competition is open to men and women ages 50 and over (that age by Dec. 31 of the games year) who then compete in five-year age increments.
Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded in each category. Top winners are eligible to move on to the National Senior Games, which are held every two years and were created with the mission to motivate active adults to lead a healthy lifestyle through the senior games movement. The National Senior Games is one of the largest multi-sport events in the world for seniors.
DeEtte Sauer, 75, participated in her eighth consecutive National Senior Games this year, and won her first gold medal June 5.
Sauer started swimming in 1999, before competing in her first Texas Senior Games in 2000 and her first National Senior Games in 2001. She trains with the Memorial Athletic Club Masters Club, training up to six days a week in the pool. Sauer had never been a part of any sports team before she discovered swimming at 58.
Having been very sedentary and obese into her 40s, she traded in her poor health habits for a membership at the Memorial Athletic Club. She eventually started to get bored of the same treadmill and weights routine and one day saw a poster for a masters swim team.
"A coach straight out of college took me on and taught me, and the rest is history," she said.
Entering this year's event, Sauer had won 52 total medals from the National Senior Games and the Masters National Championships. She swims for the health and strength benefits, but it's ultimately the competition that keeps her motivated to give it her all in training.
Until this year, she had never won a gold medal at the National Senior Olympics and worked toward achieving that goal.
"It's very exciting to be a part of this type of national athletic completion," Sauer said. "I grew up admiring Olympic athletes my whole life, and although this is on a much smaller scale, I never thought I'd be participating in an incredible event like this.
"It's uncommon to get to your 70s without health issues such as stroke and cancer, yet so many people who have are still racing, and it's so much fun to be a part of that the heart of these people. Some people don't train as intensely and do it more for fun. While I also do this for enjoyment, I do take it very seriously, as I like competition and being challenged. I'm most proud of the medals I have won under stringent competition."
Local basketball team the Ball Hawgs have participated in the Texas and National Senior Games since 1998, when they won the state games and then the Gold Medal at the National Games in 1999 in Orlando. At that time, the team consisted of John Coles, David Gibbs, Larry Gatewood and Mike Collier.
Over the last 19 years, the Ball Hawgs have won 19 straight Texas State Championships without a loss and are three-time national champions.
In nine national tournaments over 18 years, the Ball Hawgs have won three gold, three silver and two bronze medals. During this time, they also have worked through retirements of key players and dealt with many injuries.
This year they competed in the 65-69 age group, winning four games and taking home the gold medal. Its closest game was won by 28 points.
Gibbs and Coles still remain from the original team; both will turn 70 this year. Other players are Clay Hoster (since 2007), Dave White (since 2009), Steve Gilliland (since 2013) and Greg Layton (since 2013).
"What we love most about the games are the friendships and camaraderie, and the competition," Coles said. "Unlike going to the gym by yourself or running at the park, having a team of friends keeps you playing since they count on you to show up."
"Team play has been the backbone of our success over the years," he said. "Every time we go to nationals, we see the other teams and wonder how we are going to match up with them.
"We ask ourselves, 'why are we here, why did we sign up for this?' But then we play. We compete, we help each other, we play as a team, and we win."
Original Article: ?Houston Chronicle
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