N.Va. Senior Olympics puts camaraderie first, competition second

Thomas and Joyce Tobias of Haymarket carried the torch to begin the 2022 Northern Virginia Senior Olympics on Sept. 10 at Thomas Jefferson Community Center in Arlington. (Sun Gazette Newspapers)

Two weeks comprising more than 70 events kicked off Sept. 10, but for participants in the Northern Virginia Senior Olympics, competition is only one part of the story.

Those taking part are doing their best to “live healthy longer,” said Senior Olympics chairman Herb Levitan, presiding over opening ceremonies at Thomas Jefferson Community Center in Arlington.

After being canceled in 2020 and brought back carefully in 2021, there was almost a feeling of normalcy about the start of the 2022 competition, which attracts participants from eight jurisdictions spread across Northern Virginia

“I’m so happy we are getting a chance to be together,” said Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti, among those delivering welcoming remarks. “Everyone here is making a choice for health and wellness, and to connect with other people.”

A total of 831 individuals registered for the 40th annual competition, up 20 percent from last year, with participants ranging in age from 50 to more than twice that figure.

Running through Sept. 24, competition will take place at 25 different venues. Pickleball, track, field and table tennis have garnered the most registrants.

The most seasoned of all the 2022 competitors is Vera Punke of Arlington, who has registered to participate in duplicate bridge. She is 107 years young.

Northern Virginia Senior Olympics began in 1982 with 75 Fairfax County participants. Today is spans the counties of Arlington Fairfax, Loudoun, Fauquier and Prince William and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church.

“They provide excellent facilities and excellent personnel to support us,” Levitan said of the participating jurisdictions.

(While supported by local governments, the initiative is run by a non-profit organization with a volunteer board of directors.)

Planning for the 40th-anniversary celebration had been in the works for more than a year, Levitan said. Supporting the opening ceremonies were the Alexandria City High School Junior ROTC honor guard and, singing the National Anthem, the Arlingtones.

Bringing in the Senior Olympics torch were Thomas and Joyce Tobias of Prince William County. The couple (89 and 85 years young, respectively) are competitors in swimming, cycling and racewalking. They are the parents of seven children – including one who for the past two years has competed in Senior Olympics herself – and 14 grandchildren.

The event also benefits from support of corporate sponsors and by the largesse of the competitors themselves – nearly 160 of those who signed up to take part added an extra contribution above and beyond the $20 participation fee.

Competition got underway immediately after the conclusion of the ceremonies, starting with 1,600-meter men’s and women’s running events.

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For information, including results as they are posted and a schedule, see the Website at www.nvso.us. While registration has closed, events are open to the public who wish to cheer on competitors.

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