Games offer friendly rivalry

Athletes older than 50 who want to have fun while testing their muscles should join the Golden Games, Paul Kowalski of Altoona thinks.

Kowalski, who is 65, said people who are a little younger often miss out on the fun.

“A lot of people in their 50s don’t realize it’s out there,” he said of the competition. “They think they are too young. That it’s for old people.”

He said they can compete in a number of events that are grouped in five-year increments, according to age.

Kowalski is in his 11th year of participation and has tried his hand at basketball, bocci, golf, the home run derby, archery, tennis, billiard, swimming, rifle, archery, track and field events and other competitions.

Angel Dandrea, community services program supervisor for Blair Senior Services, said the Golden Games feature 40 events, including Intellectual Games, such as crossword puzzles, single and double-deck pinochle, a spelling bee, trivia and word search.

Sabina “Sabby” Pierannunzio, who teaches Healthy Steps in Motion and low impact aerobics at the Central Blair Senior Center, leans more toward the intellectual games.

“I like word search,” she said. The Altoona resident also will take part in the spelling bee and trivia competitions.

“I do it for the challenge,” she said. “It makes my brain work.”

When she is not at the center, Pierannunzio enjoys bowling, so she also plans to test her Wii bowling skills.

With 40 events, the Golden Games attract a lot of competitors. Dandrea said about 300 Blair County residents take part in the event annually.

The 12th annual Golden Games will be held from June 1 to 27 at various sites in the county. The fee is $8 for those who register between April 15 and 29 and $10 for those who register from April 30 to May 17. The fee includes a Golden Games T-shirt and admission to the opening and closing ceremonies. Registration forms are available at Blair Senior Services in Altoona.

Dandrea said many participants practice year-round in anticipation of the games.

“We encourage the games to be fun, as well as to enhance the personal growth and development of the individual physically,” she wrote in an email.

“Some participants are more focused on improving their personal score from last year. Others participate to reunite with friends or meet new people with common interests,” she said.

She said it is an opportunity to learn a new sport.

“Many of the participants enjoy sharing tips and teaching others how to play,” she said in the email. “There is great sportsmanship and camaraderie throughout the events.”

Kowalski, who has been athletic all his life, said he likes to do a variety of events and has won 135 medals over the years.

A former bodybuilder, he has earned titles such as Mr. Altoona, Mr. Central Pennsylvania, Mr. All South and Mr. New York State.

The recent recipient of a new knee, Kowalski said he used to like the running events the best, but now favors throwing events.

“It’s a normal thing for me,” he said. “I played softball and baseball.”

His favorite is the javelin. It takes a lot of technique to throw that,” he said.

The games give him options, and he has looked forward to the contests ever since he learned about them a decade ago.

“A friend told me to check them out,” Kowalski said. “It was a good time.”