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How to refer to the games’ participants?

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The National Senior Games are about to take over Albuquerque.

With a minimum age of 50 to participate, and age divisions reaching beyond the century mark, there might be some confusion, or disagreement, among media, onlookers and even the athletes themselves as to just how to refer to the athletes.

While “senior” is in the name of the event itself, many participants are far from considering that word appropriate for themselves.

So what is safe?

“I prefer ‘senior,’ ” joked Paula Larez, a member of New Mexico’s High Desert Diamonds softball team competing starting next week. “And I’m 59. I don’t mind saying it. I’m happy to say I’m 59.”

Her teammate, Mary Homan, pointed out that the description of athletes might depend on who is saying it.

“We’re not playing fast pitch anymore; we’re playing slow pitch,” said Homan, who is also competing in the discus, hammer throw and archery, an event she won gold in at a past Senior Games. “So, tongue-in-cheek, I refer to it sometimes as old lady ball. But if you call it that, I might have a problem with it.”

At about 80, one event organizer said, the athletes start carrying the title “super seniors.”

For 96-year-old Alberta Lente, there was really only one thing she didn’t want to hear over the next couple weeks as she and nearly 14,000 of her National Senior Games friends compete in and around Albuquerque: Old.

“No. No. No,” Alberta Lente said. “Age is just a number. You can’t win if you don’t play, and you’re never too old to play. So no, no, no mention of old.”

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