Franklin Cornelius says that if the Marine Corps got him into shape years ago, it's the Yuma Senior Games that are keeping his 79-year-old body feeling like it's only 40.
“Like the Marines say, if you're tired, it's just weakness leaving the body!” said Cornelius, who has competed in the games for 10 years and earned more than 100 medals. “The Senior Games sure keep me toned. I really do feel half my age.”
But with events ranging from shot put to cribbage, the Yuma Senior Games aren't just giving athletes' muscles a workout. The mind also gets to build up quite a sweat.
The Senior Games in Yuma are open to anyone 50 years old and up. The oldest athlete so far over the years was 98 years old. This year's events, hosted by the city of Yuma Parks and Recreation, kick off Tuesday, Jan. 15. More than 700 athletes are expected to participate in the more than 30 events, which will take place at venues throughout the community.
Organizers say the event's popularity with both local seniors and winter visitors reaches far past winning medals.
“It seems like it's much more than just the games themselves,” said Joe Cox, a recreation program supervisor with Parks and Recreation. “People love the friendly competition, the opportunity to meet new friends.”
“Life becomes more precious when you get older,” Cox said, explaining the popularity behind the games. “As you get older, it seems like everyone around is dying. You have to maintain an active lifestyle or else you turn into a couch potato.”
Just like Olympic Games, the Senior Games begin and end with their own excitement and pageantry. The Senior Games will begin with a parade of athletes and will close with a potluck celebration.
The opening ceremony is set for 10 a.m. Jan. 15 at Carver Field, 5th Street and 13th Avenue. The parade will be followed by a picnic and novelty events such as the bowling pin throw, nail driving contest and water balloon toss. Attendees are encouraged to bring a lawn chair.
For a schedule of events, which run through Feb. 26, go to www.Yumaaz.gov/ParksAndRec.
New events include miniature golf and mixed pool shooting. The most popular events year after year are men's pool shooting and volleyball.
In addition to a registration fee, the cost is $5 per event entered. Additional fees may also be involved for events taking place at the bowling alley or golf course. No on-site registration will be taken. Athletes must register at least four days prior to their event.
Applications for Yuma Senior Games are available online, as well as at the offices of Parks and Recreation, located inside City Hall at One City Plaza. Office hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. City Hall is closed every other Friday.
For more information, call 373-5243.