Medals Galore at the Huntsman World Senior Games
The Huntsman World Senior Games are held every October in St. George, Utah, a community that has an elevation of about 3,000 feet and is located 120 miles northeast of Las Vegas. St. George is a popular location since it offers lots of scenic areas nearby such as Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Lake Powell, and the Grand Canyon.
The Huntsman Games offer senior athletes, those aged 50 to 100, opportunities to compete in one or more of 30 sports. Among the sports available were archery, basketball, bowling, mountain biking, softball, tennis, volleyball, and track and field. Because of the popularity of the games, the tournament regulators placed a cap on how many athletes may enter each sport. For example, badminton was limited to 100 entrants, pickleball was limited to 776 entrants, and table tennis was limited to 225 entrants.
The 2018 Huntsman Games were held from October 7 – 19. They catered to 11,032 senior athletes, and they attracted athletes from 32 countries. The oldest athlete was 96 years and 7 months old, and s/he competed in the bowling.
Since I’m now retired and free to travel throughout the year, Sue and I decided that we would attempt to experience this year’s Huntsman Games. We figured we would have no trouble entering the badminton events, but we were not sure about our ability to enter the pickleball competitions. Last year, the pickleball events filled up within the first minute that entries were taken online. Because many people could not enter the pickleball last year, it was decided that a lottery system would be used to accept pickleball competitors this year. In other words, the Huntsman Games would accept pickleball entries during a two-week period. Then, if they had more entrants than they could handle, they would randomly select competitors from the pool of entrants who were properly entered. Sue and I attempted to boost our chances of getting entered by volunteering to serve as line judges during the tournament. Apparently, our strategy worked, for we were permitted entry in several of the pickleball doubles events.
On October 12th and 13th, Sue and I competed in the badminton events. There were about 60 entrants in the badminton, and about a third of them were from Canada. The badminton was a bit disappointing for me, as there was little competition. I competed in three events, and I had only two matches in the 70+ singles, one match in the 65+ men’s doubles, and one match in the 65+ mixed doubles. It was fairly easy for me (and my respective partners) to win all the matches and pick up three gold medals. Sue had a similar experience in her three events, but she was pushed to three games in the singles and three games in the women’s doubles. Nonetheless, she also won three gold medals. Another member of our club – Phil Brunner – walked away with a gold medal in 80+ men’s singles, a silver medal in the 65+ men’s doubles, and a bronze medal in the 75+ mixed doubles.
The pickleball competition started on October 15th, and it was a lot more challenging for me and Sue. The pickleball competition at the Huntsman Games and other places is “double elimination.” That is, you can continue to play matches until you have lost two matches. Once you lose your first match, you drop down into the loser’s bracket, and you proceed to compete against other losers. If you are eventually able to beat all the losers, you will find yourself moving back to the winner’s bracket where you will compete for the gold medal.
Unlike badminton where you would simply enter an age category event, pickleball divides the events not only by age but also by playing ability. For example, Sue and I competed in the 65+ mixed doubles and the 3.5 playing level. (Playing levels go from 3.0 to 5.0 and go up in .5 increments.) There were about 100 teams in this category. Rather than have one massive tournament among the 100 teams, the tournament organizers made five separate groups – A, B, C, D, and E – and each group had its own tournament. Sue and I were in group D, and we managed to win all our matches and land in the finals against a team that came up from the loser’s bracket. In the finals, we did not play up to our abilities, and we won a silver medal. Pickleball is a relatively new sport for us, so we were happy to do as well as we did. Sue also won a bronze medal in the 60+ (3.5) women’s doubles.
Sue and Curt at Huntsman Games
In closing, I should mention that one of our older club members, Lee Calvert, competed in the table tennis competition. She won gold medals in the 90+ women’s singles, the 85+ women’s doubles, and the 85+ mixed doubles. Congratulations, Lee.