New documentary highlights senior athletes

03/08/11 Kate Bradshaw
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One does not typically associate women over 65 with athleticism, but many who fall into that category are fighting the frail grandma stereotype. The documentary film Age of Champions follows a 100-year-old tennis champ, an 86-year-old pole vaulter, a pair of brothers who swim, and basketball team consisting of women over 65. All are competitors in the National Senior Olympics, an event in which over 12,000 senior athletes compete. The film screens in Tampa March 21st. WMNF spoke with Mary Bendsen, a member of the Celadrin Tigerettes, a basketball team that will play in Clearwater next week.

"All over the United States they have senior games and almost every sport is involved in that. I'm playing in the basketball in Florida. I guess it was about 7 or 8 years ago I joined a team that's based in Louisiana and they're just a wonderful bunch of ladies. In fact you can get to meet them, the people in Florida are going to be invited to the premier viewing of a feature film documentary about our team and other senior athletes. Some amazing people; a 100 year old tennis player, a couple of 90 year old swimmers, 89 year old pole vaulter, it's an amazing documentary and it's very well done. This is going to be showing at the Straz Center for Performing Arts in Tampa and it's on March 21st."

Obviously people all over the place of all ages play sports, what's the significance of this particular league?

"It's amazing the number of people that are still fit in their 80's and their 90's and they're enjoying life. Looking forward to the next tournament and looking forward to turning 5 years older because they can play in another age division. It really keeps us going and we'd like to encourage other people to take advantage of this, too. They can just go and look up 'good life games' on their computer and find out how to play in the Tampa area, get into one of these activities."

You guys are kind of breaking the stereotype of people who are 60 and older, typically not viewed as being particularly active. Do you aim to break that stereotype and encourage people to stay active as long as they can?

"Right, we'd like to think of ourselves as role models for people who are enjoying life in their 60's, 70's, and 80's and beyond. We just have such a good time and have such fun together, we'd like to encourage people to take supplements, to give their bodies what they need. We eat healthy and live healthy and we laugh a lot. When our teams together you can hear us halfway across the airport because we're just a fun bunch of ladies."

The games take place Saturday, March 19 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Age of Champions screens at the Straz Center in Tampa Monday March 21 at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m.

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