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51 NH competitors going for gold at National Senior Games

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 01. 2017 8:28PM

Eric Bernard of Bedford will be competing in several track and field events at the National Senior Games. (COURTESY)
About this series
Silver Linings is a continuing Union Leader/Sunday news report focusing on the issues of New Hampshire's aging population and seeking out solutions.

Union Leader reporter Gretchen Grosky would like to hear from readers about issues related to aging. She can be reached at ggrosky@unionleader.com or (603) 206-7739.

See more at www.unionleader.com/aging.

Eric Bernard says he’s always been something of an athlete, so he decided to start training for track and field events in 2009. It “looked physically demanding” and seemed like a great way to get in shape.

Next week, the 63-year-old will be going for national gold in nine track and field events at the National Senior Games in Birmingham, Ala.

“Hammer throw, shotput, discus, javelin. I think that’s it for throwing stuff,” he laughed. “Then I’m doing a bunch of sprints.”

Bernard, of Bedford, will be among 51 Granite Staters representing New Hampshire at the National Senior Games over the next two weeks. The games are an Olympics-style competition for people 50 and older and attract 10,500 competitors from across the United States and nine different countries. The 19-event competition is held every two years. This will be Bernard’s fourth trip to the nationals.

“I like the competition. I like to see how I do against other people and I like to learn and see how I can improve from other people,” Bernard said. “With these games you can compete at your own level in you own age group. It’s one of the few things like this that are offered for people over 50.”

The 51 New Hampshire competitors range in age from 54 to 82 and will be competing in track and field events, basketball, cycling, racquetball, Pickleball, triathlon, tennis, golf, archery, swimming and table tennis. There will be husband-wife duos and one set of brothers among the local competitors.

Manchester’s George Tosatti is 80 and expects to be competing in three events — the 400-meter run, the 800-meter run and the 5K road race. This will be his sixth time competing at the national games. He is also the head of the New Hampshire Senior Games — annual competitions in 13 categories held across the state which serve as qualifiers for the national games.

“I think this is a great way for older athletes to compete and to socialize. I’ve met a lot of friends,” Tosatti said. “You get to meet a lot of people. It keeps you healthy and it keeps you busy.”

The mission of the senior games is to encourage fitness for people 50 and older by providing athletic competition in a variety of sports, clinics and creative pursuits.

“This is a great opportunity for local athletes to compete against the nation’s very best,” Tosatti said.

The nation’s very best includes 101-year-old Julia Hawkins of Baton Rouge, La., a retired teacher who is set to compete in the 50- and 100-meter sprints. Other centenarians include 103-year-old John Zilverberg of South Dakota, who will be participating in bowling and discus, and 100-year-old D. Paul Miller of Illinois, who will compete in discus, long jump, and the 50-, 100-, and 200-meter races.

Both the National and the New Hampshire games are celebrating 30 years of competition this year. The New Hampshire Senior Games start in late June with a horseshoes competition at Greely Park in Nashua and end with a road race at Pease Tradeport on Labor Day.

Competitions will be held each Friday through Sunday from late June until Labor Day. The games are open to anyone age 40 or over with brackets that climb to 90 years old and older. Only athletes 50 and older in a qualifying year are eligibile for the National Senior Games.

Bernard’s best finish at the National Senior Games was a sixth-place ribbon.

“If I crack the top 10 in anything, I’m really happy,” Bernard said. “If I ever win a medal at the nationals, I’ll probably wear it all the way home.”

For information on the games, visit www.NHseniorgames.org.

Human Interest Sports