Old sports: earning gold medals in golden years

He doesn’t take any medication. He’s won several gold medals and awards in tennis, and his motto is, “whatever happens, you just have to roll with the punches.” Roger Gentilhomme looks forward to competing in the next National Senior Olympics, as he’s just made the finals in the current Games.

At the next Games, he will be 102 years old.

Roger Gentilhomme maintains his health and competitive spirit even at age 100. (Photo courtesy of ageofchampions.org)
Roger Gentilhomme maintains his health and competitive spirit even at age 100. (Photo courtesy of ageofchampions.org)

As a part of Careers in Aging Week, the film, “Age of Champions,” documenting senior citizens participating in the National Senior Olympic athletics games, was presented in Roscoe West on Wednesday, April 9. The event was hosted by nursing assistant professor Connie Kartoz and sophomore nursing major Angela Ning.

“This week is intended to bring greater awareness to career opportunities in the field of aging and aging research,” Ning said. “We hope to garner interest in gerontology around campus.”

The College’s first Careers in Aging Week was held from Sunday,  April 6, to Saturday, April 12, and was sponsored by the Gerontological Society of America. The Gerontological Society of America promotes progressive research and education in the Gerontology field. The week also included an interactive career panel on Thursday, April 17, discussing professional opportunities in Gerontology discipline.

“We wanted the movie to inspire people to take charge of their health at any age,” Ning said. “You can always live an active lifestyle, even as an 80-year-old.”

The PBS award-winning documentary, “Age of Champions,” takes its viewers on the journey of five senior citizens athletes training for the National Senior Olympics. The film followed 100-year-old tennis player Roger Gentilhomme, a 70-year-old women’s basketball team, The Tigerettes, brothers Bradford, 88, and John, 90, Tatum swimmers, and track/pole vaulting Earl Blassingame, 88, and Adolph Hoffman, 86.

In the documentary, Roger Gentilhomme proceeded to the final round of tennis in the National Senior Olympics, though he ultimately lost to his 94-year-old opponent whom he referred to as “a youngster.”

The Tigerettes struggled through a difficult final game and ultimately won for the sixth consecutive time on a three-pointer buzzer shot.

“When little kids found out we won nationals, they look at us not as grandmas, but active senior adults,” a Tigerettes player said.

The Tatum brothers lived in a supportive D.C. community their entire lives. As each brother won the gold, they cheered, “Mission accomplished!”

The brothers commented that as children, they were not allowed to swim in the white community pools due to the color of their skin, therefore they swam in the fountain in front of the memorial. Bradford Tatum said it had been an amazing witnessing segregation to experiencing the election of the first black President of the United States.

With Blassingame always finishing in second and Hoffman in first, both men — residents of Texas — have sparked a friendly competition with one another over years.

“Adolph is the best athlete I’ve ever seen,” Blassingame said. “He’s just terrific.”

The film portrayed vibrant and active life possibilities that older adults may have. Careers in Aging Week promotes the professional application of creating new progressive opportunities for older adults.

“We hope to see this grow year by year and for more students to become interested in a possible career in gerontology,” Blassingame said.

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