By LANCE CRANMER firstname.lastname@example.org
WAVERLY, Ohio – When Marj Andrus stepped to the podium to receive her gold medal, the Senior Olympian from Bristol Village ran into an issue.
To combat the hot summer sun in her events – the 1500- and 5000-meter racewalk – the 98-year old is never without a large, colorful hat.
“That’s the problem,” Marj said. “You can’t get the medal over your head with the hat on. You just need a longer ribbon!”
Marj is one of 17 senior athletes who represented Bristol Village earlier this summer in the Ohio Senior Olympics in the Columbus suburb of Westerville. Altogether, the Bristol Village Olympians brought home 27 medals – including 13 gold, seven silver and seven bronze.
“I had to learn a new walk,” said Marj, who for many years has started each day with a long morning walk to McDonald’s for ice cream. “(For the racewalk) you have to walk with your knees stiff. I had to focus so much on my knees that I didn’t have time to get nervous. Then someone stuck out their hand and stopped me and said, ‘you’re here!’”
“They told us Marj probably had a Senior Olympic record in the 5,000 meters,” said Betsy Hall, who organized the athletics team at Bristol Village. “At 98-years old, they don’t know of anyone else that age who has done it.”
“They told me the record for just for the US and Canada,” Marj added. “I thought, ‘Canada? That’s big enough!”
Betsy, a marathon runner for 21 years, has competed in four National Senior Olympics, winning three gold, one silver and two bronze medals.
Thanks to her enthusiasm for the competition, several of her friends began participating as well.
“It was Betsy,” said Otto Zingg, a medalist in golf and pickleball at the Ohio Senior Olympics. “She started to promote it and encouraged us to participate.
“I thought, well, I’ll do it.”
Otto teamed with Gareth Baker to earn a bronze medal in doubles pickleball – a tennis-like sport played with a wiffleball and paddles – and earned a silver in golf.
“I just turned 80 in June,” he said. “I figured there were not too many others in that age category so I had a good chance to medal.”
Frankie Rinehart also got involved with the Senior Olympics with Betsy’s encouragement.
“Good thing I have this friend,” she said, pointing to Betsy. “I’m kind of an athletic person. So when she said, ‘let’s go,’ I just went.”
Frankie won a gold medal in the 1500-meter and 5000-meter racewalk, a gold in women’s singles table tennis and a silver in women’s doubles table tennis alongside Betsy.
Each of the Bristol Village residents who brought home medals from the Ohio Senior Olympics is now qualified for the upcoming regional Senior Olympics event to be held in Portsmouth, Ohio, in September.
“I can do it. Up to 10 miles. After 10 it’s too much,” Marj said with a smile as she turned to look at Betsy. “If you think I can, Betsy, I will!”
Those who medal at the regional event have the chance to qualify for the 2017 National Senior Olympics in Birmingham, Alabama from June 2-15.