Alaska senior games brings competition and camaraderie

Ian Larsen/Sun Star reporter
August 28, 2012

Alaskan winters can be long and harsh, making it vital to enjoy the summer sun as much as possible. The Alaska International Senior Games (AISG) gives Alaskan senior citizens the opportunity to be active and have fun in the sun before winter. This year is the games 10th annual competition where senior citizens ages 50 and older can sign up to compete in athletic event around Fairbanks.

ASIG president Diann Darnall operates this non-profit organization.

“[Diann] does a wonderful job organizing us and supporting us, and she keeps it fun,” said Senior Games participant John Berhdal.

Participants compete in three different age groups. Athletes who place in an event will receive a gold, silver

or bronze medal. If an athlete places in a qualifying event, they will be invited to compete in the National Senior Games which will be held in Cleveland, Ohio in 2013.

Fairbanks senior, John Lysen, throws a disc at the first hole of the UAF disc golf course during the Alaska International Senior Games on Saturday, Aug 18, 2012. Erin McGroarty/ Sun Star

Out of all the events, archery, basketball, bowling, cycling, golf, horseshoes, racquetball, road running races, softball, table tennis, tennis, track and field and the triathlon are all qualifying sports for next year’s National Senior Games event.  Some of the non-qualifying events consisted of bocce, disc golf, ice hockey, indoor shooting, mini golf, swimming, track and field and trap shooting.

“One nice things about the senior games is there are a lot of different things you can do,” said Charlotte Berhdal, a disc golf participant.

“It’s a huge benefit to our community to have athletes from throughout Alaska, the lower 48 and Canada because it fosters healthy, active seniors,” Said Diann Darnall in an email. “It also, promotes friendship, sportsmanship, and healthy competition.”
Archery and disc golf were hosted on campus. Competing athletes ranged from recreational players to determined qualifiers.

In the disc golf competition teams of two played through the course to win the gold. Disc golf has attracted many new participants since AISG included the disc golf in the games in 2011.

“We played frisbee golf for the first time at the Senior Games last year,” John Berdahl said. “We liked it so much, we even bought our own discs.”

At the archery event, participants can choose one type of bow out of a compound, bare-bow or re-curve bows. Each participant shot 900 rounds at 60, 50 and 40 yards to determine their scores for the competition.

This year’s AISG brought in a record 341 participants as opposed to the 261 participants from last year.

The AISG also brings the senior community together through social events.

The Senior Games had an opening ceremony that includes the lighting of the senior games torch and a wellness walk. The passing of the torch was performed by Jane Lanford who ran the flame, it was then passed to Bettie Upright, the eldest participant of the games at age 97. Upright passed the torch to Laird Grantham who lit the torch and allowed Bettie Upright to proclaim the Alaska Senior Games open.

The AISG committee also hosted a “Fantastic Fifties, Sensational Sixties” themed dance, a closing ceremony, and a dinner. The closing ceremony and dinner took place on the Riverboat Discovery.

“It’s important to the seniors participating,” said John Berhdal, “it changes the outlook on what you can do.”

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