June 2015 - Extras - NM SENIOR OLYMPICS FOUNDER RECALLS 37 YEARS OF GAMES
What do the Sony Walkman, the McDonald’s Happy Meal, leg warmers and Strawberry Shortcake have in common with New Mexico Senior Olympics? In 1979 these products were being launched onto the American scene; while at the same time Ernesto Ramos and his team created a statewide competition that would help seniors stay active and change how these New Mexican’s lived their daily lives.
“A lot of people don’t realize that New Mexico was the first state in the nation to hold statewide games for seniors,” Ramos states. “There were senior games taking place at a local level in many states, with the largest in Los Angeles; but New Mexico was the first to hold statewide games.” In 1979 Ernesto Ramos was working for the federal government helping senior programs in New Mexico receive necessary funding for the continuation of programs that assisted the growing senior population. While the job was rewarding in its own rights, Ramos believed more could be done in the state to help seniors stay active, healthy and thrive.
Because of the vision and leadership of Ramos, the New Mexico Senior Olympics was born with 150 athletes from all around the state who competed in the softball distance throw, 50 and IOO yard dashes, 880 and one mile runs, 50-yard wheel-chair race and Frisbee throw events. Ramos and his team also added dancing contests, bubble gum chewing, balloon busting, pie eating and making ugly faces events to their one-day Olympics; which were held in Los Lunas and Albuquerque. Fast forward to the 2015, 37th Annual New Mexico Senior Olympic Games which now hosts 26 individual sporting events including: Archery, Air Gun, Badminton, Basketball, Billiards, Bowling, Cycling, Dance, Disc Golf, Horseshoes, Golf, Race Walk, Racquetball, Softball, Shuffleboard, Swimming, Tennis, Table Tennis and Track & Field at sport venues located throughout the City of Roswell and the New Mexico Military Institute. “You don’t stop playing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop playing.”
This year there is an anticipated 800 active adults 50+, from all parts of New Mexico, competing in this four-day event. “There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to organize an event of this size and magnitude; which is the largest multi-sport event in New Mexico.” Cecilia Acosta, executive director noted, “More than 400 volunteers are utilized to plan, coordinate, direct and successfully implement the Senior Olympic. Acosta stated, “New in 2015 is the ‘Seniors Got Talent’ 50+ entertainment show production to be held at the Pueblo Auditorium, Saturday June 6th, 1pm which is free to the athletes and spectators.
True to form, Ramos will be in Roswell to watch his seniors from around the state compete. “I love to attend the games because the level of competition is intense and it’s a very exciting time,” Ramos remarked. “People may think that the Senior Olympics is older people casually playing games, but once you see how competitive the action is, you will become an instant and life-long fan. We have some of the best senior athletes in the state and when our athletes go to the National Senior Games, they go to win and bring home the gold.”
Ramos, who served on the National Senior Olympics board from 1990-1998 as well as the national president from 1995-1997, said “The intense competition prepares New Mexico athletes to dominate at the National Games. NSGA governs the biennial National Senior Games, the largest multi-sport event in the world for seniors. New Mexico Senior Olympics hosts the sanctioned state event for people 50+ to qualify to compete at the national games. The 2015 National Senior Games, presented by Humana, will be held July 3-16 in Bloomington/Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.
New Mexico seniors have most likely traded in their Walkman’s for I-pods; their leg warmers for ankle weights and running shoes; their Happy Meals for healthy food but maybe, just maybe they will hold on to strawberry shortcake theme as a well-deserved dessert reward after the games!
To learn more about 37th Annual New Mexico Senior Olympic Games visit www.nmseniorolympics.org.