Forget knitting. Forget Oprah and Bingo and watching sports. This week, D.C. seniors are competing in track and field, bowling, tennis, and archery.

D.C. Parks and Rec and the Office on Aging today kicked off the 25th annual D.C. Golden Olympics for District residents over 50. This year is also a qualifying year for the 2009 Summer National Senior Games in San Francisco, so those who place first, second, or third will get to compete against other overly athletic seniors from around the country.

At this morning’s opening ceremony, Bradford Tatum, 87, and his 89-year-old brother, John, said they have been preparing all year for the Golden Olympics. Both residents of Northeast, they grew up in Georgetown and started swimming almost 80 years ago in their neighborhood pool.

Younger brother Bradford, who is competing in the 500-yard freestyle swim, had the honor of carrying the sort-of golden, possibly plastic torch at this morning’s ceremony in recognition of the six medals he won last year.

So, OK, the paper flames actually fell out of the golden/plastic torch as he made his way around the Emory Recreation Center auditorium. But no matter.

After the pomp and circumstance, wellwishers with mechanical wheelchairs, walking canes, and baggy T-shirts loaded up on private charter buses and made their way to Takoma Aquatic Center for the 500 freestyle.

Tomorrow: track, long jump, softball, tennis, football, archery, and shot put. Thursday: golf, basketball, swimming, and bowling. Friday: pool, table tennis, and the big closing ceremony at Fort Stevens Recreation Center.

Robert King, special assistant for DPR said the Golden Olympics have been so successful because D.C. residents are living longer. “With the senior population at 16 percent and growing, it is important that seniors participate in these games and practice throughout the year,” King said. “It’s never too late to start.”
He doesn’t have to tell it to Sue Barns, 80. A Brookland resident, she started running at the age of 60 and won the gold medal in the Penna Relays Master in 2000 as the oldest female participant.

She’s got some advice for the rest of us: “There is no excuse for young people to be sittin’ around.”

—Whitney Boyd