The US National Senior Games is the largest multi-sport event in the world for people 50 and over. Founded in 1987, these Olympic-styled games are held in different host cities every two years. This year, more than 12,000 qualified athletes came to Albuquerque, New Mexico to compete in 20 different sports, ranging from archery to volleyball.
We came to compete in the sport of badminton as athletes from all over the world are eligible to compete as long as they have played in a US State Game the previously year and qualified by placing in top four in the event. We have a competitive spirit and enjoy the challenge of striving for our own best performance. But we are also motivated by the social, physical & mental fitness, and the fellowship from participation.
Registration at the Athletics’s Village
Many people ask why we bother to travel afar to compete when we can play competitive games in our home city. Why spend the extra money and time to organize the out of town, out of country, or even out of North American trips?Travelling is a passion for us, and so is badminton. So when you can combine the two, it is simply pure joy, not withstanding the challenges of organizing the logistics of such a trip.
Our trip started with a flight from Vancouver to Denver, Colorado. Then driving south via Taos and Santa Fe, we arrived at Albuquerque by June 14, the start of registration day of the National Senior Games (NSG). The NSG activities, from the opening ceremonies to closing activities span from June 14 to June 23.
Each day, there are music/dance/cultural entertainment, health presentations/exhibits, social events and more for participants and guests.
The badminton competitive games are scheduled over 3 days for athletes of ages from 50 to 69 (and 3 more days for athletes from age 70 & up). The first two days for each age group are round-robin group plays to determine the top 2 from each group to advance.
The third day is the knock-out rounds of quarter-finals, semi-finals, and finals to determine the top 8 finishers.
After each event is finished, there are the medal ceremonies. Medals are given to the top three finishers, with ribbons given to the 4th to 8th finishers.
The competition days are grueling, both physically and mentally. But we enjoy the camaraderie of participating in an activity with other like-minded people. We met and played with wonderful people. For example, my mixed double partner Lin Ye from Albuquerque, originally from Chengdu, China, an expert on American history but now working in IT. So helpful and humble about his badminton game.
Then there is Tom’s mixed double partner, Cherry, from Virginia Beach, a most cheerful super female Neurologist with such passion to improve her game.
We met Tom’s men’s double partner, Daniel Bankus, an accountant from Baltimore, who is continuing to train faithfully for the game in spite of his busy work schedule.
We met Zhiping You, a math PhD from Boston, who loves all kinds of sports, everything from triathlon, marathon, and badminton.
We met so many dedicated volunteers from Albuquerque selflessly devoting so much personal time for the games. They also offered interesting insights about their city.
Our hotel during the games were filled to capacity with athletes. We met 70+ years old basketball players, 55+ years old runners, and 85+ years old swimmers.
Then we renewed our friendship with Alice, Aileen, and Chee Kong Lai from Boston. These players travel often to play badminton. We have played with and against them in other international tournaments such as the Americas Masters Games in Vancouver and World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand, Australia. So much fun to catch up with them again.
By making the effort to participate in the Games, we meet people from all walks of life to enrich our own lives. Like most sports, there are winners and losers in the competition. But the real motivation is to enjoy the health, fitness and social benefits. This trip also motivated us to visit the US states of Colorado and New Mexico, an area further down on our travel destination list if not for the NSG.
We found Albuquerque a delightful destination, full of history, culture and unique scenery. There were plenty of outdoor activities, food and lively entertainments to enjoy.