Rosemary Clarke Middle School eighth grade English teacher Susan Zink, went to the Nevada Senior Games last week and came away with a gold medal.
Each year in the fall in Las Vegas, the Nevada Senior Games runs in early October through mid-October. The games are now in their 35th year. Nearly 1,000 seniors participate in 19 events annually. The games now span a three-week period.
The swimming competition was held in Las Vegas last weekend at Desert Breeze Aquatic Center. All events at the games are divided by age groups.
Zink was in the 60-64 age group and went to the Nevada Senior Games hoping to qualify for the nationals, which are held in a different city every other year. This year the nationals will be held in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota from July 3-16.
The nationals attract close to 12,000 athletes and to participate in the games, you must be 50 years old and qualify the year before through a NSGA sanctioned state qualifying games. In this case for Zink, that would be the Nevada Senior Games, the only qualifier in the state.
Zink has been a swimmer all her life but she had never done organized competitive swimming before.
“I started swimming as a young girl,” Zink said proudly. “My father was a navy diver. So I grew up swimming in California.”
She got started in the senior games to get in shape.
“I will be retiring soon,” she said. “I have been doing desk jobs for the last 20 years and it shows. I didn’t want to spend my retirement fat, out of shape and visiting doctors.”
Zink said the swimming has also helped her rehabilitate her knee, which had to have surgery.
“I enjoy swimming because it makes movement easier. It helps you regain strength and flexibility,” she said.
The senior Olympian started preparing for the Nevada games in the summertime and since she has started she has lost 40 pounds.
“I decided to do this during the summer because I needed the extra motivation to get in shape,” she said.
Zink believes there are a lot of seniors in Pahrump that need this extra motivation to get active.
“A lot of us working want to stay in shape,” she said. “We can’t help it when we put on weight. I wanted to take it off.”
The Pahrump senior has the fall and spring to train for the nationals and plans on taking it seriously. She said she wants to improve on her 53 second time by shaving off a good 20 seconds on the 50-yard freestyle race. She swims every day and does 48 lengths of the pool for 30 minutes a day.
“I feel like I could have done a lot better in Las Vegas. I am looking for a coach to train for the upcoming nationals in St. Paul,” the senior athlete said.
The games were a positive experience for the teacher and she would love to share her experience with other seniors and hopes others join her.
“I enjoyed my experience and I would do it again,” she said. “Nobody cared what you looked like at these games. I am fat and out of shape and nobody cared. Everyone was so encouraging. People were supportive and respectful.”
The English teacher said she was impressed by all the athletes she encountered at the games but one experience really empowered her. While waiting to swim she was able to watch another senior with just one arm compete. The lady’s name was Anna and she is in her 70s. She swam the 200-yard backstroke and the 50-yard freestyle with a paralyzed arm.
“She almost didn’t finish, but she did. She was amazing,” Zink said.
The senior swimmer hopes to get a sponsor to defray costs and she also wants to meet other senior athletes training for nationals.
“It is not about the competition,” the swimmer said. “You just have to have the courage to do this. I would not miss the opportunity to do the games because that makes me an Olympian. You don’t have to be a super athlete. I maybe the slowest Olympian but no one has to know that, but me.”