Oh, yoo-hoo, masters athletes out there! Yes, you; and you-who-know-anyone-over-50. (You know who you are.)
The Idaho Senior Games is recruiting. From table tennis to pickleball, from bocce to the triathlon, there is a sport waiting for you. It is recommended that you start training, like yesterday, because this is a serious — but fun — competition.
Normally, just about here, we’d write about some athlete who has discovered a sense of purpose and a renewed lease on life because of the Senior Games. And there are many. Several times now, though, the Statesman has written about Bill Platts, 91, who started his career in senior games when he was merely in his 60s, and has since been setting not only national records — but also world records — in javelin, pentathlon, hammer weight throw and long jump.
Quite frankly, it’s someone else’s turn. Consider this your guilty conscience talking, so step right up and get training so we can write about you.
Because darn it, Platts has done it again.
Again. He won this national award in 2013 in the over-75 category, when he was 86.
The award is based on performance at national and world meets, and whether an athlete has set national or world records. Now you know what you’re aiming for, those of you who intend to out-compete Platts. Get busy.
“What makes me feel best of all is world records,” Platts, of Boise, said. “Then you know you have improved more than anybody in the last 70 years.” That’s how long records have been kept, he said.
Last year, Platts won six gold medals — javelin, shot put, discus, long jump, weight throw and hammer — at the Hayward Classic at the University of Oregon in June. He set a world record in the javelin, taking the existing record away from a Finnish athlete. (He’s broken the world record in javelin in every age group since the 65-69 age group.)
A month later, in July 2018, Platts won another six gold medals and six national championships at the U.S.A. National Masters Track and Field Championships at Eastern Washington University. Not satisfied to let records get dusty, he broke his June javelin world record, and set a new American record in weight throw.
Every year in January, Platts sets goals for himself. In the beginning, when he was in his 60s, his goal was a bronze medal in the Idaho Senior Games. (Which, incidentally, he didn’t get. It took a while.) “Your goals get bigger every year,” he said. “Some years you don’t make your goal. You get hurt or you didn’t work out the way you should. Or you fish too much.”
The fishing part is important, because that’s why he competes. Backpacking, chukar hunting, fishing in high mountain lakes — competing keeps him in shape to do all that. “The reward is an active lifestyle,” he said.
“My goal changed this year. My goal this year was not to run track and field; for the first time in all these years, my goal was to catch up on my fishing.”
But then they up and wanted to give him this award. The presentation will be during the 2019 USATF Masters Outdoor Championships at Iowa State University in July. So of course, Platts has his honor to defend.
And there’s world records to set. He has his eye — and throwing arm — set on world records in the pentathlon and throws pentathlon. (Throws pentathlon is javelin, discus, shot put, hammer and hammer weight. Regular pentathlon is javelin, discus, long jump, 200- and 1,500-meter run.) Although he already holds the world record in the throws pentathlon in the 85-89 age group, that’s old news now that he’s 91.
Platts will compete in Iowa and again in Las Vegas in October. Then, with gratitude, it’s back to fishing. “(Competing) keeps you healthy,” he said. “Probably 15 years ago, I would have had to give up the high mountain lake backpacks and the chukar hunting and all that. And I can still do it — I’m 91 and I can still do it.”
It all started with Idaho Senior Games
Bill Platts saw the very first Idaho Senior Games 30 years ago on television. It inspired him as a way to keep in shape, so he signed up for the second year.
“I got there and I didn’t know there were age groups,” he said. “Here I was (in my 60s) and boy, those 50-year-old guys were running and jumping and I thought, ‘This isn’t for me.’ I got scared and went home.” He laughs at himself.
He caught on and, the third year of the Games, he ran in the 100- and 200-meter races. “It took me a while to start winning,” he said.
He ran for several years, but pulled a muscle in the Wyoming Senior Games. “I looked over at the javelin and got misled that it looked so simple,” he said, grinning. “They were just hippity hopping up and tossing this little thing. I thought, ‘Boy, if I can’t run any more, I’m going to do the javelin.’ ” The next year, he entered. And came in last.
“It’s one of the hardest things I ever tried. … It’s a game of perfection. You’ve got to do a thousand things in less than a second,” he said.
Platts has several gallon jars on a dresser filled with medals — more than 300 gold ones at last count. But his jar started with the Idaho Senior Games — and still continues. In fact, the track and field portion of the Idaho Senior Games is named in his honor.
“It’s just one day a year, but you always know your competition is going to be there, so you start in January,” he said. “You’ll train for months just to try and win a medal in the Senior Games.
“And the benefit of it is it keeps you active. It keeps you healthy. It keeps your blood pressure down. It’s great for your heart.”
Plus, the Idaho Senior Games gets you in shape for regional games — and then there’s the national games and even the World Senior Games.
“We have people in Idaho who are capable of breaking those types of (national and world) records. They just have to work hard,” Platts said. “And boy, I’d love to see that.”
Want to play in the games?
This year is the 30th anniversary of the Idaho Senior Games, which features 19 sports and 750 athletes. To register, visit IdahoSeniorGames.org. There is a $10 late fee after Aug. 1. To participate, you must be 50 on Dec. 31 of the year you participate.
Almost 100 Idahoans qualified at last year’s Senior Games for this year’s National Senior Games, which were in June in Albuquerque. Idaho athletes brought home 11 gold, 14 silver and 14 bronze medals among a field of 14,000 athletes from 50 states.