Olympian John Naber (left) congratulates senior athlete Vivian Stancil for her Personal Best Award presented by National Senior Games Association CEO Marc T. Riker and California State Senior Games Coordinator Cynthia Rosedale of the Pasadena Senior Center.
What could be better than having an Olympic swimming legend attend an award presentation to honor an amateur Senior Games swimmer? John Naber, who dominated the 1976 Olympics with five medals, found a way.
The National Senior Games Association (NSGA) honored 67-year old senior athlete Vivian Stancil of Riverside with a "Personal Best Award" during the California State Senior Games athlete celebration at the Pasadena Senior Center. Stancil, a foster child who lost her sight at age 19, persevered to become the first blind teacher in the Long Beach School System, and then lost 125 pounds and overcame her fear of water to become a competitive Senior Games swimmer.
Naber expressed his admiration for Stancil's accomplishments and then took it to the next level. "When you come out on the pool deck, there's an attitude of joy that says 'Anybody can do this, not just me.' When we see where you have come from, you've inspired us all," he told the gathering of 200 California Senior Games athletes and supporters. "I know you have 175 medals to your credit, but just for the next few minutes I would be honored if you would allow me to place one of my medals around your neck."
Stancil, like the attendees, was emotional in her response. "This is so amazing. I'm so grateful. And to wear this medal - it's really heavy! I just want to say whatever problems you have, you can get over them. I just want to go out in my community and tell seniors about health and fitness, and to get them to try Senior Games like I did."
"Vivian Stancil epitomizes our new definition of personal best that goes beyond a moment of athletic achievement," NSGA CEO Marc T. Riker told the gathering. "Her example of overcoming challenges on and off the field of play inspires all of us to strive for fitness and health and live longer, better quality lives. This is what truly represents your personal best." NSGA governs the biennial National Senior Games, the largest multi-sport event in the world for seniors, and the California State Senior Games is the sanctioned state event for people 50 and over to qualify to compete at the national level.
In addition to her remarkable achievements as a senior swimmer who has qualified and competed in the National Senior Games since 1995, Riker also noted Stancil's ongoing community service as another reason for the recognition. In 2013 Stancil created The Vivian Stancil Olympian Foundation to assist at risk youth and seniors to participate in athletics, and was also recently named to the City of Riverside Commission on Disability.
Stancil was also among 20 senior athletes who received grants for entry fees in a national essay contest hosted by Post Shredded Wheat earlier this year, and was formally awarded her grant during the ceremony.
An extended profile of Stancil and other athlete honorees can be found on the Personal Best page at www.NSGA.com. "This tour and recognition program is intended to send a message out to aging adults to 'get in the game' and enjoy an active, healthy lifestyle," said Riker. "These athletes demonstrate that everyone can be their own personal best. The senior games movement offers fitness, fun and fellowship, but even if people don't want to participate in sports we want to encourage everyone to get out and get active in some way."
[NSGA is a nonprofit member of the United States Olympic Committee that promotes health and wellness for adults 50 and over through education, fitness and sport. The 2015 National Senior Games Presented by Humana will be held July 3-16, 2015 in Bloomington/Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota. NSGA sanctions member state organizations across the country that host Senior Games or Senior Olympics to provide seniors with quality sports activity. Visit www.NSGA.com for more information.]