Hall of Fame
The Iowa Senior Olympics Hall of Fame was established in 2006 (the 20th anniversary of the Iowa Senior Olympics) to recognize and honor outstanding athletic performances by our senior athletes, as well as outstanding contributions made to the success of the Iowa Senior Olympics by athletes, board members and volunteers. What is a “Senior Athlete”? A senior athlete is someone, male or female, who trains and competes in a variety of events with their age group peers. Many may not feel that they have the capacity or the ability to participate in senior athletics. However, at the senior level there are events that are suitable for almost anyone who has the interest and wants to challenge themselves, through competition with their peers, to improve their health, and have fun. Although, there are many who have been participating for several years, like our Hall of Fame Inductees, a significant number do start in their sixth, seventh, or even eighth decades. The late Dr. George Sheehan, who was the prototype senior athlete, stated that, “the memorable thing is not how you compete against others, but how you compete against yourself”. This creed is held not only by our Hall of Fame Inductees, but also by many of the athletes who train and compete at a senior level.
As is often quoted, “we don’t stop playing because we are old, but we become old because we stop playing.” For these individuals, how true that is.
The 2012 Hall of Fame
West Des Moines, IA
L to R: Don Zimmer, Jim Miller (Accepting for Denise Miller) and Darrell Mitchell
Darrell Mitchell, 83, began competing in the Iowa Senior Olympics in 1987, the second year the Games were held. Since then, he has won 39 gold, 29 silver and 29 bronze medals. He has won medals and placed at National Championships in Syracuse, New York; Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Palo Alto, California. In addition to being a standout on the running track, Mitchell has also competed in Football and Softball Throws and in bowling.
Mitchell’s resilience is impressive. He was forced to sit out 2011 while recovering from a broken leg he suffered while bicycling. He came back this year to win Gold Medals on the track in the 200 and 400 while taking Silvers in the 50 & 100.
He ran 400 meters in 1:31.0 at the age of 75, and ran that race again six years later in 1:22.0. “At that improvement rate, the Olympics team in Rio may have a 90-year old running for the U.S.,” noted Steve Lynn, the executive director of the Iowa Senior Olympics.
Don Zimmer, 77, has earned 52 Gold, 15 Silver and 9 Bronze medals during his career as a Senior Olympian. He routinely wins gold medals on the track in the 50-meter, 100-meter and 200-meter dashes. Last summer he competed at the National Senior Games in Houston where he made the finals in the 75-79 age group and took 7th overall.
As a softball player, Zimmer was part of a team which brought home a Bronze Medal from the National Senior Games in Louisville in 2007. He is also an outstanding tennis player.
Zimmer notes the opportunity to compete with others and against others, and to test himself against what he has done in the past is what keeps drawing him back to the Senior Olympics. “As fast as he still moves you can expect him to be taking home medals for a long time,” noted Steve Lynn, the executive director of the Iowa Senior Olympics.
At this year’s Iowa Senior Olympics Don was fighting a knee injury but still took home 5 Gold and 1 Bronze Medal.
Denise Miller, of Vail, was a passionate participant and proponent of the Iowa Senior Olympics. She passed away much too soon, in July of 2011 at the age of 60. She left behind many friends and a legacy which earned her a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Miller, who competed each year she was eligible, still holds records in softball distance throw and football accuracy throw. In 2010, she competed in 14 events despite health problems. She won gold medals in the soccer kick and discus throw, took home silver medals in the shot put, horseshoes and Frisbee throw and won bronze in the javelin throw, standing long jump and running long jump.
Denise’s husband, Jim, is also a Senior Olympian and carried on her at tradition at the Iowa Senior Olympics by competing in 9 events this year, taking home a Gold, Silver and 3 Bronze Medals.
The Hall of Fame inductees for 2011 reflect what the Iowa Senior Olympics is all about: participation, competition, personal betterment and friendship. Bob Thompson of Des Moines, Nancy Baker of Des Moines and Lee Kane of Urbandale have won hundreds of medals between them, set records and made friendships which have lasted a lifetime.
Bob Thompson is a proud lifetime resident of the east side of Des Moines. He was captain of his tennis team at East High School and also played on the Drake University tennis team. He saw a billboard which advertised the very first Senior Olympic Games. He liked the idea of having a chance to compete again but the fun people he has met kept him coming back for 25 years. Bob has won 85 medals during the first 24 Olympic Games, including 57 Gold. Besides Tennis, he is an outstanding Basketball shooter. Coming into the 2011 Games he had won the Free Throw competition 17 times and the Around the World 18 times. He holds a total of 8 records in 4 different age groups in the shooting competition. He added more titles this year, including taking 4th at the National Games in Mixed Doubles Tennis.
Nancy Baker joins her husband, Keith, in the Hall of Fame. This year will mark the 25th year of competing for the husband / wife team. Sports were not offered for girls where Nancy went to school growing up so she didn’t have the opportunities of competing as a youth. It sure didn’t take her long to become one of the top women in the Senior Olympics though. She has won 54 Gold, 57 Silver and 33 Bronze medals for a whopping total of 144 medals. Nancy competes in many different events and hold records in the Discus Throw as well as the Frisbee Throw. Like so many others, the camaraderie of competing with others and making new friends has kept her involved over the years. She has used the Games as a goal to keep active and working out each year.
Lee Kane has always been a strong athlete. He won the state title in the Mile Run while growing up in Fairfield. He went on to Parsons College and was a standout in basketball, track and baseball. When the opportunity to compete in the Iowa Senior Olympics came around, he jumped in with both feet. Prior to this year Lee had won 95 medals, including 56 Golds. He added more medals to the treasure chest this year including a record perfect score in Around the World Basketball shooting. Lee joins Bob Thompson as one of the best free throw shooters anywhere in the country. He now owns 5 records in Basketball Shooting and 1 in the Frisbee Throw. He has earned medals at the National Championships in both Basketball and Softball team competition. In addition to his athletic prowess Lee has published an entire book of poems.
Sue Patterson-Nielsen has been part of the Iowa Senior Olympics movement from the very beginning. She was on the committee which developed a plan to bring the Senior Olympics to West Des Moines 25 years ago. She has remained an integral part of the Games by recruiting and organizing the volunteers for the Games. Her many hours of work helps make the Games a success.