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2019 Tennessee Senior Olympics Hall of Fame welcomes four athletes

Athletes from across the state participated in the 39th annual Tennessee Senior Olympics in June, proving once again age has no effect on competitive spirit.

Frank Baker, Mary Tim Burgin, Linda Kauffman and Hollyce Kirkland are just a few athletes who embody the Senior Olympics mission to promote healthy lifestyles through sports. Their long-term commitment to the games and their teammates was recognized at this year’s Hall of Fame event. 

Senior Olympics Hall of Fame inductees Linda Kauffman and Frank Baker.
Senior Olympics Hall of Fame inductees Linda Kauffman and Frank Baker

Frank Baker, 87

Frank is a proud ambassador of the Senior Olympics and has been involved with the games for more than 30 years in various capacities. An uplifting teammate as well as a fierce competitor, Frank also served as the assistant coordinator for the Upper Cumberland district for several years. In this role he enjoyed scheduling all the district’s events and games.

“You don’t quit playing because you grow old. You grow old because you quit playing.”

Frank’s love for bowling began when he was 12. Because of his passion for the game, his family also became involved in the sport, and his two brothers joined him in his first league. Seventy years on, that passion has helped him win seven national medals and three ribbons in the Senior Olympics.

Frank believes that games bring out everyone’s competitive spirit, but in a friendly way.

“My favorite thing about the Senior Olympics is the camaraderie of the bowlers,” he shares. “We have fun. And if you’re a little better than the rest and you beat them, you have even more fun.”

Mary Tim Burgen with her basketball team
Coach Mary Tim Burgin (left) with her 70s Senior Olympics basketball team

Mary Tim Burgin, 79

On and off the basketball court, Mary is a leader. She is described by others as the team’s backbone, without whom they would fall into disarray. In addition to being a member of the team, Mary organizes practices, competitions and recruits players.

“My favorite thing about the Senior Olympics is the camaraderie,”  she says. “I’ve been in church services where I didn’t see any more love than I see amongst these girls.”

Mary’s team won the gold medal in basketball at the 2017 National Championship in California. She also has competed in volleyball and racquetball.

“Our competition is on the basketball court, not amongst the players,” Mary explains. “It’s like a big ol’ happy family. We truly are one for all and all for one. And I appreciate that so much.”

Linda Kauffman
Linda Kauffman has competed in six different sports in the Senior Olympics.

Linda Kauffman, 70

Linda has served the Tennessee Senior Olympics in a multitude of capacities, including sitting on the organization’s board for more than 15 years and serving as the Southwest District Coordinator for 20 years after the Southwest Area Agency stopped coordinating the games in the late 1990s.

Her favorite part of the Senior Olympics is meeting people.

“You don’t have to be an athlete. Whether people are competing or they just come for the camaraderie, we’re all just out there enjoying it.”

Linda has competed in the bowling, horseshoe, shuffleboard and, most recently, cornhole categories. She also threw the javelin and ran track. Her biggest competitive achievement came at the 2015 nationals when she won the silver medal in horseshoes, defeating an opponent who had been a professional pitcher.

“I held my own with her and was thrilled to come away with the silver, since I only pitch a few times a year,” she says.

Hollyce Kirkland
Nearing 100, Hollyce Kirkland holds world records in the Senior Olympics.

Hollyce Kirkland, 99

A gold medalist in track and field and swimming, Hollyce first swam competitively as an adult and has been breaking records ever since. She holds the world record in the women’s 400- and 800-meter races and the American record for the 200-meter race in the 95-99 age bracket.

Hollyce credits her success to good health and support from her local community center.

“It’s always good to come out on top,” she admits. “Some people do it to compete, and some for the challenge. I do it for the challenge, but the thing I like most is meeting people from all over.”

Her advice to seniors looking to get involved is simple: “Do it!” 

Halloween will mark another milestone for Hollyce as she celebrates her 100th birthday. She looks forward to moving to a new age bracket — and breaking more records.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has been a sponsor of the Tennessee Senior Olympics for more than 35 years.

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