- BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has been a sponsor of the Tennessee Senior Olympics for more than 40 years and established the Hall of Fame program in 2017.
Since 1981, top athletes from across the Volunteer State have competed in the Tennessee Senior Olympics (TSO), an organization dedicated to promoting active lifestyles and healthy aging through sports.
As it does each year, the TSO chose to honor four standout athletes for their long-term commitment to and participation in the games by inducting them into its Hall of Fame. Joining the 2021 Hall of Fame were Joyce Manis, Wayne Matthews, Margie Stoll and Joe Sykes.
Joyce Manis, 83 – Kingsport
Joyce Manis has been competing in the Tennessee Senior Olympics since 1993 and plays almost all the 20-plus sports offered, though she admits basketball is her favorite sport while horseshoes is her best.
She grew up playing horseshoes with her family in Virginia, just six miles from the Tennessee border. Joyce says winning her first gold medal in horseshoes at the national games in Orlando is perhaps one of her fondest memories.
“I’ve always been a tomboy, and I love to compete,” Joyce says.
“It’s been wonderful to be a part of a community where I’ve been able to do what I love and make such good friends in the process.”
A long-time TSO ambassador and athlete, Joyce says she has lost count of the number of medals she’s won since she began competing nearly 30 years ago, but she estimates the number to be around one thousand. As an ambassador, she has not only recruited friends and teammates from across the state, but also members of her own family.
Joyce says she has so many remarkable memories of the games, but one that sticks out is when she and her son, Michael, played pickleball and table tennis together more than a decade ago, earning a gold medal in both events.
She’s proud to say that her sense of athleticism runs in the family, too. In addition to her children, her granddaughter, Sierra Cowell, was asked to be a kicker on her high school football team near Knoxville—making her the first and only girl on the team.
“The games are so much fun, and I love all the travel I’ve been able to do over the years. But for me the best part about it is that all you need to do is try,” she says. “Just try your best, and it will all work out.”
Wayne Matthews, 82 – Crossville
Wayne Matthews says that aside from his wife, he has two other great loves: people and pickleball. Wayne was first introduced to pickleball when he and his wife moved to Crossville from Florida in 2006. He says that if you haven’t played pickleball, “then you don’t know what you’re missing.”
A truly talented athlete with a love for all sports, Wayne competes in other Tennessee Senior Olympics events, but he says he especially enjoys shuffleboard, track and field, and ping pong. In his garage, he has a 25-foot wall that serves as a timeline and trophy room in one, with newspaper clippings, photos, memorabilia and his 154 medals proudly on display.
He likes to joke that he first got into the games because he wanted to keep “his girlish figure,” but he admits that his health and staying active has always been important to him.
“Your health is priceless,” Wayne says. “I’m lucky enough to have all my original parts, and I’m proud of that.”
In addition to competing, Wayne also served as a pickleball ambassador for the TSO and has helped coordinate track and field events, too. But what he says he has loved most about the organization is the camaraderie.
“I’m a people person and for me the Tennessee Senior Olympics is a way of life and a great way to keep fit ,” Wayne explains. “I’ve met a lot of great people who came from all walks of life who got into the games. It’s all been an incredible experience.”
Margie Stoll, 80 – Nashville
Margie Stoll became a competitive runner when she was 60.
“I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t too old to start something new,” she says.
She won her age division at her first race two decades ago in 2001, and she hasn’t stopped competing since. She has received 17 gold and two silver medals at the National Senior Olympics and countless more in the Tennessee games.
“I love to run,” she says. “Once you’re into it, something happens and you just want to do your best. It’s exhilarating.”
Margie admits she is “obsessed” with running. Every other day, you’ll find her running five or six miles in her neighborhood in Nashville. Although she enjoys competing, she says that winning medals or beating her own records isn’t her primary goal.
“The purpose of my competing is to be the best I can be – not to beat somebody ,” Margie explains. “I really just want to see how long I can keep it up and continue to run. Competing in the Tennessee Senior Olympics is addictive; once you’ve done it, you just want to keep doing it.”
Although track is her first love, Margie also enjoys long distance running. And, she has also played softball and basketball in previous games. She recalls one year in particular where her basketball team barely scored 10 points, but she says she still had the best time with her teammates and friends.
“I know the feeling of winning and I also know the feeling of losing badly, and I wouldn’t give up the experience either way,” Margie says.
Joe Sykes, 86 – Clarksville
Joe Sykes has a lot to love about the TSO. Although he loves to compete—tennis, ping pong and basketball are among his favorites—Joe says what he is most grateful for is meeting his wife, Starlene.
The couple met through the games; at the time, Starlene was the director of the Parks and Recreation Department in Clarksville. On July 20, 2004, Joe and Starlene were married in front of a crowd of senior athletes and friends who proudly cheered them on.
Joe says he can’t help but think of himself as one lucky guy. Not only does he not take any medications, but he also gets to play tennis three times a week and play in tournaments with his slow-pitch travel softball team once a month.
“The ability that I’ve had and the luck that I’ve had to play all these sports is something I never thought I’d get to experience,” Joe says. “I’m so grateful to my mother, my father, my four sisters and all the friends who helped me along the way.”
Joe says he has won between 200 and 300 medals during his tenure as a TSO athlete, and he is currently ranked No. 1 in the Southern Section of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) in both singles and doubles.
Although he loves competing, Joe says that the sense of camaraderie is what makes the Tennessee Senior Olympics so special and what draws him back to it year after year.
“I keep playing because I want to stay young as long as I can, and I believe playing sports keeps me young in body and spirit ,” Joe says.