Sarah Sneider and her husband of 45 years Harry founded Sneiders Family Fitness out of their Arcadia home in 1990. Harry Sneider, who died in 2014 at age 73, was an Olympic strength trainer and athlete, as well as a world-class weightlifter and author. Sarah, who is 74, is also a longtime fitness professional and accomplished athlete, having won dozens of awards in competitions over the years, many of those bestowed upon her at the Pasadena Senior Games.
Considering the local senior games weightlifting competitions were being held at the family-owned gym in 1992, “When I turned 50 I thought I should participate since we hosted it,” she said, noting she has now been a host for 26 years and a participant for 24 years.
“It’s a wonderful organization to be a part of, and we’re all happy to be healthy and stay fit,” said the California Senior Olympics gold medalist.
This year, Pasadena is one of the two designated senior games in California to qualify for the national competition in Albuquerque in 2019.
From May 5 to June 24 athletes over 50 will be competing in
such sports and athletic activities as archery, basketball, billiards, bowling, bicycling, disc golf, fun walking, golf, horseshoes, pickleball, power lifting, power walking, race walking, racquetball, road racing, road walking, shuffleboard, softball, strength challenge, swimming, table tennis, tennis, track and field and volleyball at various locations around Los Angeles.
The first Pasadena Senior Games was in 1992 and promoted by the late Cynthia Rosedale, who was the director of special events, volunteers and senior games at the Pasadena Senior Center.
Each event is a standalone game anybody who is at least 50 years old can compete in. Aside from pickleball, a paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis in which participants have to be members of the US Pickleball Association, no prior professional experience or training is needed.
“You just register and play,” said Annie Laskey, the new director of events at the Pasadena Senior Center.
Laskey started overseeing the games last year. She expects 2,000 to 2,500 people will participate this year since it’s a qualifying year for nationals. Last year they had about 1,200 participants. The majority of the events will be held on weekends in June, but they’re spread out from early May to late June.
“Everybody is just coming together on a beautiful outdoor space to do something together. Many of these athletes will come to the games every year and they will see their competition friends just once a year,” Laskey said.
“You see these people meeting up after a year, ‘Oh, how are you? How is the family? What’s new?’ It’s just a very heartening and very fulfilling thing and knowing you have friends to see and have people who understand your passion is a really healthy motivator.”
Laskey describes the games as a place where both serious athletes and novices can compete.
Sneider, who is more of a serious competitor, tries to train four or five days a week. She doesn’t do it for lengthy periods of time and varies the activities to avoid straining herself.
“The important thing is keeping the muscles strong, staying strong. Strength training is now so important for older people. It’s kind of the ‘in’ thing. It used to be cardio, and still is somewhat, but strength has kind of moved in,” she said.
She advised people over 50 to maintain strong bones and a strong core for balance to help prevent falls. For her, movement is everything.
“I like the fact that it’s very social; I like the camaraderie,” said Michele Logan. She was tournament director for pickleball last year and also competed. “My favorite is the positive feedback I get from other participants.”
This year, instead of competing or being a director, she plans to volunteer as needed. She first started playing pickleball with her aunt and uncle in South Carolina about six years ago. When they came out here to visit her and wanted to play, the closest place was in Glendale at the YMCA.
She started her own pickleball group in Pasadena five years ago at the suggestion of one of the ambassadors. Over those five years, the group has grown from 12 to over 150 players. She got involved with the Pasadena Senior Games after they approached her.
“It was a lot of fun; it was more of a festive atmosphere,” Logan said.
Laskey herself spontaneously competed in last year’s games and won a medal. As the manager, she tried to see as many sports as she could. On the last day, there was a Strength Challenge event, which consists of rope climbing, chin-ups, push-ups and standing long jump.
She said the long jump was the only one that looked like something she could do, and there were only two other women at this competition.
“‘Come on, you’re the only woman in your age category. Join us,’” Laskey recalled them saying. “So I did, and I got a gold medal for my very bad long jump.”
Laskey feels this was a great example of the sense of community and camaraderie the games provide.
“These two women are impressive athletes, and they were excited for me to do my little bunny hop long jump. And you know what, it made a difference to compete,” she said. “It didn’t matter if I was brilliant. Just simply the people who were cheering you on and wishing you the best, the guys there telling me how to move my arms to help me jump farther — it was very special. And I’m very proud of my gold medal.”
Laskey believes community is important to healthy living because it can provide motivation, which is what makes the senior games so attractive to many competitors.
“You are participating with other people; you have shared goals. The elements of camaraderie, of community, a lot of people coming together for the same reason are very powerful motivators,” she said.
Joy in the Journey
This is no truer than for Sneider, who likes that the Senior Games give her something to look forward to each year. At 74, Sneider is still going strong, and, after competing in powerlifting, she decided to try rope climbing as well.
“I thought if I could make it to the top of the 20-foot rope, that would be good enough,” she said.
But it didn’t end there. A few years later, her new goal was to make it to nationals.
However, powerlifting and the rope climb were not qualifying events. But that didn’t deter her. In 2009, she competed in the long jump and made it to nationals.
Since then, she has continued powerlifting and rope climbing, added cycling to her repertoire and went back to nationals in 2015 for the long jump again. This year she said she will most likely compete in the long jump and maybe even the 100 meters dash.
“I’ve moved on to running as well,” Sneider laughed. “It kind of grows on you after a while. You enjoy being with a family of wonderful people, and they’re all excited to be there, excited to be competing and happy to see each other from year to year.”
She said she has too many good memories from past Pasadena Senior Games to pick a favorite, but one of them is winning a silver medal at the 2015 nationals competition for the long jump. Another is when she reached the top of the rope that first time. She didn’t even train for it.
“It’s really hard because when you reach the finish line or get to the top, all of those are such wonderful memories because you reached your goal,” Sneider said. “They’re special moments. The joy is in the journey of training, and the competition is the frosting on the cake.”
All told, she has won over 150 medals and estimates 85 to 90 percent of them being from the Pasadena Senior Games. However, the medals aren’t why she participates.
“The senior games are just fun. They’re games,” Sneider said.
For more information on Pasadena Senior Games 2018, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, call (626) 685-6755 or visit pasadenasniorcenter.org.