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Senior Games standout is still running, jumping, shot put-ting at 82

By Philip Morgan, Tampa Bay Times
Gabriella Angotti-Jones | Times Doris Prokopi of Land O'Lakes, 82, shows off her Tampa Bay Senior Games metals she has acquired over the years during the Florida Senior Games at the David Barksdale Senior Citizen Center in Tampa, FL, on Thursday, Oct., 19, 2017. Prokopi has competed in the games since she was 60 years old, and says she has so many metals that she often gives them to other competitors. She does shot put, discus, 50 yard dash, 400 meter run, standing long jump, and swimming.

TAMPA

Standout athlete Doris Prokopi, age 82, who competed in shot put, discus, 400-meter dash, long jump and about 15 other events during last month’s Tampa Bay Senior Games, has dozens of medals to show for her efforts.

"I’ve got so many, I give them away,’’ said Prokopi, dressed in shades of pink — her trademark knee socks a hot pink — as she waited for the shuffleboard contest to begin at David M. Barksdale Senior Citizen Center in Tampa last month.

The Land O’ Lakes resident qualified to compete in most events at the next level, the Florida Senior Games, set to run from Dec. 2 through Dec. 10 in Clearwater. But she’s entering only the swimming contests, she said. She doesn’t want to drive home and back for events or pay the extra entry fees, she explained.

More than 2,000 athletes age 50 and older are expected to converge on Clearwater for the state championships. More than 425 people participated during the two-week Tampa Bay Senior Games in October — put on by the county, Tampa and Temple Terrace recreation departments.

Prokopi, a native of Germany who still speaks with an accent 62 years after moving to the United States, had not taken part in athletics before entering the senior games 22 years ago. A homemaker who worked part-time jobs, she had her hands full raising two boys. When the younger son went off to college, she suddenly had lots of free time. She decided to take up swimming at a YMCA pool near her home, and that’s when she heard about the senior games.

"When I started I was 60. I won everything every year,’’ she said, still seeming surprised at herself. In the year 1994, she was named Female Athlete of the Year by the organizers of the Florida Senior Games.

What Prokopi and other participants like most about the games, they say, is the camaraderie. They meet new friends, have a few laughs and get some exercise.

On a balmy weekday morning at the Barksdale Senior Center, competitors in the various age categories signed up for the shuffleboard contests as songs from the ’50s and ’60s — Dream Lover, Come Go with Me, Rhythm of the Rain — filled the air.

Prokopi and Gail Militello, 81, faced off on the shuffleboard courts, chatting amiably while trying to knock each other’s disk out of the high-point boxes. Prokopi won and played three others in the age 80 to 85 elimination rounds before taking another gold.

While more strenuous pursuits, such as the 400-meter run, standing and running long jumps and the 50-yard breaststroke, are available, so are more sedentary options, such as dominoes, bean bag toss and bunco.

Militello, of south Tampa, started off playing pickle ball at the Barksdale Center. The tennis-like game is wildly popular among seniors.

"They taught us how to play and we all became addicted,’’ said Militello, who has participated in the Tampa Bay Senior Games for the last two years. She competed in pickle ball, horseshoes and shuffleboard and has no interest in advancing to the Florida games. "I’m just here for fun.’’

Donna Van Name, 80, who entered the discus, shot put, long jump and others, said the games gave her a chance to play sports she never played before.

"If you don’t know how, they show you how to do them. They let you practice,’’ she said.

Prokopi wishes the games happened more often than once a year. "That’s not enough.’’

Her husband, Bill, on the other hand, is "not an outdoor person,’’ she said. "He listens to his music and does his puzzles.’’

When Senior Games time comes around, he’s fine following his own pursuits while she goes off to win medals. He always tells her, "Don’t forget to come home.’’

For more, go to www.floridaseniorgames.com. Contact Philip Morgan at [email protected]


BY PHILIP MORGAN

Times Staff Writer

TAMPA — Standout athlete Doris Prokopi, age 82, who competed in shot put, discus, 400-meter dash, long jump and about 15 other events during last month’s Tampa Bay Senior Games, has dozens of medals to show for her efforts.

"I’ve got so many, I give them away,’’ said Prokopi, dressed in varied shades of pink — her trademark knee socks a hot pink — as she waited for the shuffleboard contest to begin at David M. Barksdale Senior Citizen Center in Tampa last month.

The Land O’ Lakes resident qualified to compete in most events at the next level, the Florida Senior Games, set to run from Dec. 2 through Dec. 10 in Clearwater. But she’s entering only the swimming contests, she said. She doesn’t want to drive home and back for varied events or pay the extra entry fees, she explained.

More than 2,000 athletes age 50 and older are expected to converge on Clearwater for the state championships. More than 425 people participated during the two-week Tampa Bay Senior Games in October — put on by the county, Tampa and Temple Terrace recreation departments.

Prokopi, a native of Germany who still speaks with an accent 62 years after moving to the United States, had not taken part in athletics before entering the senior games 22 years ago. A homemaker who worked part-time jobs, she had her hands full raising two boys. When the younger son went off to college, she suddenly had lots of free time. She decided to take up swimming at a YMCA pool near her home, and that’s when she heard about the senior games.

"When I started I was 60. I won everything every year,’’ she said, still seeming surprised at herself. In the year 1994, she was named Female Athlete of the Year by the organizers of the Florida Senior Games.

What Prokopi and other participants like most about the games, they say, is the camaraderie. They meet new friends, have a few laughs and get some exercise.

On a balmy weekday morning at the Barksdale Senior Center, competitors in the various age categories signed up for the shuffleboard contests as songs from the ’50s and ’60s — Dream Lover, Come Go with Me, Rhythm of the Rain — filled the air.

Prokopi and Gail Militello, 81, faced off on the shuffleboard courts, chatting amiably while trying to knock each other’s disk out of the high-point boxes. Prokopi won and played three others in the age 80 to 85 elimination rounds before taking another gold.

While more strenuous pursuits, such as the 400-meter run, standing and running long jumps and the 50-yard breaststroke, are available, so are more sedentary options, such as dominoes, bean bag toss and bunco.

Militello, of south Tampa, started off playing pickle ball at the Barksdale Center. The tennis-like game is wildly popular among seniors.

"They taught us how to play and we all became addicted,’’ said Militello, who has participated in the Tampa Bay Senior Games for the last two years. She competed in pickle ball, horseshoes and shuffleboard and has no interest in advancing to the Florida games. "I’m just here for fun.’’

Donna Van Name, 80, who entered the discuss, shot-put, long jump and others, said the games gave her a chance to play sports she never played before.

"If you don’t know how, they show you how to do them. They let you practice,’’ she said.

Prokopi wishes the games happened more often than once a year. "That’s not enough.’’

Her husband, Bill, on the other hand, is "not an outdoor person,’’ she said. "He listens to his music and does his puzzles.’’

When Senior Games time comes around, he’s fine following his own pursuits while she goes off to win medals. He always tells her, "Don’t forget to come home.’’

For more, go to www.floridaseniorgames.com. Contact Philip Morgan at [email protected]