Hernando County competitors have a history of doing well at the Florida Senior Games. Spring Hill resident Bouakham Goodyear, who is no stranger to honors on the court, put her name on the list of gold medalists with her victory last month in the singles tennis event. Goodyear, 59, made the trip down to Fort Myers intent on playing well in the 60-64 age division. She did not disappoint. In three matches, she didn't lose a single set, sweeping her opponents on the way to the top of the medals podium.
Goodyear dispatched Joanne Collier of Mulberry in the first round 6-4, 6-1. Collier eventually won the bronze medal in the consolation bracket. In the semifinals, Goodyear shut out Rebecca Chauvin of Lady Lake, the 2007 bronze winner, 6-0, 6-0.
The championship pitted the local senior against Sharon Lucas of Plantation. Lucas also hadn't dropped a set in her first two matches, still, it was Goodyear who came out on top 6-3, 6-2 for the 2008 Senior Games crown.
"The competition at the tournament was far better than I expected coming in," Goodyear said. "It's definitely a tournament I would like to attend again next year."
The victory qualified her for the 2009 National Senior Games in San Francisco, Calif., from August 1-15. She and her husband, Earl, are already planning the trip with great anticipation. The two have relatives there and are looking forward to having family watch her compete at Stanford University in Palo Alto, the site of the tennis event this year.
For those who don't know Bouakham's experience on the court, this success might come as a surprise. However, she has a well-documented international history, including many significant tournament titles from times when she lived in places like Bangladesh, Egypt and India.
A native of Laos, she met her husband there in the early 1970s and married Dr. Earl Goodyear in 1973. He taught her tennis shortly after, and over time, became very passionate about her skills with a racket. When the couple moved to Egypt, she won more than 30 singles titles in places including Cairo and Alexandria.
"There was a very active seniors' group in Egypt," Earl said. "That made things fun for us — we were able to go to various tennis tournaments and take little trips as a family."
In Bangladesh, she joined a club team that traveled around the country. In 1988, she won both the singles and doubles national championships. Since then, she has competed with her daughter and husband on multiple occasions, maintaining her love of the game. The family moved to Spring Hill in 2000.
When she was pushed by her practice partners from Delta Woods Park in Spring Hill to play in the Senior Games, she wasn't very keen on the idea. With encouragement from her husband and friends, she eventually relented and made the trip. She was surprised and impressed with the competition she faced.
With a 2008 Florida Senior Games gold medal to add to her many tennis trophies and honors, she once again has the competitive spirit and "eye of the tiger" that Earl describes to prepare her for August. She could be the next Hernando County senior to topple the competition nationally, joining fellow Spring Hill residents Jose Borges (table tennis) and Richard Lowery (track and field) who have both captured gold medals at the National Senior Games.
"(Bouakham) always wants to push herself to the best of her aptitudes," Earl said. "She is tenacious."
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