By Matthew Rodriguez
Pasadena Weekly Deputy Editor
After running the Pasadena Senior Games for the past four years, Annie Laskey has been named to the National Senior Games board.
“I’m a little bit frightened and very, very flattered,” said Laskey, the director of events at Pasadena Senior Center. “I take board service very seriously.”
In 1985, seven men and women formed the National Senior Olympics Organization with the goal to promote healthy lifestyles for adults through education, fitness and sport. The NSOO hosted the first National Senior Olympic Games in 1987 in St. Louis, Missouri, where 2,500 athletes competed against each other for medals with over 100,000 spectators.
After a dispute with the U.S. Olympic Committee, the organization changed its name to the National Senior Games Association and its flagship event became known as the National Senior Games. The NSGA has held 17 National Senior Games where men and women 50 and older can participate with others in their age group. The event features 20 or more sports every two years. The main goal of the games are to motivate seniors to stay active and live a healthy lifestyle even through their old age.
“It’s about discipline,” said Laskey. “It’s about comraderie. It’s also about being your best self. A lot of it is really not competing against somebody else, but doing your own personal best.”
Laskey began working for PSC in April 2017, right before the Pasadena Senior Games, a qualifier for the NSG, started. The Pasadena Senior Games started six years after the inaugural national games in 1993 and eventually became a qualifying event for the state and national games.
Although she had worked with nonprofits for her entire career, Laskey recalled that she had no idea what she was getting herself into.
“I had never heard of the senior games before I was hired here,” said Laskey. “Four weeks before our 2017 senior games were happening, I was brought in at the last minute to sort of help manage them.”
After watching her first senior games, Laskey was amazed that it wasn’t more popular.
“Once you’ve participated, once you’ve seen it happen, (you’re) like how does the world not know more about this?” she said.
One of Laskey’s favorite part of the events are watching the athletes come together and help each other.
“The warmth everyone (shows) each other, or mostly everyone towards each other is really beautiful,” she said. “You have elite athletes who are so welcoming and helpful to people who want to get into the sports, which I think is just really, really wonderful.”
She recalled when Linda Cohn, a world record holder in her age group for javelin throwing, took time to help others. Laskey remembers seeing Cohn help others suggesting improvements on their forms. She also recalls Cohn loaning her javelin to someone who had never participated in the event before.
The PSG and the NSG had been postponed since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 but the committees hope to resume the games in 2022 with the national game taking place in Fort Lauderdale.
By her own words, Laskey is not an athlete, however, she cannot wait for the games to return because of the strong comradery and shared kindness between the athletes.
“It’s what I would like the world to be,” said Laskey. “It’s a wonderfully diverse set of people who are all coming together through a shared love of sport.”