We are proud to have Humana be the sponsor of our Athlete of the Month stories.
Humana Heroes seeks to honor an athlete who has made a significant contribution to the WSO through outstanding participation in our state games, the National Senior Games or through volunteerism in our organization. Humana supports people in their daily endeavors to live a healthy life. and is dedicated to creating innovative programs and partnerships that reflect our commitment.
Humana is the presenting sponsor of the 2017 National Senior Games and has been a sponsor of the WSO since 2015.
Kimberly Virden and Carolyn Couts, Mother & Daughter Team
Meet our Humana Heroes of the Month - December 2017
For daughter and mother, Kimberly Virden and Carol Couts, the WSO means so much more than just a one-day track & field competition. They were both born competitors but life, ballet and career took them both on different paths after competing in sports as girls and young women.
This intergenerational story starts with Carol who just turned 80 this year. She first got involved with sports back in high school back in early 50's when she competed in synchronized swimming, field hockey, soccer and half court basketball. Her real passion is classical ballet which she started at five years old and she continues to dance today. She states that fitness and wellbeing runs in the family with much of them involved in one sport or another. Her fitness routine includes going to a local wellness center three to four times a week for Zumba, warm water Pilates and aerobic dance classes. Competing as a track and field athlete was not on Carol’s agenda, but Kim thought her mom would enjoy the experience.
Now 55, Kim’s been involved with sports when she started swim team in kindergarten, and skiing in third grade. Then they moved to a lake and water skiing, sailing, canoeing, skating and more was possible. After college, she participated in bike racing, triathlons, speed skating and ski racing. Her brother and dad played football, and really feels sports, activity and fitness is in the family blood. While active in many sports, Kim gave up track and field for thirty years and returned to it when,Kim_discus in her late 40s, she received a flyer from US Track & Field. She started training and then competed in the Badger State Games, USTAF events as well as the WSO. Since then she has consistently won gold medals in Discus, Hammer, Javelin and Shot Put each year in her WSO age group. In 2015, she competed in the NSGA Minneapolis games where she won Gold in the Hammer Throw and Javelin events.
Last year, Kim suggested to her mother that she try competing in the throwing events of Track and Field, thinking it would be fun for them to do it together. Since they don’t live near each other (Kim in Madison and Carol in Illinois), training meant they would see each other more often. Carol would come to Madison to practice and then she would, as she just puts it, “throw things in my backyard!” to improve her strength and distances.
What a day it was for Kim and Carol this past August when the mother and daughter duo came to the WSO Track Event, accompanied by Karma, Kim’s service dog. For Carol, running the 100m was thrilling and, as the crowd was cheering, she really turned it on and surprised herself with winning the Gold medal in her age group. In addition, she won gold in the Discus, Javelin and Shot Put events as well. Kim took Gold in all of her events including Discus, Hammer, Javelin, Long Jump and Shot Put. She even broke the Long Jump Record 1998 for her 2.6 m jump (previous record was 2.43 m set by Delores Nixon in 1998.)
Advice on Getting Started with Fitness
Carol’s motivation on staying active is that she believes it keeps her young. She feels great after working out and fantastic after competing. She mentioned that you can start out small and you’ll get better and better. Kim suggests finding a mentor, someone who can help encourage and show you the way. She also encourages people who did track in high school to get back and try again and says, “You’ll be amazed at how great it makes you feel. Don’t worry, everyone in your age group is just as old, stiff and tired as you, so don’t let it be your excuse.”
Carol mentioned how fun it has been having her daughter cheer for her and how Kim keeps sharing photos of her mother wearing gold medals. They make a great team, teaching their family (three children and five grandchildren) and friends the impact that an active lifestyle has for health and wellness.
Thank you, Carol & Kim for sharing your story!
John White, "Service with a Smile"
Meet Our Humana Hero - Athlete of the Month for November 2017
White is the WSO Board President and was chosen for the National Senior Games' athlete of the month in October. This article was originally written and published on the NSGA website.
John White takes his sports seriously, make no mistake about it. But we’ve noticed that even in the heat of a triathlon, he’s always the one who waves and manages to beam a smile as he makes his way by spectators.
The more you learn about the lifelong Milwaukee resident, the more you appreciate that he wants nothing more than for others to join him in an active lifestyle.
“Wherever I go, I push the agenda to promote the Games,” the eight-time National Senior Games athlete says. “Of course, I’ve found many people who did not play sports in high school and have never competed at anything. They’re sedentary. I have learned to take each person for where they’re at and promote not only senior sports, but also to get involved in any physical activity because it will be good for their health.”
John developed his people skills from (CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ON THE NSGA Website. . . )
Jean Landgraf, "Loves Racquet Sports"
Meet Our Humana Hero - Athlete of the Month for October 2017
Jean on left with partner Phyllis Hubatch
For those who have played racquet sports, it is a well known fact that having mastered one will give you a definite advantage in endeavoring to learn another.
Jean Landgraf is a perfect example of how easily that transition can occur. This 69 year old grandmother from West Bend first developed a passion for tennis. Due to a shoulder injury, she was told by her doctor to retire her tennis racquet. After being diagnosed with diabetes, she was looking for a way to increase her exercise regime, when she happened upon the game of Pickleball. Played on a smaller court than tennis, this sport is not nearly as hard on the body. Her local YMCA incorporated pickleball courts in 2014 and soon Jean was exercising daily for up to an hour and a half. Along the way, she lost 25 pounds and discovered a new sports passion.
“Retirement is more enjoyable when you are physically fit,” states Landgraf. She currently plays pickleball five days a week, and describes the sport as a social activity and exercise all wrapped into one. In addition to that, it is a fun family activity for all generations.The cabin that the family owns in Northern Wisconsin has two pickleball courts that see frequent use.
Her results at the Wisconsin Senior Olympics reflect all the time she has put into training. In 2017, she won doubles and singles and placed second in mixed doubles. She has been a participant in the National Senior Games twice and highly recommends the experience not only for the competition, but also for all the wonderful athletes she has met.
In Birmingham this year, the National Senior Games Pickleball event was competitive. Jean and her partner Phyllis Hubatch won the Bronze Medal in Women's Doubles 65-69. They are pictured in the photo along with Karen Jerg who won the Silver Medal in the same event - making Wisconsin look great! (Phyllis in the back).
As pickleball continues to explode in popularity, Jean touts it as being a year-round activity that is very affordable. She urges seniors to “get active and stay active.” After her success at pickleball, she once again picked up another racquet sport at the 2017 Wisconsin Senior Olympics-badminton. Finishing in first place in badminton doubles makes her a two sport gold medal winner.
Thank you Phyllis for sharing your story!
Tony Gurdak - Lifelong Competitor
Meet Our Humana Hero - Athlete of the Month for August 2017
Eighty year old Tony Gurdak has retained his youthful exuberance through lifelong fitness and involvement in sports. This generational inclination towards athletics and competition has touched not only Tony, but also his five children, 16 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. In this family, sports are a regimen and a tool to teach motivation.
Tony and his wife split their time between Wisconsin and Florida and no matter what state they are residing in, he has a daily workout regime that he faithfully follows. His training allows him to be ready to play softball or compete in track and field in both scheduled and unscheduled events. He began playing senior softball 20 years ago and has traveled frequently to various competitions. In 2012, he took part in his first Wisconsin Senior Olympics, qualifying for the National Senior Games in Cleveland, Ohio in both Track and Field and Softball. He stresses that the games are “not just about winning, but just competing.”
Although he describes himself as highly competitive, he always remembers to put family first. His passion for athletics goes back 50 years when he began refereeing high school and college sports including football and basketball. Having retired from Miller Brewing in 2003, he still continues and enjoys being a referee in Wisconsin, Illinois and Florida, assisting and encouraging youth with their athletic competitions.
Tony's results from last week's Track & Field Competition
100 Meter Dash - Gold Medal - 19.10
200 Meter Dash - Gold Medal - 43.54
Long Jump - Gold Medal - 2.65 m
As a tip to others in training, he offers this advice. “Don’t overdo your workouts. If you strive just to maintain, your body will not become stressed and overworked and you will be ready to go at anytime.”
Judy Grzegorski - A Team Player
Meet Our Humana Hero - Athlete of the Month for July 2017
2017 “Hall of Fame” inductee Edith Schultz describes this honor as being a wonderful birthday present. That is high praise for WSO, considering Edith celebrated her 94th birthday last month. She was nominated as novice swimmer who has faithfully competed for the last decade and has an incredible 29 gold medals.
Edith was born in Poland and endured World War II, even spending time in a Russian prisoner of war camp. She met and married an American soldier and they settled in the US in the late 1940’s. Her love of the water began during her childhood. At age 10, she taught herself to swim in a lake near her home, and has been swimming ever since, including years spent lifeguarding at a local pool.
She describes herself as being naturally drawn to the water and during her extensive world travels, she has collected numerous photos of herself engaging in water related activities. Her past lineup of events at WSO includes breaststroke, sidestroke and backstroke. Although there are no record categories for novice swimmers, Edith is the sole female swimmer in her age group. She returns year after year to swim these 3 events and receive her gold medals. As an act of generosity, she has given away many of her prized medals to family members and others who she feels deserve “gold medal recognition." Upon presenting the medals, she tells the recipient “Always do your best.”
Edith Schultz is a very active and popular member of a retirement community in West Bend. She chose this particular facility because of the large indoor pool available to residents. Several times a week, she can be found swimming laps in the pool which is conveniently located two floors below her apartment. She credits her excellent health to staying active throughout her life, eating well and always trying to do her best.
As a “younger” Wisconsin Senior Olympics athlete, Walter Love of Milwaukee has already lived a life full of incredible adventure and opportunity. This energetic 56 year old seems to rise to the top of whatever endeavor he is involved in….whether that is being drafted into a semi-pro football league, working as a TV and radio host across the USA or mentoring youth through midnight basketball leagues.
Walter spent his childhood splitting his time between the family farm in Arkansas and the city of Chicago. He credits his physical strength and work ethic to the long hours of labor on the farm. His mindset, determination and awareness of making positive choices appear to be directly related to the time spent in the urban environment of Chicago.
His long list of professional accomplishments is astounding. Frequent encounters with TV, radio and sports celebrities are an integral part of his life story. Along with his professional life, his personal life is lead by a disciplined approach to lifestyle, including diet and exercise. At a young age, he voluntarily made dietary changes to prevent familial predispositions to diabetes and heart disease. Unlike many of us who have good intentions and waiver back and forth, Walter has stuck to this lifestyle for over 30 years!
He has always been athletic, enjoying competition and keeping himself fit. His healthy lifestyle and preparedness made him a natural candidate for entering his first WSO competition two years ago. In 2016, he enthusiastically competed in track and field, basketball and powerlifting. Holding true to his character, his events included: Team basketball, three point competition and free throw shooting. Powerlifting was also three events including bench press, deadlift and squat. Completing the trifecta were running the 50, 100 and 200 meter track events. He is a 2017 NSGA qualifier, but will forego this years competition due to a prior commitment to accept an “Urban Network Music and Entertainment Award” in Los Angeles.
For those of us who are looking to Walter for motivation and advice, he offers this: “You will probably surprise yourself with what you are able to achieve just by getting up off the couch. If you strive for improvement, you will be spiritually rewarded and become a healthier, happier person.”
Thank you, Walter for your example and for exuding confidence, kindness and strength of body and character.
Sometimes, life doesn’t go according to plan. We lay the foundation for plans and goals and can be diverted along the way by unforeseen circumstances. Gloria Boileau, of Milwaukee, takes these diversions in her path in stride, making the most of every opportunity and teaching self-empowerment to herself and others.
Gloria is a Wisconsin native who relocated at an early age to the sunshine and beaches of Southern California. As a self-described “water bug”, she has always enjoyed anything involving water. Living in California provided her with ample opportunities to enjoy the surf of the Pacific Ocean as well as the numerous outdoor swimming pools. She swam for exercise and for fun, but was cautious when it came to entering swimming competitions.
With a career as an author and an international speaker, Gloria traveled frequently. As she was preparing for an overseas trip, she stopped in Milwaukee to visit her mother. What was supposed to be a three week visit, turned out to be a re-location to Wisconsin now in it’s 6th year. In addition to caring for her mother, she faced her own health crisis when she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in July of 2015. The treatments left her fatigued and lacking her usual level of motivation. She credits Art Therapy through the Medical College of Wisconsin as helping her regain strength and inclination. About that same time, she found a flyer for the Wisconsin Senior Olympics and pondered registering for the novice swimming events. Her love of water and swimming helped get her excited for a new challenge. “I decided to take charge and live life to the fullest."
In September 2016, Gloria brought a cheering section with her to Shorewood High School aquatic center……including her 93 year old mother. “I didn’t think I was qualified to swim five events, but swimming in the novice division put very little pressure on me." It was a very successful afternoon in the pool; her 5 events produced 5 medals and left her with a feeling of exuberance. In addition to her success in her races, she found that the people she met and the positive energy of the athletes were invigorating. At the conclusion of the day, Gloria gave her mother a gold metal of her own and that has become a treasured possession and priceless gift from daughter to mother.
Gloria believes "everyday is a celebration" and looks forward to celebrating the Wisconsin Senior Olympics of 2017!