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Senior Games competitor says events are icing on the cake

by Nancy Hamlett

For some people fitness is a four-letter word. But for the seniors who competed in the Northern Nevada Senior Games, fitness is a lifestyle and a commitment. And fitness is fun.

Dick Clark, who lives in Gardnerville, is one of the seniors that is dedicated to fitness all year long. This is the second year that Clark has entered the games, and this was the year he ran for glory.

During the first senior games, Clark entered many events, but a pulled hamstring in the 50-meter dash eliminated him from the rest of the track events.

“It was disappointing,” said Clark, who competes in the 56-to-60 age category. “But I decided to revamp my workouts, and I incorporated more stretching.”

His new regimen must have paid off because Clark ended the games with 10 gold, eight silver and five bronze medals in such varied events as track and field, swimming, weight lifting, physical fitness and table tennis.

“The table tennis was a change of pace event,” said Clark. “My goal was to finish all of the events that I signed up for and still be standing – and I did it.”

Working out and maintaining fitness is nothing new for Clark. In his younger days he ran marathons. He is the chief of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) in Carson City and can often be found on the physical training course with the cadets. And in 1995, he competed in the World Police and Fire Games in Melbourne, Australia. He vied for the Toughest Competitor Alive honors and competed in eight events. He won a silver medal.

What makes the victory even more memorable is that less than a year earlier, Clark had been diagnosed with cancer.

“In 1994 I discovered a lump under my jaw while shaving,” said Clark. “My wife, Barbara, insisted that I see a doctor, and the doctor said, ‘Whatever it is, it ain’t good.'”

Clark was diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes. He underwent a five-hour operation, three days in the hospital and seven weeks of radiation treatments.

“I was so far out of shape and physically out of control,” said Clark. “I decided to use the competition in Melbourne as a challenge, and I worked out for 2-1/2 hours six days a week for seven months. I wasn’t in that good of physical condition in 30 years.”

Clark insists that physical condition isn’t a matter of age, but a commitment. It is a dedication to a lifestyle and sticking to it.

“When I ran marathons, people in their 50s and 60s passed me up,” said Clark. “They wiped me out and I admired that. They were motivational for me.”

Clark also said that events, such as the Northern Nevada Senior Games are a great avenue for having fun while keeping fit.

“The competition is icing on the cake,” said Clark. “The games give a person an opportunity to do a wide variety of activities. I used the games as a well-rounded test of total fitness. That’s why I did the whole gamut. It was a great barometer of where I was with my workouts.”

When Clark competes, he emphasizes that he competes against himself.

“Many people see life as a 50-yard dash, but in fact it is like a marathon,” said Clark. “Most marathon runners wear a stop watch on their wrist to judge their pace. They are in competition with themselves. That’s life as well. We’re in it for the long run, and what we do with our lives is up to us. We aren’t in competition with anyone else.”