Veterans aim for Oymplic triumph

Delaware’s war veterans aren’t getting older, they’re getting better — especially the group of 70- to 74-year-old veterans who competed in the National Senior Olympic Championship Games at the University of Pittsburg from June 3 to June 18.

Some 10,000 to 12,000 senior citizens traveled to Pennsylvania in hopes of Olympic glory in events including basketball, softball, swimming, track and field, tennis, weight lifting, shuffleboard, volleyball, golf, archery, badminton, bowling, horseshoes, race-walk, racquetball, cycling and triathlon.

The Delaware Korean War Veterans placed sixth out of 33 teams in the three-on-three basketball division, which isn’t bad considering each team represented at the Senior Olympic Games was a state gold medal winner.

The Delaware Korean War Vets have won the gold at the Delaware Senior Olympics five years in a row.

Charlie Silk of Fenwick Island explained his team’s success simply as having a good team. But he mentioned that they were one player short of contending for the national gold again in two years.

“If we can stay healthy and get a big man, then we can compete for the gold medal,” said Silk. “The New York team had two guys that were 6 (feet) 8 (inches). California (gold medal winners for the 70-74 division) had a couple big guys. And the Louisiana team we lost to in the quarterfinals had a 6 (feet) 9 (inches) guy.”

“When I started playing as a young man, anybody who was 6 (feet) 1 (inch) played center,” said Silk. “I don’t remember this many big guys playing back then.”

Silk and his teammates — Bill Cole, Lew Cavender, Bob Shafeffer, John King and George Taylor — all keep in great shape, which was vital to their success in the National Senior Olympic Games. But they still had to hurdle a lack of practice time.

“A couple of our guys live up in Newark, so we didn’t have time to practice much,” said Silk. “We had some outstanding athletes that could run all day and they hit their shots.”

The team’s athletes are strong enough to surprise even their younger counterparts.

“I played ball with some guys from the 61st Street gym in Ocean City. And those guys couldn’t believe that I was 75,” said Silk.

During the Senior Olympic Games, the Delaware Korean War Vets came from behind to win two games in the last seconds against South Carolina’s team.

“We got a little lucky against Carolina,” said Silk. “We were eight points down and we hit three 3-pointers and changed the complexion of the game.”

The Delaware Korean War Vets’ never-quit mentality stems from their service in the military. Though not all of the men actually served in Korea, all of them were in the military at that time.

“The discipline that the military instills has carried over and we’ve maintained our condition,” said Silk.

In addition to basketball, Silk sharpens his competitive edge by playing tennis at Sea Colony at least four days a week. He and the rest of the Senior Olympic participants are still active and able to than people in their prime.

“I see this more and more,” said Silk. “People aren’t as active anymore and it’s a shame because you can meet a lot of good people on athletic fields.”

“You just have to get in the habit of keeping yourself in good condition,” advised Silk.

He and his compatriots are looking forward to the next National Senior Olympics in 2007. Even though they were disappointed in their finish, they still accomplished a feat.

“The competition is keen and we’re happy to win six games,” said Silk. “Six wins isn’t bad for any league.”