Howard Slater and Michael Stovsky are not going to let age hold them back from being competitive. The two men won the pickleball gold medal in the 55 to 59-year-old division at the Ohio Senior Games Oct. 7 in Westerville.

“It was a good competition,” said Slater, 58. “All the people that are competing in this type of thing are people that enjoy staying fit, athletic and competitive.”

The Ohio Senior Games are part of the National Senior Games and are open to anyone over the age of 50. They are held in every state, and include sports like tennis, softball and swimming.

Slater said the pair did not start off well in the preliminary rounds. They were ranked very low, according to Slater, and the only way to medal was to go on a big run in the medal rounds. After their sluggish start, Stovsky was able to take on a coach’s role to get both of them to focus on the challenge at hand. They were able to turn things around and make it through the medal rounds to win the gold.

“It was very exhilarating and it’s exciting to think ahead to May when we go to the National Senior Olympics,” Slater, a Solon resident, said.

Stovsky said he and other friends at the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood, where he participates in another pickleball league, decided that they would try to make a push in the Senior Games and try to get as many people qualified for National Senior Games as possible.

Slater and Stovsky have competed together for years. They met on a trip to Israel with the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and became friends when they found out they attend Solon Chabad. Since then, they have cultivated a friendship and on-court chemistry. They have played in tournaments together for a few years, including the Gamma Invitational in Pittsburgh in early August.

Stovsky, 57, began playing pickleball four years ago when he lived at his second home in Naples, Fla. He said pickleball is like a “religion” in that area and it is difficult not to pick it up. A former high school athlete, Stovsky said the sport gives him a competitive edge that he craves.

“I’m a runner, biker and a swimmer, but I’m not competitive enough in those sports to be able to win races and things like that,” said Stovsky, a Beachwood resident. “So, pickleball just gives me an opportunity to do something that’s really fun and also get the competitive juices flowing again.”

Stovsky and Slater both said they love doing this for competitiveness. Stovsky said he has always enjoyed the opportunity to compete in things, and those opportunities don’t come along that often anymore.

“But now for people in their 50s, there’s just not that many opportunities to get out there and compete against people who are like-minded and who really want to be competitive as well,” he said.

Slater, Stovsky, and all other qualifiers from the state competitions qualify for the 2022 National Senior Games, which will be held in May 2022 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

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