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Real champions for virtual sports

Citizen Staff Writer



“Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate? Helen, Helen, Helen,” chant the fans, waving their pom-poms.

Helen Borgert, 86, steps up and throws, knocking down all 10 bowling pins for a strike.

The crowd goes wild.

Borgert was one of 14 Tucson retirees competing last week in the Nintendo Wii Sports Virtual Tournament of Champions.

Seniors competed in the video gaming system’s bowling, golf, baseball, boxing and tennis at Atria Bell Court Gardens, 6653 E. Carondelet Drive.

The event was a joint project between the Junior League of Tucson and Atria Senior Living residential centers.

Judy Cameron, 68, was excited to compete in tennis and bowling.

“You don’t have to be terrific at it,” she said. “You just have to be involved. And it’s fun.”

Players use a controller to mimic actions performed in sports, such as swinging a tennis racket. The game is fast-paced, with players breaking a sweat.

Laura Hisey of the Junior League dreamed up the tournament after giving a Wii to her husband for Father’s Day.

“My mother-in-law, my father-in-law, my mother, my father, we all played it as a family,” she said. “It was great. I thought how fun would it be to have a citywide tournament for seniors?”

She said the game “creates fun.”

“It helps them to be young again,” Hisey said. “It’s socialization. It’s motivating. It’s teamwork and you’re getting exercise.”

Seniors at the three Atria locations competed in preliminary tournaments. Residents gathered at Bell Court Gardens for the championship.

And they brought fans to cheer on the competitors.

Up for grabs were bragging rights and cash prizes of up to $50.

David Edwards of Bell Court Gardens said some of the 132 residents have been playing Wii for more than a year.

He said the game allows seniors to enjoy sports like bowling, tennis and golf, even if they are unable to participate in the real activity.

“You can do the bowling without renting shoes and you don’t have to lug around a 16-pound ball,” he said. “A lot of folks had to give up tennis or bowling for health reasons, and this has brought it back.”

He said residents can check out the game and play it any time of the day or night.

“If they are not sleeping well and want to play at midnight, they can,” he said.

He said the exercise benefits of the Wii complement exercise programs at the center.

Bonnie Jean Barrett, 85, never bowled a game in her life. But she’s been having fun bowling on Wii.

“It helps you keep active,” she said.

Freddy Fredrick, 81, has been bowling since the 1950s. Wii allows him to continue to enjoy the sport.

“What’s so good is the ball isn’t so heavy,” he said.

Lela Bauman, 84, was sidelined for the tournament, in a neon pink cast after foot surgery.

But she was there to cheer on her friends.

“I’m very athletic, and it’s a great outlet,” said Bauman, who has played tennis since she was 11 and has been playing Wii for a year.

“It’s great because anyone can play it.”

The winners


1st Place: Judy Cameron, 68

2nd Place:Claire Nasch, 87

3rd Place: Charleen Bratcher, 76


1st Place: Leland Barker, 83

2nd Place: Dorothy Kalil, 88

3rd Place: Tied: Jacqui Caird, 81 and Judy Cameron, 68


1st Place: Don Monagham, 87

2nd Place: Lee Billman, 81

3rd Place: Judy Cameron, 68

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