Hallandale Beach Resident Leads The Way: At The 2022 National Senior Games In Fort Lauderdale

May 19, 2022

If you are over 50 years of age and feel like you can’t exercise, Hallandale Beach resident JoAnn Sampson has a few words for you. “Just bend down and try to touch your toes!” She says, “As we get older, we think exercise is not for us. But as seniors, we are generation of champions.”

The 81-year-old track and field enthusiast knows the joy of being a champion, and hopes to win even more medals when she competes in the 2022 National Senior Games presented by Humana. The Games, the largest qualified multi-sport medal event in the world for seniors age 50 plus, held at venues throughout Broward County from May 10-23.

A former elementary school teacher, Sampson retired after 35 years in the profession, but knew she had to do something to keep from being bored and missing her students. Although she was never an athlete, an article she read in 2002 about the Senior Games provided the motivation to register for her first race and begin training. Twenty years later, she hasn’t slowed down.

Becoming an athlete at age 62 became her new calling. Sampson started walking and training seven days a week rain or shine. As she likes to say, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

Being a competitor also revived her passion for teaching, motivating other seniors to participate in sports. She delivers inspiring speeches to churches and schoolchildren in poor neighborhoods. "Stand up for who you are and don't let anyone tell you you're too old or can’t do something. Age has nothing to do with it. You can do whatever is in your heart.”

The wealth of gold, silver and bronze medals Sampson has won at state, national and international competitions reflect her shining spirit and determination. She enjoys the 50, 100 and even 200-meter races, but has also excelled in the 400 and 800 meter events and also in the shot put. Her best time in the 100 meters is 14.78 seconds. But her greatest time will be at the National Senior Games, as she was selected to be the female flag bearer for Florida at the ‘Celebration of Athletes’ Olympic-style ceremony.

‘I am so proud to be an athlete and ambassador for Florida, and our Greater Fort Lauderdale community, as we host the 2022 National Senior Games presented by Humana. It is also nice to not have to travel and that this major event is happening right in our backyard.” JoAnn Sampson

Nearly 12,000 athletes will be competing in The Games, with sports ranging from archery to volleyball. But to those who know JoAnn Sampson, she is truly one in a million.

A Competition For the Ages
Competitions are held in five-year age brackets from 50 to 100+ to allow athletes to compete with their peers for medals. The oldest athlete this year is 103-year-old golfer Lindsay Tise from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The oldest Floridian will be Stanley Corwin, a 97-year-old bowler from Boynton Beach in Broward County.

“Everyone always asks about the oldest athletes, and they are truly inspiring,” Riker commented. “But we have amazing athletes and examples of healthy, active aging at every age level of The Games. All of our events are free for the public and we hope people of all ages in South Florida will come out to experience the atmosphere of fitness, fun and fellowship that makes us so unique.”

The 21 sports offered range from Triathlon to Shuffleboard, and two new sports were added for 2022 – Beach Volleyball and Cornhole. “The response has been tremendous for both, but especially for Beach Volleyball,” Riker noted. “A large number of our indoor players were eager for the chance to also play outdoors on the pristine Fort Lauderdale beach.”

For more information on the 2022 National Senior Games presented by Humana, please race over to the National Senior Games Association’s website, www.nsga.com. For volunteer opportunities, go to www.nsga.com/volunteer