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Senior silver medalist looks for athletic peers

Carl Etter holds a copy of The Good Life, a Minneapolis Star Tribune supplement. He was featured in a photo illustration on the July, 2012 front cover as he competed in the Minnesota Senior Games. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)1 / 2
Carl Etter (second from right) is all smiles as he stands atop the first-place podium after winning in the long jump event at Baldwin Wallace University in Cleveland, Ohio. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

For Carl Etter, competing isn't just about the game.

At 69, Etter is a silver- and bronze medal winner at the 2005 and 2009 World Masters Games, an international athletic tournament for seniors. Etter has competed in events including the high-, triple- and long jumps, and has even been featured hurdling, on the front cover of the July 18, 2012 "The Good Life" supplement of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Even with his and other Minnesotans' successes, Etter feels that there is a lack of athletic competition in the area. Starting 16 years ago as a result of hearing about senior competitions from a friend, Etter feels that there isn't enough attention being given to the senior athletes.

"I feel most frustrated about the fact that older people who do strenuous sports don't get any recognition in some communities," said Etter. "It would be nice if we could get together. It would nice to have a support group."

While some senior citizens are taking the time to relax after a lifetime of work, Carl Etter is exercising -- five times a week. He's looking for other seniors like him who are interested in exercising and possibly competing as a group, even if they're not just as fast-paced.

"I find out what they're interested in doing and work on one or two things or events at an entry level," he said.

For Etter, competing is not only a means of improving your skills.

"It's been a positive experience for me. It has more rewards than anything. It helps you to eat better, maintain your exercise," said Etter. "It gives you goals and a vision."

People have different motivations for why they do things like this, said Etter.

"One of the silliest is a person who came up to me and said, 'I want to do this because I don't want to get old,'" said Etter. "I told him 'Well, I think we're all going to get old anyway.'"

Not all competitions are World Masters games. The tournaments begin at city levels. Because there aren't any games hosted in Duluth, Carl attends events in the metro area or in Milwaukee.

To continue to the national competitions, senior athletes must qualify from the statewide tournaments. Qualification from the national competition gives access to the World Masters.

There are options for those more interested in the fun of competition rather than the progression.

"There are small games that are beginner-friendly," said Etter. "If I did drag somebody along, it would be more towards the fun stuff. Go gradual."

The games offer Etter the chance to meet people from different walks of life, an opportunity, he says, he didn't have growing up in the Iron Range.

"It brings tears to my eyes when I think of an 80-year-old woman I met running at a tournament," he said. "As a child, women weren't allowed to play sports in school, and she only recently started running. Even though she didn't win, she got a very loud applause."

To Etter, the games are a supportive place to connect with athletes like himself.

"There's a chance to talk about sports at a competitive level that you'd never do in your neighborhood. These people become my friends through sports."

Although he would love to see more seniors in the Duluth area get together for athletic reasons, it won't make or break him.

"It's a very lonely endeavor if you don't have someone to talk to. But I've been doing it for 16 years and it hasn't stopped me. As far as games go, I'll think I'll keep going it until my body stops me."

If you are interested in being a part of a recreational athletics group, contact Carl Etter at carlttr@yahoo.com.

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