ST. GEORGE – “The time out is over and we’re back. “
With the announcement, Kyle Case, CEO of the Huntsman World Senior Games, kicked off this year’s edition of the games at a grand opening ceremony Tuesday night at Greater Zion Stadium.
The event featured a parade of athletes, musical acts from Broadway star DeLaney Westfall and Diamond Talent Dancers, and words of welcome from Utah Governor Spencer Cox and representatives of the Huntsman family. Citizens, business leaders and attendees of Grand Sion hailed the return of the games after a year of absence due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Six-time Olympic luge athlete from the US Virgin Islands, Anne Abernathy, was the guest speaker at the opening ceremony and also participated in the Olympic torch lighting ceremony.
Abernathy spoke to St. George News afterwards and compared the Opening Ceremony of the Huntsman World Senior Games to the Opening Ceremonies she competed in at six different Winter Olympics.
“This one was more sincere than any I’ve been to,” said Abernathy, “because the people are not here just to win, but are here for friendship and camaraderie.”
Abernathy competes in the archery event at the Games, making his second appearance in St. George.
“I am delighted to go to the archery pitch and see all the friends I made two years ago,” she said. “It’s just special.”
The friendly attitude and respectful competitive spirit go beyond the Olympics, she added.
“It takes the competition and the games to a whole different level,” said Abernathy. “They really follow the ideal here. It’s not winning at all costs, it’s trying to be there at all costs, and that’s a big difference.
She said world athletes train 24 hours a day, seven days a week for their entire lives to get to the Olympics.
“But the people who come here, it’s not their everything – it’s just a part of their life,” said Abernathy. “And that’s what sport should be.”
Abernathy’s participation in six different Olympic Games is an incredible achievement and it was because of this that she discovered Utah.
“It’s one of my favorite games, it’s hard to pick one, but Salt Lake City (2002) was the time when I set the record for the oldest woman to ever compete in games. Winter Olympics, ”she said. “So it is close and dear to my heart. I have met a lot of friends here in Utah and I am very happy to be here.
Abernathy, a cancer survivor, said one of her biggest emotions on Tuesday night came during the torch procession to light the Olympic flame.
In the relay, she passed the torch to John and Karen Huntsman’s granddaughter, Ruby Parkin Earl, who lit the flame.
“I told him how special it was to me, because I was inspired by the Huntsman family not only at these games, but by their Cancer Institute and everything they did to fight the disease, ”Abernathy said. “It made it all even more special to bring not just the competition, but life.”
Each year at the opening ceremony, a member of the Huntsman family addresses the crowd and Earl told St. George News it was an unexpected treat.
“Being one of 56 grandchildren, being put on task was something I never thought would happen to me,” Earl said, adding that she had moved to St. George while her husband was attending the school. medical school here.
“They thought it would be nice to have me represented as a local in St. George and be part of the excitement,” said Earl, “because I could not only go watch and cheer but also volunteer at the time. of these events. also.”
Earl said she remembered seeing her grandfather light the flame at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
“I never thought I could be a part of something so awesome,” she said. “Thinking that I even have a part of it makes me feel like I’m in seventh heaven.”
She added that the athletes at the games are an inspiration to her.
“Just their courage, their willpower and their ability to not only be here and show up, but to be able to encourage each other wherever they are from,” Earl said. “And to support them, to foster the friendships that allow them to compete. It’s so cool to watch.
The ceremony ended with the lighting of the flame and an impressive fireworks display. The athletes enjoyed the show, nothing more than the Olympian who may have traveled further than anyone else to participate in the games.
Alexander Romanov from Moscow, Russia, came to St. George to compete in the games swimming events.
“Fantastic. Exciting,” were the words Romanov used to describe the ceremony. “I really like the St. George and Huntsman Senior World Games because everyone is smiling – everyone is friends.
He is in St. George with his wife Alla Romanov, who is his encouragement section and support system.
“I hope to swim and meet friends,” he said. “And maybe win a gold medal too.”
Athletic competition in senior matches began on Monday and continues through October 16.
Fans can follow matches and see results and schedules on This site.
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