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Northern Virginia Senior Olympics Celebrates 35th Year

NOVA diving contestants gather on the diving board to show off their medals at the Yorktown Aquatic Center Saturday, Sept. 9. From back left: Karen Alderman, Arlington; Carol Mackela, Arlington; and Mandy Whalen, Falls Church. In front: Duane Clayton-Cox, Fairfax; Samir Salman, Vienna; Kim Alderman, Arlington; and Coach Bobby Meeks, Arlington.

NOVA diving contestants gather on the diving board to show off their medals at the Yorktown Aquatic Center Saturday, Sept. 9. From back left: Karen Alderman, Arlington; Carol Mackela, Arlington; and Mandy Whalen, Falls Church. In front: Duane Clayton-Cox, Fairfax; Samir Salman, Vienna; Kim Alderman, Arlington; and Coach Bobby Meeks, Arlington. Photo by Jonathan Ruhe/The Connection

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Carol Mackela, Arlington, stacks up top points to win a gold medal in the NOVA on Saturday. Mackela competed in July at the FINA World Masters Aquatic Games in Budapest, Hungary where she received a 5th place in women’s 65-69 1-meter springboard diving and 6th in 3-meter. At USA Masters diving summer nationals in Riverside, Calif., she won both 1 and 3-meter events in her age group. She and Karen Alderman of Arlington won women’s synchronized diving in the 65-70 age group.

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Kim Alderman, Arlington, started competing in the NVSO 8 years ago. He had competed in diving in high school and college but only in the one-meter dive. Alderman recently won first in the 1-meter and 3-meter and 2nd on platform in the USA Masters diving summer nationals. But Alderman says the most fun is synchronized diving. One person sets the tone and the other has to adjust to what the first one is doing that day. “And it isn’t always the same.”

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Samur Salmon, Vienna, says he practices all year for these diving events. He says his dives will include a back somersault, a forward dive straight and a forward dive pike and an in-water backward dive. His cheering squad, including his daughter, Manar, sits on the bleachers applauding after each dive.

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Mandy Whalen, Falls Church, performed her first dive at 75-years old. Now she is 77 and on Sept. 9 she was going to do the front and back dive. She says a friend convinced her to try diving two years ago. "My friends find it a little eccentric. As a matter of fact, I find it eccentric, too." When time comes for the awards, she received applause for having broken the record.

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Duane Clayton-Cox, Fairfax, said he will perform a front dive with a double twist somersault. "It will be the most difficult dive performed today." He added, "It will be my fifth dive today because it's hard with a high level of difficulty."

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Five judges concentrate on the nuances of form and difficulty and flash up score cards after each diver. The announcer calls out 7, 7-1/2, 7, 7-1/2, 6-1/2 and the results are recorded for awarding ribbons.

The 2017 Northern Virginia Senior Olympics (NOVA) was off and running on Sept. 9 with morning field and track events followed by afternoon diving. This year 752 competitors signed up to participate in 70 events including swimming, baseball and football toss, track and field, pickleball, horseshoes and a variety of games such as dominoes and scrabble. The games will be held for 12 days at 28 parks, schools, community and senior centers around Northern Virginia.

Diving events were held at Yorktown Aquatic Center with six competitors, one having dropped out due to a car accident two days before the event, and the coach Bobbie Meeks didn't compete this year due to recent surgery. But Meeks was in attendance. "I wouldn't miss this event for anything," he said.