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The Maryland Senior Olympics was created in early 1980 through joint efforts of the Baltimore County and Maryland State Commission on Physical Fitness. Through the state commission, and under the leadership of Dr. Robert Zeigler, vice chairman of the Baltimore County Physical Fitness Commission and professor of physical education at Towson State University, the first competition was held on Oct. 4, 1980, at Towson State with approximately 300 athletes for a one-day event.

The success of early state programs such as Maryland’s led to the creation of the biennial National Senior Games in 1985. The national games, a competition for winners of local and regional seniors games, has grown into over 80 member events representing all 50 states, plus France, Germany and Canada. Today, the National Games conduct 20 sports with approximately 10,000 participants.

As the national games grew, the local and state games became even stronger. With an amazing joint effort of local and state commissions, plus a wide band of loyal volunteers, Maryland became a leader in the field of program development for seniors. The state has sent several thousand champions to participate in the National Games with Maryland producing numerous national championship teams and individuals through the years.

Today, around 1,300 athletes compete in the Maryland Senior Olympics. Events are held for men and women in about two dozen sports. Age-group competitions are conducted for mature adults from age 50 into their 80s and above. But as Dr. Zeigler liked to say, the Maryland Senior Olympics strives to provide opportunities for everyone, not just the gifted athlete. Our logo statement, "To Participate Is to Win," was chosen carefully to symbolize our purpose and commitment to all senior athletes in Maryland.

While the object of any competition is to win, the underlying premise of the Senior Games is to encourage participation within a spirit of goodwill and camaraderie—win or lose. This is not to say that winning is unimportant; however, to train, set goals and strive toward them as an active participant gives greater meaning than medals to the true significance of the Senior Games. But the competition also attempts to challenge the elite athlete. It is imperative the Maryland Senior Olympics serve all athletes with a variety of offerings to meet every competitive appetite.

Upon the retirement of long-time leaders Dr. Zeigler, Bob Eickenberg and Phil Adams in the mid-2000s, the Maryland Games needed a new home. An arrangement was made with Salisbury State, hosts of the Eastern Shore Senior Games, to also host the 2006 state competition. But participation was poor with many athletes citing the driving distance.

But in late 2007, Montgomery County agreed to become administrator of the Maryland Senior Olympics, a passing of the baton from one great era to a new one. Ted Wroth, retired from Montgomery County Recreation, became the new executive director, galvanizing the organization with outreach throughout the state and developing close bonds with the National Senior Games Association. Maryland became a strong voice on the national level.

In late 2012, MSO partnered with Baltimore City Recreation and Parks, moving the Games closer to its origins. MSO returned to Montgomery County in 2015 and added events in Prince George's and Frederick counties. Mr. Wroth retired from MSO in 2017, having led us to unprecedented growth in sports and participants.

The intergenerational bond the games have created is an incredible phenomenon to witness. There is an increasing interest and contagious enthusiasm being experienced by those participating and by those who come in support. The camaraderie developed through competition has shown itself to be as magnetic of a force as the game or sport. As a result, the Senior Olympics has begun to etch its place into the American sports scene.

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