Olympians for a day

COSTA MESA — For three years, Joe Lanas, 65, has taken home the silver medal in the wheelchair race at the annual Senior Games hosted by Orange County Activity Directors' Assn.

"I thought I had left them all behind," Lanas said Wednesday of the 11 a.m. race that had senior citizens competing neck and neck toward the finish line of a short strip set up on the north side of the Orange County Fairgrounds. "It was so close, I thought I had won."

Next year he's planning on taking home the gold, but this year he rolled away with a handful of ribbons and a smile back to his home, the Country Villa Plaza in Santa Ana.

Lanas is one of more than 300 participants from senior residential care facilities countywide who participated in the 22nd Annual OCADA Senior Games.

The event, which modifies familiar competitions for older players, is open to seniors age 55 and older and younger adults who live in a care center located in Orange County.

More than 50 nursing students and volunteers were on hand from the Stanton University's School of Nursing and the Bethesda University of California School of Nursing, as well as a transport team from Lynch Ambulance.

Events were broken down into categories based on participants' ages and disabilities. A modified bowling lane, basketball practice and target practice with paintball guns were among the more popular activities, but participants were able to try their skills at any of 10 available events as long as they qualified.

"People don't tend to think of seniors as very active, but they get really excited and competitive out there," said event coordinator Laurie Kjar.

The event is widely anticipated by the senior community, Kjar said.

Not only do the games provide a community outing, but seniors achieve a sense of accomplishment that comes from competing against their peers, she said.

Top winners in the events were presented with medals by the Costa Mesa Fire Department.

When asked how he prepares for the games, Lanas laughed.

"I don't," he said. "I just rock and roll in my chair all the time."

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