Pasadena Senior Center Honors Olympian Clentzos

Olympian Pete Clentzos 95, Greece's oldest living Olympic competitor, was honored by the Pasadena Senior Center with the Senior Service Award for June 2004.

Clentzos was recognized for his contribution as cofounder of the Center's Pasadena Senior Olympics. The annual Pasadena Senior Olympics draws more than 1,500 athletes, all over the age of 50, to compete for the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.

In the early 1990s, the Pasadena Senior Center began the efforts to bring the Senior Olympic Games to the San Gabriel Valley. Olympian, and Pasadena resident, Clentzos was invited to get involved with the project.

Well known as an outstanding athlete, he also had notable skills as an administrator, leader, coach, and track and field official. Through the efforts of Clentzos and the center staff, the Pasadena Senior Olympics were launched in 1992.

Since 1992 he has continued to be a dedicated participant in, and contributor to the annual event.

It's impossible to acknowledge Clentzos, without also acknowledging his exemplary life as an athlete, and lifelong contributor to the world of sports.

In 1932, he fulfilled a boyhood dream when he represented Greece in the Olympics held in Los Angeles. His event was pole vaulting and he ranked seventh.

Now he is Greece's oldest living Olympian, and the only living member of that 1932 Greek Olympic team.

A partial list of his other noteworthy achievements include: his being a three year letterman in pole vault in college at USC, serving as a track and field official since 1952, originator and director of the Hellenic Olympiads for Greek American youth, inductee into the USA Track and Field Pole Vault Hall of Fame and recipient of the prestigious USA Track and Field President's Award.

He was also a high school coach, honored by the National High School Coaches Association and California State Coaches Association.

In June, Clentzos ran as a torch bearer in the Los Angeles leg of the international Torch Run for the 2004 Olympics.

He will attend the games in Athens as an invited guest of the Greek government.

One thing that Clentzos has said that keeps him going strong is that he is on a mission to stimulate people to exercise, because exercise is the Fountain of Youth.

He also states that he thinks the Pasadena Senior Center is one of the best operated senior centers in the country. "They're sensitive to the needs of seniors," he said.

So forming a partnership with the Pasadena Senior Center through Senior Olympics has enabled him to promote that Fountain of Youth idea by continuing to encourage people, especially seniors, to exercise and be active.

"We're made to be active," he said. Clentzos certainly practices what he preaches because he continues to work out daily. "Do it 365 days a year and see what it does for you," he said. Active and vital, Pete is an outstanding example of what daily exercise can do.

In addition to being an outstanding athlete, Clentzos is an excellent and rousing speaker. This is a talent that he shares with seniors at the Pasadena Senior Center.

He has led the Pastmasters group at the Center for about seven years. The Pastmasters group, an extension of Toastmasters, helps seniors to maintain their public speaking skills.

Clentzos has used his public speaking talent at many of the Senior Olympics' Opening Ceremonies.

He has even made a lasting impact on American culture vernacular by being the person who created the phrase, " Hubba, Hubba."

The phrase began as a motivator when he was in the service during World War Two, and then brought into use in our daily American dialogue.

Once familiar with Pete Clentzos, it is easy to see how one person has done so much to encourage people to be active and be the best they can be.

He believes that It's important to keep busy and look on the positive side of things.

"God loves a cheerful giver. He gives a great deal of himself, his heart and sense of humor, to encourage others through sports," Clentzos said. "I get satisfaction from making people happy," he said.

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