On a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon, Tony Albrecht was out back at his house on Orizaba lane, shooting some jump shots on his own court that resides in his backyard, which he has appropriately named Orizaba Gardens.
Albrecht is a 68-year-old resident of Portsmouth, not much different from many other average folks. He likes sports and spending time with his grand kids. His favorite sports are basketball and table tennis. However, unlike other average folks, he has multiple medals for table tennis tournaments in Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland. Also unlike average folks, he holds 10 medals in the Senior Olympics and he is just over a year away from the 70-year-old milestone. One of his favorite things to say to people when he meets them is “Do I look 70?” When the person in question says no, he’ll respond with “Thanks, I’ll pay you later.”
Tony won events in track and field, singles and doubles table tennis and individual basketball events as well as the 3-3 games. Tony intended to just enter the games for basketball and table tennis, two games he has played almost all his life. However, when he arrived to register, the track and field was open and he decided to give some jumps a shot, avoiding the running events due to some lingering ankle injuries.
His events were the high jump, broad jump, and long jump. Each time the bar was adjusted for his high jump, he failed to clear his first two attempts. On his third and final attempt at each jump, he cleared it until it was over a 5-foot jump.
“All the volunteers girls were yelling and screaming, ‘Tony you did it.’” Albrecht said of the event.
When all was said and done, he had claimed the gold in the event he had just picked up. For his broad and long jumps, he managed to place at the podium on his very first try.
Table Tennis is an event he knows well. Tony has competed since his 30s in the sport, competing all over the state of Ohio. He has a very impressive display at his home of all his trophies. Pictures of Tony in the 1980s holding trophies surround his impressive display of gold, silver and bronze. He still trains to this day at his house, both by himself and with former players of his, from his days of coaching the ping pong team at Shawnee State University.
Basketball has always been Tony’s love though. He is an avid lover of the game, with books and DVDs all over his beloved game room. He claims free throw shooting as his specialty. At the senior games, he went 18-for-20 in the event, easily the best performance from the charity stripe, earning him an easy gold. Much to his own surprise, Tony went 10-of-12 from 3-point range as well, which he expressed as a pleasant surprise to himself. He even competed well in the 3-on-3 game, despite his damaged ankles.
Tony gives all the credit in the world to his love to compete. When asked why he entered the senior games in the first place, he had one simple reason.
“I just wanted to compete,” Albrecht said..
He loves to go to any local park or life center, anywhere someone is playing a game really, and just compete. On Sunday, I visited the Orizaba gardens, he told me about his many contests with local 20-year-olds in shooting and free throw contests, and sometimes even pickup games, as the reason he was still in good enough shape to compete in the senior games in his late 60s.
When there is no one to feed his hunger to compete, he can often be found shooting around at his home. His game room, a modified garage, which he has added onto and nearly doubled in size, sits right behind his own home basketball court.
Tony worked for over 30 years as an activity therapist for recovering addicts in the local area. Most of the therapy he would do with them was playing. He would play the games he loves with them and help them heal, playing table tennis and basketball and day with sometimes 25 recovering addicts.
“I got to play games with them and I was good at it. It didn’t even really feel like work,” Albrecht said of his time with his patients.
Albrecht spent years working hard, and now he gets to play the games he has always known and loved at a high level against people. As for why he can still hang with people nearly 20 years younger than him at the Senior Games? We might be able to credit that to the Orizaba Gardens.